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Federal Land Records
When the United States acquired the area that is now Kansas, most of the land became part of the public domain. Available land was surveyed by the government and could then be transferred to private ownership, a process called land entry. The first general land office in Kansas was established at Lecompton in 1856. The local offices kept tract books (records of land transactions in each section) and township plats (maps of land entries in each township).
After a settler completed the requirements for land entry by either purchase (cash entry) or homesteading, his case file was sent to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. Here a patent, or first-title deed, was issued, transferring the land from government to private ownership.
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 tell you the legal description of the land from county land records. Or you may be able to locate his tract by searching the tract book covering the approximate area.
Township plats, patent records, and copies of the tractbooks are available at:
The Wyoming State Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Cheyenne, WY 82009
P.O. Box 1828
Cheyenne, WY 82003
The National Archives has the original tract books, plats, homestead entry files, and cash entry files.
Land Grants to Railroads
Large sections of land were granted to railroad companies, primarily to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and to the Union Pacific Railroad. These two companies sold many acres of land to settlers through their own land offices. The Kansas State Historical Society has some records of the railroad grants.
County Land Records
After land was transferred from the government by sale or grant to private hands, it could be sold again, inherited, lost by foreclosure of a mortgage, or redistributed through a divorce. These transactions should be recorded by the county clerk in the form of deeds and mortgages. You can obtain copies of the documents by contacting the appropriate clerk's office in each county. The Family History Library is presently acquiring microfilm copies of the deeds in the county courthouses.
Kansas Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.
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