One of the reasons I enjoy writing a blog is that I get to share my new finds with you. To that end….look what I found!
Land Patents on the Bureau of Land Management
One of the “holy grails” of early pioneer research is the land patent (title/deed) for the first settlers issued by the Federal Government. Why, because it puts your ancestor in a place in time where they are making history. As discussed previously, the best place to start looking for these patents is on the Bureau of Land Management website, where you can download them for free.
The Exception to the Rule – State Grants of Land
If you’ve had a similar experience to mine, you’ve scoured the site without finding the glorious records that document your pioneer-ancestor’s migration West. You may have come away frustrated and wondering if the site is complete or they just don’t have your ancestor!
The reality is a little different. The Federal Government granted (gave for free) millions of acres of land to the states to resell to raise funds for schools and other purposes. (Sections 16 & 36 of every township was designated for public schools. You can read more on these here.) So the land title didn’t pass directly from the Federal Government to the settler/ancestor. No! It was transferred from the Federal Government to the STATE, then to your ancestor. And as a result the records aren’t on the Bureau of Land Management site. You must turn to the state for the records.
Finding the Records – Impressive Online Database
Because my ancestors settled on Section 36 land in Kansas finding the patent was something akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
But if your ancestor bought any of the Missouri Grant land, you are SO in luck. The Missouri State Archives has compiled a transcription-based database of 35,500 patents granted by the State of Missouri from 1820 to 1951. Wow!
If your ancestor bought land under any of the following Congressional Acts, check out this database….now! Remember, in some cases lands were often sold to raise revenue for schools – not necessarily for the placement of schools. So your ancestor didn’t kick out a school or move into the playground if they bought this land! Their payment for the land just supported this cause.
- Township School Land 1820 – 1900 (Sections 16 & 36 of all Townships)
- Seminary and Saline Land 1820 – 1825 (Saline Lands in Pike, Ralls, Cooper, Saline, and Howard Counties)
- Swamp Land 1850 – 1945 (New Madrid, Scott, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Mississippi, Wayne, Butler, Stoddard, and Ripley Counties)
- 500,000 Acre Grant 1843 – 1951 (Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, and Holt Counties)
You can access the database here. Once you find your ancestor’s patent transcribed, there are directions at the bottom of the page to send $1.00 to the Missouri State Archives with an SASE for a copy of the patent. It’s that easy.
One more tip: If by chance you don’t find your ancestor when you search by name, try searching by county only (no name). You can quickly zip through the alphabetical list to check for the ancestor by alternate name spellings.
I was listening to a recording of a 1998 speech by Marsha Hoffman Rising on Missouri Settlement patterns recently. She listed four challenges with early Missouri research, and one of them was the lack of access to resources. She must be doing a “happy dance” in Heaven over this.