If one or more of your ancestors lived in, or owned property in, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, or Wyoming, it is possible they received or purchased land from the United States government.
You can search for those records at the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office Records web site. Click “Search Documents” to begin your hunt. While states other than those listed above are selectable, they do not contain any records. Unless you happen to know the properties legal description or have the document number you want, use “Search by Type” and leave “Patents” selected.
Select the state you want to search and enter at least the last name of the person you are looking for. If any land patents are found, they will appear on the next page.
In this example, I searched for my great-grandmother Jennie Clough (Click on this or any of the images in this post to see a larger version).
If the search is successful, you will get a list of all land patents filed for that name. It could be a long list if your are searching for a common last name. Just look through it to find the record you want.
Click on the accession number next to the right name and you will get a full property description, a map showing the location of the property and other details. In most cases, you can also click the “Patent Image” tab to see a digitized copy of the actual land patent like the one foe Jennie at the beginning of this post.
While the GLO records might not be the easiest to search, you have to know the state where your ancestor obtained property at the very least, it can be an extremely helpful resource in locating the exact spot your family once lived.
Good luck with your land record searches!