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On Solid Ground: Land Records
9/1/2005
Dig into a genealogical gold mine: your ancestors' deeds, claims and other land records.

A piece of land to call your own: It's the American dream — and the aspiration that lured your ancestors to the United States, to the frontier, to the suburbs. Each time they bought, sold or claimed land, they left behind a genealogical paper trail.

The type and location of those records depends on who sold the property to your family. In public-land states, the federal government was the initial landowner. Some veterans or their heirs received acreage in the form of bounty-land warrants, particularly in Midwestern areas such as Ohio's Virginia Military District. After Congress passed the massive public land giveaway called the Homestead Act of 1862, westward-bound pioneers began to file applications, or claims, with the federal government's General Land Office. Settlers who stuck it out for five years and made improvements, such as digging wells and plowing fields, got to keep their 160-acre plots.

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