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You can request a Homestead Entry Case file via the National Archives order online system at https://eservices.archives.gov/orderonline/start.swe?SWECmd=Start&SWEHo=eservices.archives.gov. To request the file you will need to know the name of the person claiming the homestead, where the homestead was (state), and the legal land description of the claim (township, range, and section). If you only have the name of the homesteader it is a good idea to first check on the BLM’s General Land Office website www.glorecords.blm.gov. This website lists all the finalized, or patented, claims filed with the General Land Office.
The type of information contained in the land entry case files can vary depending on the type of claim, the way the claim was processed (such as homesteaded, military, or purchased), and even when and where the claim was filed. No two land files are ever the same. Typically a case file will contain information regarding the passage of ownership of the land from the Federal Government to the Entryman (or land owner). The file reflects the paperwork accumulated by the local land office in administering the application. Types of documents that can be present in the file include applications, correspondence, final patent, claimant’s testimony, legal land description, and survey maps or drawings, just to name a few. Additionally the file might contain marriage certificates, naturalization records, age and place of birth of claimant, military service, literacy, and economic status.
For more information about researching land records please visit the National Archives website regarding land records at https://www.archives.gov/research/land. For specific questions regarding requesting your records through NARA’s order online check out this useful page
Please keep in mind that 20 states that were never a public domain state the records will not be in the National Archives. The 20 states include the original 13 colonies and Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. You will want to contact the state archives about land records for these areas.
The records for 13 public land states are still held at the BLM’s Eastern Land Office. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin. You can request the GLO patent file, most for these files but not from the National Archives. You will need to submit a request to the BLM's Eastern Land Office. First please check the GLO website www.glorecords.blm.gov.
If the patent you are requesting is not available on the GLO website please download and fill out the following form.
Once you have filled out the form, mail it to the following address:
Bureau of Land Management
Attn: Lands and Realty-Eastern States
20 M Street SE, Suite 950
Washington, DC 20003
Thank you so much Marene! That gives me a good place to start! I'll start looking into all of that...