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The value of land records lies in the fact that land was highly sought after and the transactions were recorded from the time settlers began to arrive. Therefore it is a consistent and continuous record of many ancestors lives. Land records can be used to learn where and when an individual lived in certain areas, as well as often revealing useful and interesting family information.
Land in Ohio was transferred to private ownership by state and federal land grants. This was the first public domain land ever made available for private ownership. The rectangular land survey system (section, township, and range), established by the Land Ordinance of 1785, was first applied to federal land grants in Ohio.
Prior to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the colonies of Connecticut, Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts all had claim on land that is now part of Ohio. Only Virginia and Connecticut continued to claim specific areas of Ohio land after 1787.
If you are new to land research, you may wish to read the Beginner’s corner and other articles included on the United States Land and Property page.
Federal Land Grants
- The Ohio Company First Purchase. This land was sold by the Continental Congress to an association of former officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary War from Massachusetts and nearby areas. The Ohio Company Second Purchase, made in 1792, was acquired by redeeming military bounty land warrants obtained by the association. Original records of the Ohio Company of Associates are in the custody of Marietta College, Dawes Memorial Library, Marietta, Ohio.
- The Donation Tract. One hundred-acre parcels were offered to legal-age males who would occupy the land immediately, thus becoming a buffer between the Indians and those settling on the Ohio Company Purchases. Deeds were issued by the Ohio Company of Associates until 1818, when the Marietta Land Office obtained jurisdiction of unclaimed lands.
- Symmes Purchase or Miami Purchase. Purchased partly with military bounty land warrants, the survey for this land was done privately and does not conform to the United States rectangular survey system. Symmes and many of the first settlers in this area came from New Jersey or had ties to New Jersey.
- The United States Military District. Ohio land was granted to soldiers from any state who served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The tracts were 4,000 acres each, yet military bounty land warrants allowed between 100 acres for a soldier and 1,100 acres for a major general. Since few people could buy the remaining thousands of acres, some pooled warrants and subdivided their tract among themselves. Others sold their warrants to land speculators.
- Moravian Indian Grants. The United Brethren Church was issued the grant as trustee for Indian converts who sustained great losses in 1782.
- French Grants. Lands were granted to 101 Frenchmen who bought land by the Scioto Company, which had no land to sell legally.
- Refugee Tract. Lands were granted to refugees from Canada who came to the Colonies before 4 July 1776 and who aided the cause of the Colonies during the Revolutionary War.
- Congress Lands. Tracts of 320 acres were purchased by individuals. Because buyers paid 25 percent in cash and had four years to pay the balance, the property was exempt from taxes for the first five years after being purchased.
- The first land offices to sell Congress lands were established in 1800. When land in one district was almost completely distributed, the few parcels left were sold by a new land office that had opened up further west. Arranged by first year of operation, the federal land offices in Ohio were located in:
|Steubenville|| 1800 to 1840 |
|Marietta||1800 to 1840|
|Chillicothe||1801 to 1876|
|Cincinnati||1801 to 1840|
|Zanesville||1804 to 1840|
|Canton||1808 to 1816|
|Wooster||1816 to 1840|
|Delaware||1820 to 1828|
|Piqua||1820 to 1833|
|Tiffin||1828 to 1832|
|Bucyrus||1832 to 1842|
|Wapakoneta||1833 to 1835|
|Lima||1835 to 1843|
|Marion||1837 to 1845|
|Upper Sandusky||1843 to 1848|
|Defiance||1848 to 1855|
- The Between the Miamis Survey or Ludlow's Survey. Though surveyed by the federal government, these lands continued the unorthodox survey system used in the adjoining Symmes Purchase, mentioned above.
Federal Grants to the State were given for various purposes. Grants were given for school, swamp, ministerial, canal, wagon road or turnpike, and university lands. Grants were also given for salt reservations and other purposes. Acts of the Ohio State Legislature determined how these lands were used, granted or sold.
State Land Grants
Virginia Military District was surveyed in 1787, and the first patent was issued in 1796. Bounty land warrants issued for military service in Virginia during the Revolutionary War or the French and Indian Wars were redeemed for land in Kentucky or in this district of Ohio. The first owners may not have been from Virginia and may not have been soldiers, since warrants could be inherited, sold, or legally assigned. Lands were described by metes and bounds in this district and are identified in deeds, tax lists, and other records by the original survey number assigned to each parcel. Original records for this district are found at the National Archives—Suitland Branch; the Bureau of Land Management, Springfield, Virginia; the [Ohio] Auditor of State's Land Office (address to follow); and the Ohio Historical Society.
Connecticut Western Reserve was sold to the Connecticut Land Company in 1795. The land was divided into shares in 1798. The Connecticut State Library and the Western Reserve Historical Library, described in the "Archives and Libraries" page, have extensive collections pertaining to the Western Reserve and the Firelands.
Firelands or Sufferers Lands. In 1781, nine towns in Connecticut were destroyed by the British. These lands in the west end of the Western Reserve were granted by Connecticut to the sufferers, their heirs, or assignees. Land was partitioned in 1808. See The Firelands Pioneer
The following publications discuss the development of the various land districts in more detail:
- First Ownership of Ohio Lands 
- The Bounty Lands of the American Revolution in Ohio An interesting chapter titles include "The public domain as an instrument of war," "From warrant to patent for the Virginia Military District and the United States Military District," and "The UNmilitary United States Military District."
- 'Ohio Lands and Their History
- Petro, Jim. Ohio Lands: A Short History. (scroll to the bottom of the page to access the entire book)[Columbus], Ohio: Ohio Auditor of State, 1994. This booklet is free from the auditor of state.
- Sherman, Christopher E. Original Ohio Land Subdivisions.  This includes detailed maps.
Land Grant Records
- Canal Lands Includes leases (1832-1936), sales (1801-1851), and other papers. Many papers are arranged by section, range, and township.
- Miscellaneous Lands 
- Plats to U.S. Lands in Ohio but not Including Virginia Military District, Connecticut Western Reserve, Fire Lands, nor Symmes Purchase 
- School Lands 
- Tract Books and Index for U.S. Lands in Ohio but not Including Virginia Military District, Connecticut Western Reserve, Fire Lands and Symmes Purchase 
- Virginia Military District Lands of Ohio; Indexes 
- Field Books to U.S. Lands in Ohio but not Including Virginia Military District, Connecticut Western Reserve, Fire Lands, nor Symmes Purchase Arranged by section, range, and township.
- Township Plats of Selected States Many of these plats show their drainage, roads, trails, boundaries of private land claims, physical features, and the township and section lines.
- U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrants Used in the U.S. Military District of Ohio and Related Papers, Acts of 1788, 1803, 1806 Contains land warrants dated 1789 to 1833 and related papers dated as late as 1880. The first film is an index to the collection.
- Land Records of the Various Districts of Ohio Registers of receipts, certificates, and entries for various land offices in Ohio, 1788 to 1876. Most are in chronological order of the transaction. Records contain the name of the purchaser, date of transaction, description of the land, and sometimes the residence of the purchaser and other information. Most volumes are not indexed by name.
Since Ohio officials had an interest in tracking the owner of Ohio lands for taxing and other purposes, many records of federal land sales and grants, as well as those for Ohio, Virginia, and Connecticut, are in the custody of the Auditor of State's Land Office. Their collection includes copies of the plats of land distribution and the names of the original owners.
- Ohio Land Office
Auditor of State
P.O. Box 1140
88 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43266-0040
- Ohio Land Office
The National Archives—Suitland Branch has case files for federal cash and credit entries, homestead files, and military land warrants.
While most of the original records for the Virginia Military District are at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, the Family History Library Catalog has microfilm copies of much of their collection. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- VIRGINIA - LAND AND PROPERTY
- VIRGINIA - MILITARY RECORDS
Original records of the Connecticut Western Reserve and Firelands in Ohio are located at the office of the Connecticut Secretary of State. Check the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- CONNECTICUT - LAND AND PROPERTY
Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, has the Ohio Company records.
- The Bureau of Land Management and General Land Office (BLM-GLO) has an on line Land Patent Search which is an index to millions of ancestors named in federal land patents and warrants from 1788 to the 1960’s located at the National Archives. This is the best place to begin when searching for a land patent because of the ease of navigation when searching for an ancestor. This internet web site also provides many images of patents.
- United States. Bureau of Land Management. Card Files. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Land Management, 19—. On 160 Family History Library films beginning with film 1501522,FHL Collection. Each card contains the following information: Certificate number District Land Office Kind of entry (cash, credit, warrant, etc.) Name of patentee and county of origin Land description Number of acres Date of patent Volume and page where document can be located . Because these index cards are arranged by township and range within each state, the researcher will need to already have an approximate legal description in order to access these cards.
- Ohio Lands, Steubenville Land Office, 1800-1820 
- Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840 This includes the Zanesville and Steubenville Land Offices. The years 1800 to 1820 are not included for Steubenville, since those years were covered by Carol Willsey Bell's book.
- Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840 This indexes records of the Cincinnati Land Office.
- Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southeastern Ohio, 1800-1840 Indexes records of the Marietta Land Office.
- Grassroots of America: A Computerized Index to the American State Papers: Land Grants and Claims 1789-1837 with Other Aids to Research 
- This work is an index to:
- American State Papers, Class 8: Public Lands; Class 9, Claims: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States 
- A microfilm copy of the original papers is:
- 'American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States.These papers, relating to land disputes in Ohio and other states, 1789 to 1837, often list heirs of the original claimants.
- Governor's Deeds Card Index, 1833-1994 This is a name index of records available in the Auditor of State's Office.
- Federal Land Series This indexes names from Revolutionary War bounty land warrants and grants from the Virginia Military District.
- Ohio, 1790-1905: Canadian Refugee, Cash, Homestead, United Brethren Patents, and Virginia Military Warrants No circulation to Family History Centers. Contains information from approximately 94,000 patents issued for Ohio lands by the federal government. Covers many of the federal land grants and the Virginia Military District.
Researchers can search for land title information through any of these six categories: land description, patentee name, patent authority, land office, certificate number, or county. Copies of original records identified through this source can be obtained from the National Archives. This source indexes and consolidates many records. State sources may be more complete, especially for early grants, because of their interest in tracking land sales for taxation and other purposes.
Additional indexes, printed sources, and records of original transfers of land from federal and state governments are found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
- OHIO - LAND AND PROPERTY
- UNITED STATES - LAND AND PROPERTY
Obtaining Land Entry Case Files
Also known as Land Entry Files or Patent Files, the case file is the accumulation of paperwork gathered during the land transactions which occurred when the land is transferred from the U.S. Government to private ownership and are kept at the National Archives in Washington D.C. These documents are the most helpful records for researchers because some files contain valuable information and may include personal or family information, such as military discharge papers, proof of citizenship, former residences, birthplaces and more. While not all files have pertinent information for the researcher, they are often worth obtaining. For further information regarding case files and how to order them, you will want to read the article Locating the Land and it's Associated Records at the United States Land and Property wiki page. The physical address of where the records are kept at the National Archives is as follows:
- Old Military Civil Records Branch
National Archives and Records Administration
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408
- Old Military Civil Records Branch
To obtain copies of a case file you will need the following information which may be found in the land patent records indexed at the BLM-GLO web site:
- Name of the purchaser
- State where the land was purchased.
- Name of the land office.
- Type of certificate (homestead, cash, bounty-land warrant, mining, timberland etc.)
- Certificate number or patent number
After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions were usually recorded at the county courthouse. Original documents were retained by the families, while abstracts of deeds, mortgages, leases, and a few land grant records were kept by the recorder of deeds in each county. Abstracts and indexes for these records are generally available at the county courthouse.
It is important to trace each parcel of land ever owned by an ancestor. The acquisition (that is, purchase or inheritance from individuals or grant, purchase, or warrant from government) may reveal a previous residence; may identify the names of parents, in-laws, or other relatives; or may provide clues to search other sources, such as military records. The disposition of each parcel may identify heirs or reveal an ancestor's next residence. Witnesses and neighbors may be relatives or friends. Searching their records could give facts about the ancestor. For more information about County Land Records see Ohio County Land Records.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most land records from the earliest transactions from the 1790s to the 1880s or later. Land records for each county are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under
- OHIO, [COUNTY] - LAND AND PROPERTY.
The Family History Library has on compact disc:
- Ohio Cash and Homestead Entries, Cadastral Survey Plats. Version 7.3 These records are patents issued by the federal government. Researchers can search for infirmation about land titles through any one of six categories; land description, patentee name, patent authority, land office, certificate number, or county.
- Ohio Early Land Ownership Records This is a subscription website that is available for free use at most US family history centers. It is a database consisting of Ohio Early Land Ownership Records and First Ownership of Ohio Lands.
- Ohio Land Records (see above note for access information)
- Ohio Pre-1908 Homestead and Cash Entry Patent and Cadastral Survey Plat Index This database contains the information from over 100,000 land patents dated before 1908 for the state of Ohio. Information recorded in the collection includes patentee name, land office, legal description, etc.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 The Firelands Pioneer. Norwalk, Ohio: Firelands Historical Society, 1858-1878. (Family History Library film FHL Collection film 1320962 items 1-13, contains vols. 1-13; book series 977.1 B2f; FHL Collection, book 977.1 B2f for index 1858-1937; film FHL Collection, film 1320941 item 1; Obituary index, book FHL Collection, book 977.1 B2f index supp. 1857-1909, fiche 6088685 (1 fiche).
- ↑ Bell, Carol Willsey. Ohio Lands, Steubenville Land Office, 1800-1820. Youngstown, Ohio: C.W. Bell, 1983. FHL Collection, book 977.1 R2b.
- ↑ Berry, Ellen Thomas, and David A. Berry, comps. Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1989. FHL Collection, book 977.1 R22eo 1989.
- ↑ Berry, Ellen Thomas, and David A. Berry, comps. Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. FHL Collection, book 977.1 R22eo 1986.
- ↑ Berry, Ellen Thomas, and David A. Berry, comps. Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southeastern Ohio, 1800-1840. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. FHL Collection, book 977.1 R22e.
- ↑ United States. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Land Management. Ohio Cash and Homestead Entries, Cadastral Survey Plats. Version 7.3. Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management Eastern States, 1994. (Family History Library compact disc number 40. Not available at Family History Centers.)