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North Dakota Land Entry Case Files

Dawn on the prairie the way your ancestors saw it . . . honor your ancestors . . . preserve their heritage

One of our most requested services is helping people acquire photocopies of the original land patent documents of their North Dakota ancestors. These documents are contained in your ancestor's Land Entry Case File.

If your ancestor was granted one or more federal land patents in North Dakota by the United States government, you are able to acquire photocopies of the actual original documents contained in your ancestor's complete Land Entry Case File(s).

We charge a research fee of $35 to acquire photocopies from the United States government of documents contained in the complete Land Entry Case File of one patent. You will receive individual photocopies of every one of the actual original documents contained in your North Dakota ancestor's complete Land Entry Case File.

The process of acquiring photocopies from the United States government can take 60 to 90 days to complete.

If you would like to acquire photocopies of the original documents contained in your North Dakota ancestor's Land Entry Case File(s), we can help. » Click Here «

North Dakota

Land Entry Case Files

The official records of the United States government in which federal land was transferred to individuals, either by sale or by grant, were called
land entry papers, and the document of deed from the United States government that guaranteed title to such land was called a patent. An applicant for a federal land patent was called an entryman, and the completed United States government file containing the actual original documents of this land transfer process is called the Land Entry Case File.

The Land Entry Case File contains

  The claimant's land patent application showing the name of the entryman, place of residence at the time of application, description of the land, and the number of acres of land contained in the patent
  Receipts for the payment of application fees
  Certified copy of declaration of intent to become a citizen of the United States, if applicant was foreign-born. (The filing of naturalization "first papers"—declaration of intent to become a citizen of the United States—was required of foreign-born persons who desired to acquire and own free land from the United States government.)
  Certificate of notice of intention to file a land patent claim. (Federal regulations required claimants to file public notice of intention to prove a land patent claim, and such notice was usually published three times in the local newspaper).
  Final proof certificate authorizing the issuance of the patent (first title deed) transferring the land from the United States government to the private individual. The final proof certificate gives the claimant's name, age, post office address, citizenship, dates the establishment of residence, gives the number and relationship of family members, and describes the location of the tract of land with a description of the house, furniture, the type of crops planted, the number of acres under cultivation, lists farm machinery and tools, includes the testimony of the claimant and two witnesses, usually nearby neighbors, and records the patent number and date the patent was issued.

Some early settlers in the public domain exercised the right of pre-emption, by which they "squatted" or resided illegally on public lands without permission, built a house and made other improvements, and were later allowed to purchase the land at a minimum price of $1.25 per acre when the surrounding land was put up for public sale.

Other entrymen who applied for land patents desired to obtain possession of their land prior to the five-year passage of time required by law to qualify for a homestead patent. Such persons were able to purchase their land for cash at the established price, instead of waiting to fulfill the homestead conditions.

What if I'm not sure if my ancestor
was granted a federal land patent in North Dakota . . .

In that case, filling out a Land Patent Research Request would be the logical first step. We will research the federal land patent records of the entire state of North Dakota to determine if your ancestor's name is listed in any of the land patents on file. Our research fee is $5 for this service. » Click Here «

To maximize your chances of success, please tell us the complete name of your ancestor and, if possible, the North Dakota county where you believe your ancestor may have received a land patent from the United States government.

We will research the complete land patent records of the entire state of North Dakota and notify you by email, whether we find your ancestor or not. If your ancestor is listed in the land patent records of North Dakota, you can then purchase photocopies of your ancestor's Land Entry Case File, if you desire.

To guarantee the best search, the following information would be helpful:

Who -- The complete name of your ancestor who received a patent (first deed) to land from the United States government. Please include sufficient information to differentiate your ancestor from another person of similar name.

Where -- The county in North Dakota where your ancestor received a patent (first deed) to land from the United States government. If you know the name of the township, or the "township, range, section" legal description of the land, or if you can provide a photocopy of a deed or land ownership document of any kind, that would be even better.

Dakota Homestead Records  
If your ancestor was granted a patent (first deed) from the United States government to land in North Dakota, chances are excellent that we will find your ancestor's land patent records for you!

Our highest priority is to provide unsurpassed quality of research and extraordinary personal service. If you are not 100% satisfied with the information that you receive from us, we will refund your money.

The Homestead States

Much of the United States was once "public domain" land owned by the federal government and transferred to individuals under laws enacted by Congress.

North Dakota and South Dakota are among the 30 states that were formed from the "public domain."

The other 28 states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The homestead and other land ownership records of the pioneers who settled the American West include many valuable documents that show ownership of land acquired under various federal laws designed to promote settlement of the western frontier. Homestead and other land ownership records are rich in genealogical information, and provide two types of important evidence for genealogists. First, they locate individuals and families in a specific time and place with connections to other people in the neighborhood, and second, they clearly show family relationships.

Laws that opened up the American West

The Pre-emption Act of 1841 accomodated settlers who had established themselves illegally on land ahead of government surveyors. When the surrounding land was eventually surveyed and made ready for public sale, the "squatter" had the right to appear at the local land office and purchase up to 160 acres of their illegal holdings for $1.25 per acre to pre-empt or prevent any subsequent claims, as long as the settler could show proof of a dwelling and improvements to the land. The Pre-emption Act, repealed in 1891, legalized early pioneer settlement on unsurveyed lands, and recognized squatting as a legitimate means of establishing a homestead. Many homestead files contain documents of proof related to the Pre-emption Act.

Beginning in 1862, the United States Congress enacted a series of laws that totally transformed the American West.

Land grants were given to the four transcontinental railroads to extend rail transportation from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The Homestead Act was adopted, offering
free land to anyone willing to live on the land for five years and improve it.

Native American peoples were removed from open land to reservations, opening up the west to white settlement.

Thirteen new territories, including the Dakota Territory, were admitted to the union.

Land grants were given to each state and territory to establish agricultural colleges to encourage productive farming.

The Homestead Act of 1862 offered 160 acres of land (80 acres within the railroad grant areas) free to any head of family or person over 21 years of age who was a citizen of the United States or who had filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen in exchange for simply residing on the land for five years and improving it. Quarter sections of land were distributed free, provided the property was lived on and worked for five years. There was also an option to purchase the land after six months of residency for $1.25 per acre. Originally, the Homestead Act applied to surveyed land, but in 1880 it was extended to include unsurveyed land. Railroads spearheaded the onslaught of landseekers, bringing trainloads of homesteaders into the heart of the Western frontier. Every homestead file contains documents related to the Homestead Act.

The Timber Culture Act of 1873 was another law that encouraged homesteading and the planting of trees in the west. If a settler planted 40 acres of timber (reduced to 10 acres in 1878) and fostered their growth for 10 years, the individual was entitled to that quarter section of land. The Timber Culture Act also permitted homesteaders who occupied their land for three years, with one acre of trees under cultivation for two of those three years, to receive a patent to the land. The law was eventually repealed in 1882. Many homestead files contain documents of proof related to the Timber Culture Act.

The Desert Land Act of 1877 was designed to foster settlement of the arid and semi-arid regions of the west, specifically in Arizona, California, the Dakotas, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The Act allowed anyone to purchase 640 acres of land for 25 cents per acre if the land was irrigated within three years of filing. A rancher could receive title to the land any time within the three years upon proof of compliance with the law and payment of one additional dollar per acre. The homestead files of cattle ranchers in the region west of the Missouri River contain documents of proof related to the Desert Land Act and Timber Culture Act.






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