Only people who have received land from the United States government are in the federal land patent records.
Federal land patents are legal documents transferring ownership of land
directly from the United States government to individuals.
Federal land patents are first title deeds, legal documents of ownership.
Patents show the transfer of federal land from the United States government to individuals . . .
as opposed to deeds, which show the transfer of private land from individuals to other individuals.
The United States government no longer issues land patents. The federal government maintains no records beyond the initial land patent transfer records from the federal government to the patentee.
Transfers of land from one individual to another individual are not in the federal land patent records. Land transfers from a state to an individual also are not in the federal land patent records.
Transactions of land from a state to an individual, or between individuals, are in the county or the state archives.
Federal Land Patent Records
Federal land patent records are the collected documents of land transfers from the United States government to individuals. Only people who actually received a federal land patent are in the federal land patent records.
Federal land patent records are documents of the states south and west of the original thirteen colonies.
The United States government created land patent records to prevent multiple claims to the same land. Land patent records also resolved land ownership disputes.
Federal land patent records show the name of the patentee, date, legal description of the land, and patent number. The records also show the land office that issued the land patent.
With this information, researchers can find their ancestor’s land patent documents.
The federal land patent records of your Dakota ancestors are records of the United States government in the National Archives. Researching this information is where you will find the federal land patent records of your ancestors in the Dakotas.
Among applicants for a Homestead patent, only about 40% of initial applicants actually received legal title to their homestead.
Among applicants for a Timber Culture patent, only about 25% of initial applicants actually received a federal land patent.
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We can help you find the federal land patents of your ancestors, because we know where to look.
We’ll research the complete federal land patent records of North Dakota and South Dakota, so we can find your ancestors.
» Click Here « to Research North Dakota Land Patent Records
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How Federal Land Patent Records Can Help You
Using federal land patent records, family history researchers are able to accurately locate their ancestors in place and time.
Each land entry case file contains a wealth of genealogical and legal information. Each file contains every single actual original document concerning your ancestor’s land patent, from initial application to final completion. This means every single piece of paper, every receipt, every newspaper notice, every document required by the federal bureaucracy.
If your ancestor was a foreign immigrant, a copy of your ancestor’s “first papers” are part of this documentation. “First papers” are your ancestor’s declaration of intent to become a citizen of the United States.
The nature of all this information depends upon the type of patent and time period of the land entry. The land entry case file may very likely present new insights about your ancestors, your family history, and their land.
For example, the records may show the patentee’s age, place of birth, citizenship, military service, literacy, and economic status. The records may even include similar information about family members. Even the smallest case files establish locations of settlement, land ownership, and dates essential to researching other resources.
Such resources may include leads to census records, court records, military service records, pension records, and death records.
The act of transferring land to relatives or other persons resulted in the creation of a warranty deed of sale. It is possible to acquire a photocopy of the warranty deed of sale. The warranty deed shows the disposition of your ancestor’s land.
Unfinished Federal Land Patent Applications
Federal land patent records include only patented (completed) land entries.
Land patent records do not include cancelled or relinquished land patent applications. However, cancelled or relinquished land patent applications may contain useful information.
Federal land patent records in land office ledger books
To find this information, researchers need to research the land office tract ledger books. These are ledgers recording all land transactions in the federal land offices of the county where your ancestor resided. The arrangement of tract ledger books is according to the township, range, section legal description of the land. It is not by an ancestor’s name.
Perhaps you have an ancestor who started a homestead patent application, but who never did obtain a federal land patent. This situation would occur if your ancestor did not actually reside on the land and improve it for five years. In this circumstance, your ancestor’s name will not appear in the federal land patent records.
It is possible to acquire a photocopy of the federal land office ledger book page showing your ancestor’s initial application. Here we may find your ancestor’s initial application under the legal description of the land, not your ancestor’s name. We need to search for your ancestor’s name under the legal description of the land. This is where we may find the federal land patent application of your ancestor.
Accomplishing this work is the rarest and most difficult part of land patent research. We need to guess the legal description of the land where your ancestor may have filed a federal homestead patent.
Instead, we may find your ancestor’s name on the page of a federal land office ledger book. We will need to research the book of the county where your ancestor filed the initial homestead application.
United States and Norway postage stamps
This is an 1898 photograph of Norwegian immigrants, John and Marget Bakken and their two children, Tilda and Eddie. The family is standing in front of their sod house in Milton, Cavalier County, North Dakota. John and Marget Bakken homesteaded and built the family’s sod house in Milton in 1896.
The Bakken family sod house is the model for a 1962 US postage stamp. The stamp commemorates the centennial of the Homestead Act of 1862. US postage stamps do not show living persons, so the Bakken children are not visible on the 1962 postage stamp. Ironically, however, when the stamp was on sale at US post offices, John Bakken was still living at age 92.
This photograph is also the image of a 1975 postage stamp of Norway. The stamp commemorates 150 years of Norwegian emigration to America. The 1975 Norwegian postage stamp does show the actual image of the original Bakken family photograph.
Here is an example of a family that started an application for a homestead patent in North Dakota. The photographic evidence shows that family definitely homesteaded in North Dakota. For some reason, though, the family is missing in the federal land patent records of North Dakota. Evidently, the family did not reside on the land and improve it for the full five years. Somehow, the family did not complete the required process to fulfill the terms of the Homestead Act of 1862.
North Dakota and South Dakota
County and Township Historical Atlases
Land Ownership Maps
If your ancestors owned a farm in North Dakota or South Dakota, here’s a suggestion. Research the county and township historical atlas where your ancestors lived. This is the type of land ownership map that shows your ancestors’ farm property in the county where they resided. You may very well find your ancestors’ land, and the land of nearby family members and neighbors.
Historic Map Works, LLC, based in Portland, Maine, is an Internet company. This company has assembled a very useful database of historic digital maps of North America and the world.
Family history researchers will be exceedingly happy to see this very valuable collection of American property atlases.
We think this may be one of the best online map and atlas destinations for family history researchers.
In case you’re wondering, Time Passages has no relationship with Historic Map Works, LLC.
Try these links. You may find a North Dakota or South Dakota County and Township Historical Atlas related to your ancestors.
The Land Ownership Maps you find here may provide you with new information about your ancestors’ land.
• ND County and Township Historical Atlases / Land Ownership Maps
North Dakota. » Click Here «
• SD County and Township Historical Atlases / Land Ownership Maps
South Dakota. » Click Here «