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.
Land Entry Case File
- 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 by the United States government of foreign-born persons who desired to acquire and own free land in the United States
- 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.
The Pre-emption Act of 1841
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.
The Homestead Act of 1862 — Authority Code: 251101, May 20, 1862, Homestead Entry (12 Stat. 392) offered 160 acres of land (80 acres within the railroad grant areas) free to any head of family or any person over 21 years of age who was a citizen of the United States, or any foreign-born person who had filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen of the United States, 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 improved for five years.
Cash-Sale Entry Patents — Authority Code: 272002, April 24, 1820, Sale-Cash Entry (3 Stat. 566) allowed direct cash sales of land from GLO to the public for the first time. This was an option for people to purchase the land after six months of residency for $1.25 per acre. Entrymen who applied for land patents, and who desired to obtain possession of their land prior to the five-year passage of time required by law to qualify for a homestead patent, were able to purchase their land for cash at the established price of $1.25 per acre, instead of waiting the full five years to fulfill the homestead conditions.
What if you’re not sure if your ancestor was granted a federal land patent in North Dakota or South 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 or South Dakota to determine if your ancestor’s name is listed in any of the land patents on file.
Our research fee is $15 for this service.
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