As with most federal agencies, the General Land Office (GLO) had its own set of commonly used terms and abbreviations. These terms were so commonplace that no one bothered to define them in the records, which now proves frustrating for historians and genealogists. Below is a listing of common terms and abbreviations used by the GLO through the 19th century and by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the 20th century.
This listing is in no way inclusive of all the terms used, but it is a good place to start. The source of these terms comes from the Preliminary Inventories of the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
Abandoned military reservation: A military reservation (fort, post, etc.) that has been deactivated and transferred to the Secretary of the Interior for final disposition.
Acquired lands: Federally owned lands that are not considered public lands and were obtained by purchase, condemnation, gift, or by exchange for such purchased, condemned, or donated land.
Additional homestead: A homestead entry that was made by an individual entry for public lands additional to those he had already acquired under the homestead laws. The total area covered by the entryman's original and additional homestead claims could not exceed the maximum acreage allowed by the class of entry involved (i.e., a total of 160 acres under the Homestead Act).
Adverse claim: A notice of protest filed by one claimant against the approval of a mineral application made by another entryman.
Advisory board: An advisory committee that assists in the administration of a grazing district established under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (48 Stat. 1269) and consists of local stockmen who were elected by the holders of grazing leases within a specific district and of a wildlife expert appointed by the Secretary of the Interior.
Agricultural college scrip: Issued to certain qualifying states, the scrip proceeds from the disposition of land were used for the support of agricultural and mechanical colleges. See Morrill Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 503).
Applicant: An individual, corporation, state or local government, or other non-federal entity applying for rights in or title to public land or resources.
Application: The formal request by the applicant for rights in or title to public land or resources.
Base land: In lieu selection or an exchange, base lands are those areas to which the applicant relinquished his rights as a basis for his new selection.
Base line: The survey line running east and west which, in conjunction with the north-south principal meridian, forms the basis of the rectangular survey system. For example, in Colorado, the base line runs west from the initial point (the intersection with the meridian) through Boulder.
Cadastral survey: The system of creating, marking, and defining the boundaries of tracts of land. This includes a field-note record of the observations and measurements made, the monuments erected or used, and the topography and a descriptive plat.
Cancellation: An action undertaken by the General Land Office (later the Bureau of Land Management) to abrogate an entryman's right upon the public domain for non-compliance with the requirements of the land laws.
Cash certificate: A final certificate that was issued in a cash entry claim.
Cash entry: An entry upon the public domain that was paid for with cash by the entryman.
Claimant: An individual, cooperation, association, state or local government, etc., asserting title to or rights upon the public domain.
Classification: The designation of specific areas of the public domain as having some particular value for a specific use or resource (mineral, timber, desert land, etc.).
Clear list: An official statement from an interested federal government agency, including legal descriptions of specific portions of the public domain that no apparent objections exist to a proposed action involving this land.
Coal entry: An entry made upon portions of the public domain known to contain valuable coal deposits under the legislative authority of the Coal Lands Act of 1873 (17 Stat. 607).
Contest: The formal proceedings against a specific entry upon the public domain on the grounds that the contested entry does not comply with the requirements of the land laws.
Decision: A written statement detailing the findings of fact or law with respect to a particular application or claim and usually associated with a contested entry.
Declaratory statement: A document filed at the nearest land office by a person settling on unsurveyed public domain or land not yet opened for claims. This declared the intention to purchase or homestead that area when it was officially opened and gave preemption rights to the settler for about 60-180 days.
Desert land application: An application filed by a particular state under the legislative authority of the Carey Act of 1894 (28 Stat. 372) to claim arid public lands that were suitable for irrigated agriculture.
Desert land entry: An entry made by an individual claimant upon arid public lands, which were classified as being suitable for irrigated agriculture under the legislative authority of the Desert Land Act of 1877 (19 Stat. 377).
Double minimum lands: Those public lands for which the sale price, because of some particularly desirable feature, was established by law at not less than twice the minimum statutory price, which usually was $1.25 per acre. The double minimum price condition was characteristic of government reserved lands within a specific distance from a railroad right-of-way.
Enlarged homestead: A homestead entry which did not exceed 320 acres of non-irrigable agricultural land and made under the legislative authority of the acts of 1909 (35 Stat. 639) and 1910 (36 Stat. 531).
Entry: A generalized term for an applicant's claim upon the public domain. Usually characterized by the type of claim (mineral entry, desert land entry, homestead entry, etc.).
Entryman: The applicant
Exchange: A transaction between an entryman and the government whereby the latter received land or rights from the former in return for compensatory land or rights elsewhere.
Field notes: The written record of a cadastral survey compiled by the survey party.
Final certificate: A document that affirms that an applicant is entitled to a patent, having met all the requirements of the law, provided that no irregularities are found in connection with his claim.
Final entry: The entry of a claimant at the point where a final certificate is issued.
Final proof: A receipt that acknowledged payment of whatever money was required in connection with the final entry.
Grant: A gift of public land and defined either in quantity or in place. A word commonly used to refer to the gifts of land to individuals made by the Spanish or Mexican governments prior to acquisition of the Southwest by the United States.
Grazing district: An administrative section of range lands established according to the guidelines set forth in Section 3 of the Taylor Grazing Act (48 Stat. 1268).
Grazing lease: A lease that authorizes the use of public lands outside of an established grazing district for the foraging of livestock.
Homestead entry: An entry made under the legislative authority of the Homestead Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 392) or its numerous modifications by which an entryman settled upon and improved a specific portion of the public domain with the intention of eventually securing title to the land.
Improvements: A development of a permanent nature which tended to increase the value of the land claim (buildings, fences, reservoirs, etc.).
Independent resurvey: A cadastral survey which supersedes an older cadastral survey by establishing new land boundaries, although these may, to any extent, be identical with the older lines.
Isolated tract: An amount of vacant lands not exceeding 1520 acres which is surrounded by public lands that already have been appropriated for another purpose.
Legal description: The township, range, section, and fractional section numbers that designate the location of a tract within the rectangular survey system.
Lode claim: A type of mining claim. Lode claims follow the vein of the mineral deposit instead of a defined placer claim.
Lot: A subdivision of a section which is not exact and, therefore, not conveniently described in terms of quarters. A lot is typically irregular in shape and acreage and is designated by a number.
Military bounty land warrant: A type of scrip issue used to reward veterans, their heirs or assignees for military service. The last authorizing act was in 1855 though warrants were issued much later.
Mineral entry: A cash entry upon the public domain which was to be held as either a mining claim or as a mill site.
Mineral survey: A cadastral survey of a mineral claim run from at least one mineral monument to a corner, usually No. 1, of the claim.
Mining claim: An entry made upon portions of the public domain classified as containing valuable minerals. Discovery of valuable minerals entitled the finder to a patent upon payment of $2.50 per acre for placer claims or $5.00 per acre for lode claims. The first comprehensive mining law was passed on July 26, 1866.
National forest: A homestead entry, not exceeding 160 acres, initiated under the legislative authority of the act of June 11, 1906 (34 Stat. 233), which permitted homesteading within a national forest upon lands classified as more valuable for agriculture than forestry.
Patent: The legal document conveying title to a specific portion of the public domain upon an entryman after he had satisfied all requirements for gaining such title.
Placer claim: A mining claim entered upon mineralized public domain but not embracing a vein or lode. "Placers" typically refer to the washing out of alluvial deposits in stream beds.
Plat: A map usually drawn from the field notes and showing the boundaries, subdivisions, acreage, topography, improvements, mineral claims, and other features of a specific region. A plat could be of a mineral claim, townsite, township, right-of-way, or any similar area which had been surveyed.
Preemption: A cash entry made under the legislative authority of the Distribution-Preemption Act of 1841 (5 Stat. 567) or its subsequent modifications. Preemption was a method of protecting squatters who had settled land in advance of its being opened for claims by allowing them formally to enter their lands without competition at the time of such an opening. (See also Declaratory Statement.)
Principal meridian: The survey line running north and south which, in conjunction with the base line, forms the basis of the rectangular survey system. Principal meridian is the main principal of the state. For example, in Colorado the principal meridian runs through eastern Kansas. The southwestern portion of the state is surveyed from the New Mexico principal meridian.
Private land claim: A claim to a specific portion of land based upon a right obtained by the claimant while the land was under the control of a foreign government. In most western states these were claims derived from Spanish and Mexican grants.
Protest: A formal objection to an entry or application.
Quarter section: One quarter of a section of a township and usually designated as either the northeast, northwest, southeast, or southwest quarter and containing 160 acres.
Receiver: The government official in the local land office who was responsible for accepting and accounting for the public funds associated with land claims.
Register: The government official in the local land office who was charged with receiving applications for entries, annotating the tract, serial register, and plat books; preparing monthly reports on such transactions; compiling the papers which would eventually comprise the land entry case files; and forwarding this material to the General Land Office.
Rejection: A refusal on the part of the General Land Office to accept an application because it was improperly filed or conflicted with the public land laws.
Relinquishment: A voluntary yielding up of a claim on the part of the entryman.
Right-of-way: The use of public lands to make a corridor for certain specified purposes such as construction of a railroad, pipeline, road, or telephone lines.
Scrip: A certificate which was used like cash to allow the holder to select a specified number of acres from the public domain for settlement. The most common instances of scrip were veterans' bonuses and Morrill Act issues but a large number of small, special scrip authorizations were also made over the years.
Serial register book: A type of record keeping system which began on July 1, 1908. The serial system assigned consecutive entry numbers to claimants in the order in which they filed at the local land office regardless of where their claim was in the district.
Soldiers' additional: A type of homestead entry based upon Civil War service homestead entry which allowed a veteran to claim the amount of land by which his original homestead was less than 160 acres. (Soldiers' and Sailors Act of 1872; 17 Stat. 333).
Stockraising: A type of homestead entry made under the legislative homestead entry authority of the Stockraising Homestead Act of 1916 (39 Stat. 863) which provided for the homesteading of up to 640 acres of land that had been classified as being chiefly valuable for grazing and forage crops.
Timber and stone entry: A type of cash entry made under the legislative authority of the Timber and Stone Act of 1878 (20 Stat. 90) for portions of the public domain deemed chiefly valuable for their timber or stone resources and unfit for cultivation.
Timber culture entry: An entry made under the Timber Culture Act of 1873 (17 Stat. 605), which allowed an entryman to claim up to a quarter section in return for planting and nurturing a required number of acres in trees.
Town-site entry: A cash entry upon the public domain in an area already segregated for disposal as an urban development and often further subdivided into blocks and lots.
Township: A township is the major subdivision resulting from the rectangular survey system. With minor deviations, a township is six miles square, contains 23,040 acres, and is referred to by its legal description derived from the principal meridian and base line. A township was normally further divided into 36 sections of one mile square.
Tract book: These are record books maintained by the local land office with a duplicate set kept by the General Land Office in which were recorded claims upon the public domain. They are arranged by legal description.
Withdrawal: An action by the government restricting disposal of the public domain in a specific region for some particular purpose such as a reclamation project or the creation of a national forest.