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Land Records and Maps

Land Records At The State Archives

Kansas is a public-domain state, meaning the federal government sold or gave away Kansas land. The transfer of land from the federal government to the first private owner (by purchase, homestead, timber claim, land bounty or land grant) is listed in the Kansas Tract Books. These books are not indexed by the name of the purchaser; the parcels are listed by legal description (section, township and range). They include a description of the tract, the name of the purchaser (grantee), the number of acres, the price per acre, the purchase amount, the date of sale and other information. The KSHS guide to the Kansas Tract Books shows which townships and ranges are listed in each volume and the volumes are available online on the Family Search website. The State Archives also has a copy of the Tract Books on microfilm.

Deeds are the most common type of land record. Deeds may include information on family relationships, dower rights, and slave ownership. Land transactions in Kansas, after the initial transfer from the federal government, were recorded in the Register of Deeds Office in each county. If the State Archives division has copies of early deed records for a Kansas county, they are listed in the county records on microfilm guide. For other counties, contact the register of deeds office in that county.

Millions of acres of land in Kansas was given in federal government land grants to railroad companies to encourage railroad expansion. The railroad companies in turn sold much of this land to private individuals. KSHS has the land-sales records of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company and the Kansas Town & Land Company, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, for Kansas. The AT&SF records are organized by section, range and township. They include survey information for the land and sales records that show the buyer's name and terms of sale, but they are not indexed by the name of the buyer. The papers of the Kansas Town & Land Company are arranged by town.

Land owners are shown in the Kansas county plat atlases and KSHS has plat atlases for some states other than Kansas. These and other maps showing land ownership are listed in the map card catalog in the State Archives reading room. Maps are cataloged by subject and year. We also have a small collection of individual land patents.

Land Records At The National Archives

Millions of land grants and patents were issued by the federal government and by the original thirteen colonies and several states. Records of land grants include application files and the patents themselves. Homestead files contain much family information and may also include naturalization papers. Before July 4, 1836, the president of the United States signed land patents. After July 4, 1836 the president was authorized by Congress to appoint a secretary to sign the president's name on patents.

Bounty lands were offered to veterans in lieu of pay for services. Although many soldiers claimed their land they often sold it and never settled on it.

Applications for federal land grants and patents, including bounty land patents and homestead records, are available from the National Archives. Some of these records are currently being digitized. See the Bureau of Land Management web site for more information.

The National Archives has custody of the land entry files for Federal public domain states and the central office tract books for western public domain states. These records originated with the U.S. General Land Office and are now among Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management. Federal land records document only the first transfer of land from the United States to another party. There are federal land records for all states except the original thirteen states, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, West Virginia, Texas, and Hawaii. These states were never part of the Federal public domain.

Most land entry files for the years 1800-1908 are arranged by state, land office, type of land entry (such as cash, homestead, timber, etc.), and land entry file number (such as a Homestead final certificate number). For the pre-1908 land entry files there are name indexes for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Utah. For the other public domain states west of the Mississippi River (excluding Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota) land entry files can be located by the researcher providing the name of the State and either a legal description of the land (section, township, range) or the name of the land office, type of land entry, and land entry file number. For the public domain states east of the Mississippi (as well as Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota), the researcher must provide the name of the State, and the name of the land office, type of land entry, and land entry file number. This information can normally be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by providing the BLM with a legal description of the land (section, township, range). The BLM has digitized some of this information. The BLM address is: Eastern States Office, Bureau of Land Management, 7450 Boston Blvd, Springfield VA 22153.

The post-1908 land entry files are arranged numerically by patent number. There are name indexes for these records.

Military bounty land warrants are arranged by act of Congress, certificate number, and, for warrants under the acts of 1847-1855, by the number of acres granted. There are indexes for the Revolutionary War and most of the War of 1812 warrants but not for the warrants under the acts of 1847-1855. To obtain the filing information for these warrants, use form NATF 85 to request a search of bounty land warrant applications among the military service records in Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration. Once you have obtained the bounty land warrant filing information you may use it to request copies of the surrendered warrant in Record Group 49. However, the applications for bounty land warrants contain more information useful to the genealogist than do the surrendered warrants.