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Federal Land Records
When Idaho was first settled, the federal government administered most of the land through local land offices. Available land was surveyed and could then be transferred to private ownership in a process known as land entry.
The first general land offices were established in Boise and Lewiston by 1870. These offices kept tract books (recording transactions for each section of land) and township plats (maps of land entries for each township).
After a settler completed the requirements for homesteading or purchasing land, the local land office sent his case file to the General Land Office in Washington, DC, where a patent or first title deed was issued, transferring the land to private ownership.
The Bureau of Land Management has an online index to land patents in Idaho ((most are after 1908). The patent search may also provide a digital image of the original patent.
To locate the land entry or homestead case file for your ancestor, you will need to know either the patent number or the legal description (range, township, section of the land). The county recorder of deeds may be able to provide the legal description from county land records, or you may be able to pinpoint the exact location of the tract by searching the entries in the tract book covering the approximate area.
The patents and copies of the tract books and township plats are at the Idaho State Office of the Bureau of Land Management at http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en.html (1387 So. Vinnell Way, Boise, Idaho 83709-1657, Telephone: 208-373-4000, Fax: 208-373-3888). The National Archives and Records Administration—Pacific Northwest Region at http://www.archives.gov/pacific-alaska/seattle/ has copies of the township plats and the original tract books, plats, homestead entry files, and cash entry files.
The Bureau of Land Management has digital images of the original survey maps for Idaho at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/SurveySearch/ The original survey creates land boundaries and marks them for the first time.
County Land Records
After land was transferred from the government by sale or grant to private ownership, it could be sold again, inherited, lost by foreclosure of a mortgage, or distributed through a divorce or other court action. Deeds, mortgages, and other transactions are recorded in each county by the clerk of the district court. Some county land records have been microfilmed and are available at the Idaho State Historical Society and at the Family History Library. Many county records have been microfilmed only from earliest to 1900. Later records are in the clerk's office in each county.