United States - Land entry case files are available for all states in the US except the thirteen original states, plus Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, West Virginia, Texas, and Hawaii. These states were never part of the original public domain.
Time Period :
1788 to the present
What are Land Entry Files?:
Before the homesteaders, soldiers, and other patentees received their patents, some government paperwork had to be done. Individuals obtaining land through military bounty land warrants, preemption entries, or the Homestead Act of 1862, had to file applications, giving proof about military service, residence on and improvements to the land, or proof of citizenship. Those purchasing land were issued receipts. These documents are on file at the National Archives as Land Entry Case Files.
What Can I Learn From Them?:
The earliest land entry files, those dating from 1788 to the mid-1850's, generally contain little substantive genealogical information. They simply document a financial transaction or provide evidence of military service. Beginning with the passage of the 1862 Homestead Act and similar legislation, land entry case files may attest to the patentee's age, place of birth, citizenship, military service, literacy, and economic status, and sometimes include similar details on family members.
Where Can I Get Them?:
You can order copies of Land Entry Files from the National Archives online or by using NATF Form 84, Request for Copies of Land Entry Files.
Each request for a land entry case file must include the following information:
- Pre-July 1908 general land entry files require the state, land office, type of land entry, and final certificate number or legal land description.
- Post-July 1908 general land entry files require name of the patentee (entryman) and serial patent number.
- Bounty land warrants require the year of the Congressional act authorizing the warrant, acreage, and warrant number.
The Bureau of Land Management Land Patent Records site provides (in most cases) the index information and land descriptions necessary to request homestead and land entry case files from NARA.
Land-entry files requested from NARA via form NATF 84 are $17.75, including shipping and photocopies. Please check the NARA Fee Schedule for the most current pricing information.
What to Expect:
No two land entry files are alike, nor are specific evidence or documents guaranteed to be in each case file. Each is an adventure because one never knows in advance what information and documentation it will contain. You should allow approximately eight weeks between ordering the applications forms and receiving reproductions of the land entry case files.