The Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office Records are a goldmine of information for anyone that does research in the Public Land states. One thing you need to be aware of though is that these records only include the ORIGINAL land patents and land warrants. These documents record the transfer of land owned by the federal government to an individual. If that individual then sold the property, that transaction would be recorded at the county level in a deed, not in the BLM records.
Some people get confused about this. If you draw out a map of land patents you are looking at the original owners of the land. That doesn’t mean that these people lived next to each other at the same time or for any length of time. The federal lands were sold/warranted/homesteaded over a period of many years. Also, much of this property was sold again or it changed hands in probate. When you are looking at neighbors for possible familial connections you could make some false assumptions and end up going down the wrong research path. Mapping out the original patents and then following up with a search of the county deeds will give you a much more accurate picture.
There is another important thing you need to know. The date that the patent was issued (the date you will find on the above website) does not tell you the whole story. The patent could have been issued a long time after 1) the person started living on the land and/or 2) after the application was made.
I am working on a case right now where a researcher assumed that a particular person didn’t migrate to Mississippi until 1849 when the land patent was issued. When I received the land entry file from the National Archives it turns out that the first application was made in 1817. Knowing when the person actually arrived in Mississippi is going to have a big impact on several assumptions and theories made about this man’s life.
I know I said that there are two things you need to know but there are actually three. Looking at a single section, or even in a single Township/Range will mean you will miss out on possible connections. Two pieces of land that sound like they aren’t close to each other could be adjoining. For example, the following two sections in different ranges are right next to each other.
T5N R13W Sec 13
T5N R12W Sec 18
These two parcels don’t look like they would be next to each other because of the section numbers but they are.
T5N R11W Sec 28 SW1/4 SW1/4
T5N R11W Sec 33 N1/2
I love mapping out parcels in the Public Land states but just knowing how to map them doesn’t tell you everything you need to know.
Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis