Tuesday Tools – The Bureau of Land Management Website and Records

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Land Records

I recently reviewed some land patents from our family. In most cases, little genealogical information can be found in land patent records. I find that land records are useful in identifying where my ancestors lived, and when.

The (United States) Bureau of Land Management has a useful website with a lot of information concerning Federal lands. Many genealogists are familiar with the Land Patent Search page. Today I will discuss the land patent search. Start from the front page of the site, and at the top, on the green bar, click Land Patent Search.


The land patent records on the site are for certain states, the search form clearly states that the original thirteen colonies, their territories and a “few other states” are not included. You see a search screen, which you fill in with as much information as you have. This search is for Erastus Fellows, Ohio; an ancestor we are researching. (The images below are thumbnails, which you can enlarge by clicking.)


The search result:

The result shows one patent for an Erastus Fellows in Ohio. Clicking on the name provides more information:

You can see that the patent was a result of a Cash Entry Sale, dated 24 April 1820, for 40 acres, land office at Wooster, Ohio. There are also some important numbers, the document number, the accession/Serial number and the BLM Serial number. Clicking the “legal land description” tab will show you the legal description of the land, which is the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 33 T20N R20W.

On the “Document Image” tab you may view or download a copy of the certificate granted to the patentee. This is the certificate that the new land owner took to the local court house to register his purchase. Some were not registered, but may were. You may order a certified copy of the patent if you wish, but it will not provide any more information that you can see by viewing the patent on your computer.

I have researched the local records for this family, and the evidence indicates that he is another man named Erastus Fellows, not Papa’s ancestor.

If you are inclined, you may order copies of the original land entry case file, which can be far more useful. You will need the document numbers, the name of the person who received the patent, and the land description to order the file. One patent we ordered contained the only record of the date of John Fenton’s death, 2 May 1872, we have ever found. These files are currently $40; I only order patents which I believe may contain information I do not already have. If you have identified an ancestor who patented land and you are interested in the record, you can order online or get the form here.

Next week on Tuesday I will discuss the Federal Survey Plats and survey notes section of the Bureau website.

Series NavigationGranny’s Land Record TranscriptionsMount Carmel Cemetery, Cadillac, Wexford, Michigan – Lot F-2

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