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Pre-Statehood Land Records
In 1787, what is now the state of Indiana became part of the Northwest Territory. In 1800, the Indiana Territory was established with Vincennes as the capital. Indiana became a state in 1816. Early settlers of Indiana obtained their land through grants issued by France or England. At various times, people made claims to the government for lands. Often people submitted claims which included statements by relatives, neighbors, or friends. Many of these state family relationships. The early land grant and land claim records (1789–1837) are published in:
United States. Congress. American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States. 38 volumes. La Crosse, Wisconsin: Brookhaven Press, 1959. (On 29 FHL films beginning with 1631827; classes 8 and 9 are also on films 899878–885.) The volumes for classes 8 and 9 deal with public lands and claims for the years 1789 to 1837, and may name siblings or heirs of original claimants. Classes 8 and 9 have been republished in: United States. Congress. American State Papers, Class 8.
For a comprehensive name index, see: McMullin, Phillip W. ed. Grassroots of America. Both are cited fully in the "Land and Property" section of the United States Research Outline.
Other sources listing early land records are:
Cowen, Janet C. Jeffersonville Land Entries, 1808-1818. Indianapolis, Indiana: J.Cowen, 1984. (FHL book 977.2 R2c) This is an index to the records at the Jeffersonville land office, which was located in Clark County, in southeastern Indiana. This lists the receipt number, the person who purchased land, state of residence (including county or city), land description (section, township, and range), number of acres, and date of purchase.
Lux, Leonard. The Vincennes Donation Lands. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1949. (FHL book 977.2 B4 vol.15, no.4; film 928192 item5; fiche 6051134). This book lists the names of persons having land claims of 400 acres each in the southwestern part of the state (1788–1792).
Waters, Margaret R. Indiana Land Entries. Two volumes. 1948. Reprint, Knightstown, Indiana: Bookmark, 1977-1979. (FHL book 977.2 R2w; fiche 6046718 vols. 1–2). Volume one has records of the Cincinnati, Ohio, land office, 1801 to 1840, and volume two, for the Vincennes, Indiana, land office, 1807 to 1877. Each volume is indexed and gives the location of the land, the date of the transaction, and the page number in the original land entries.
WPA Card File. The Work Projects Administration prepared an extensive card file of over 150,000 index cards many state-level land, court, and military records in the pre–1850 record series at the Archives Division, Commission on Public Records. This is only available to researchers at the Indiana State Archives in Indianapolis, Indiana. About 95 percent of the sources indexed cannot be identified easily.
Land Records After Statehood (1816)
As the United States acquired land, unsettled land became part of the public domain and was sold by the federal government. The first General Land Office to serve Indiana opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1800. The first office within the state of Indiana was established at Vincennes, Indiana and the first sales took place in 1807. (See the Lux and Waters volumes above for published records of these two offices.)
The National Archives–Great Lakes Region (Chicago, Illinois) has General Land Office applications (record group 49) to purchase land, and registers of cash certificates and sales (1808–1876). They are arranged by land office, then chronologically.
The original federal land record books and microfilm copies from 1807 to 1876 are at the Indiana State Archives of the Indiana Commission of Public Records. The National Archives has land-entry case files. Patents, copies of tract books, and township plats are located at:
Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
The Family History Library has microfilms of tract books dating from the early 1800s for many land offices in Indiana.
United States. Bureau of Land Management. Tract Books. See the United States Research Outline, "Land and Property" section, for a full citation.
The Bureau of Land Management has an ongoing project of producing compact disc indexes of their records. Some states’ land records are now available on CD, and the Bureau of Land Management is working on Indiana. The Indiana records for patents and legal land descriptions are available on the General Land Office web page, www.glorecords.blm.gov. They are indexed.
You may also want to use the following regional indexes:
Cowen, Janet C. Crawfordsville, Indiana Land Entries, 1820–1830. Indianapolis, Indiana, J.C. Cowen, 1985. (FHL book 977.2 R2cL). This land office was in the central part of western Indiana, serving the counties of Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Clinton, Fountain, Hendricks, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Vermillion, Warren, and White. This index provides the receipt number, person’s name, state and county of residence (this may be their previous residence prior in another state), location by range and township, number of acres, and date.
Cowen, Janet C. Indiana Original Land Entries, Volume 3, Brookville, Indianapolis, 1820–1831. Indianapolis, Indiana: J. C. Cowen, 1986. (FHL book 977.2 R2co). This covers land sales in the central Indiana counties of Boone, Brown, Clinton, Decatur, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Henry, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan, Randolph, Ripley, Rush, Shelby, Union, and Wayne. This index provides the receipt number, person’s name, state and county of residence (this may be their previous residence in another state), location by range and township, number of acres, and date.
A bibliography of books about land records in Indiana is found in:
Miller, Carolynne L. Indiana Sources for Genealogical Research in the Indiana State Library. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for a full citation.
Helpful maps that show the territories, territorial counties, early counties, land offices, forts, rivers, railroads, canals, and roads are found on pages 1 to 21 of Malinda E. E. Newhard’s book A Guide to Genealogical Records in Indiana.
The following publications will help you understand the land system:
Wilson, George R. Early Indiana Trails and Surveys. Indianapolis, Indiana: C. E. Pauley, 1919. (FHL book 977.2 B4 v.6 no.3; film 824286 item13; fiche 6051190) This contains the history of early roads and land grants.
This Land of Ours: The Acquisition and Disposition of the Public Domain: Papers Presented at the Indiana American Revolution Bicentennial Symposium, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, April 29 and 30, 1978. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1978. (FHL book 977 R2i.) This contains a series of historical essays relating to Indiana land sales.
Subsequent Land Transfers in County Records
The office handling subsequent land transfers in Indiana is known as the County Recorder. The two major record series that are of interest to genealogists are deeds and mortgages. Deeds have been kept in separate ledgers since the establishment of the county; mortgages have been recorded separately only since the late 1840s to the early 1850s. Both types of records have been indexed within each volume. In the 1850s recorders began General Indexes to Deeds, Grantor and Grantee, and General Indexes to Mortgages, Mortgagor and Mortgagee. Recorders were to go back to the first volume to create the general index. Sometimes they missed a record, or, if the records failed to fall into the category of a deed or mortgage (such as a manumission of a slave), these transcripts were missed in the General Index. From the Civil War to about 1880, many recorders kept both a pre-printed deed record and a free-form manuscript ledger. You should consult both to be certain all references to an ancestor have been found. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of Indiana county land records for more than 60 of the 92 counties through 1900 and has begun microfilming mortgage records through 1885.
Indiana land records are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
INDIANA- LAND AND PROPERTY
INDIANA, [COUNTY]- LAND AND PROPERTY