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Land records are primarily used to learn when and where an individual lived. They often reveal other family information, such as the name of a spouse, heir, other relatives, or neighbors. Also, you may learn where a person lived previously, his or her occupation, if he or she was a naturalized citizen, and other clues for further research.
The Pioneer Era (1847-1869)
In 1847 the area that was to become Utah belonged to Mexico. A year later it was ceded to the United States by treaty but it was not until 1869 that a land office was established. This permitted "legal" ownership of public lands in Utah.
Instead of federal authority during this period, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) administered the distribution of land. The land was not sold but was allotted to the first owners based on needs. After 1850 title could be obtained from either the Church or the county recorder's office.
After the initial distribution of land the county recorder or probate clerk primarily recorded subsequent transfers. A few transactions were recorded in LDS Church records. Sometimes land was transferred without it being recorded at any Church or government office.
Maps listing the names of landholders locate where an ancestor lived. The library has a few plat maps. Examples are:
- Morgan, Nicholas G. Pioneer Map: Great Salt Lake City, Great Basin, North America. N.p.: 1851?. (Family History Library map 979.225 E7man; fiche 6051237.) This map includes historical data and index to names of original owners and their locations by lot or lots and blocks. The index to this map consists of names of major land owners in various Salt Lake City LDS wards.
- Grundvig, David L.and Sharon Lauritzen. Index to Pioneer Map, Great Salt Lake City, for 1850s. N.p. 1981. (Family History Library book 979.225 E7man index.)
- Pioneer Map: City of St. George, Washington County, Utah. N.p.: 1982?. (Family History Library map 979.248/S1 E7p.) This map lists the names of land owners on the map and the designation of the ward where they lived. The index to this map has St. George wards listed in: Hardesty, Patricia N. Pioneer Map, City of St. George, Washington County, Utah Index with LDS Wards. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1982. (Family History Library book 979.248/S1 E7p index, fiche 6031575.)
Pioneer land settlement in Utah is discussed in many articles and histories. Two are:
- Fox, Feramorz Young. The Mormon Land System, A Study of the Settlement and Utilization of Land Under the Direction of the Mormon Church. Logan, Utah: Utah State Agricultural College, 1955. (Family History Library film 237848.) This is an in-depth study of the history of the Mormon land system. There are maps throughout the volume.
- Linford, Lawrence, L. Establishing and Maintaining Land Ownership in Utah Prior to 1869 in Utah Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 42 no. 2, Spring 1974: 126-43. (Family History Library book 979.2 H2u.) This is a history describing how lands were divided. It is full of quotations from journals and newspapers. Primarily, it covers Salt Lake City.
Web Site: For a detailed history of Original Land Titles in Utah, see: http://archives.utah.gov/research/guides/land-original-title.htm#recorders
Federal Land Records (1869-Present)
Federal land surveys began in 1855. The first general land office to sell lands in the public domain in Salt Lake City was established in 1869. Other offices were located in Beaver (1876-77) and Vernal (1905-27). Land was available through the land offices to individuals (entrymen) who paid a down payment (cash entry) for a piece of property or to homesteaders who paid a small entry fee.
Land office officials maintained registers of land office business and kept separate files (case files) for each entryman. They listed information about entries in tract books (registers containing a written description of each entry) and township plats (maps showing the lots for each township).
After an individual completed the requirements for land entry, his case file was sent to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. This office confirmed that everything was in order and issued a patent (official land title) transferring the rights of land ownership from the government to him.
Since land in Utah had been settled for over 20 years when the land office opened, it was often difficult to make the government land packages fit the existing town and farm lots. In many cases a "trustee" received the patent and then distributed the land among several others. Records of these secondary transfers should be listed in county recorder's office.
The following offices have federal land records for Utah:
Bureau of Land Management
Utah State Office
324 South State Street Suite 400
Salt Lake City, UT 84111-2303
This office has copies of patents and tractbooks from 1869 to the present with survey plats and notes beginning in the 1850s, and township plats showing who the land was sold to.
'The National Archives — Rocky Mountain Region
Building 48 — Denver Federal Center
West 6th Avenue and Kipling Street
P.O. Box 25307
Denver, CO 80255-0307
Telephone (General Inquiries): (303) 236-0817
(Genealogy Inquiries): (303) 236-0806
Fax: (303) 236-9297
The Denver Branch has land office records for Utah, including correspondence, surveys, homestead and cash entry registers, receipts, and final certificates. An inventory of their land records is in:
Barker, Joel. Preliminary Inventory of Land Management - Utah. Denver, Colorado: Archives Branch, Federal Archives and Records Center, 1979. (Family History Library book 979.2 R23b.) This book provides a history of the land dealings and surveys. It lists what is available, the dates, how it is arranged, and a description.
National Archives & Records Administration
7th Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20408
Civil Archives Division
Washington, D.C. 20408
The Washington National Records Center at http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/suitland/ has the tract books of entries to about 1964, two indexed case files from 1869 to 1908, and the other file from 1908 to about 1973, and patents from 1869 to 1908.
The Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
The Bureau has land patents for Utah since 1908.
State Land Records
At the time of statehood, the federal government granted the state of Utah four sections of land in each township. The state has sold or leased some of this land. State land is managed by:
Utah State Government
State Lands and Forestry
1594 W. North Temple Street Suite 3520
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5703
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5703
This office has public sale files, patents, and certificates of sale since 1896. They also have lease files from the 1860s. Agreements and applications to purchase land since 1896 have been sent to the Utah State Archives.
County Land Records
After the federal government transferred land to private owners, it could be sold again, inherited, or lost by foreclosure. In Utah, these transactions have been recorded in the county recorder's office. The Family History Library has a few of these records from some counties. They are usually indexed by grantor and grantee for each volume.
The Family History Library has copies of early land records, including early probate court records, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership records, and county deed records. The library has records for many counties for various time periods. Look in the Locality Search in the Family History Library Catalog under:
UTAH, [COUNTY] - LAND AND PROPERTY
To locate existing land records, contact the county recorder's office or the Utah State Archives. The county clerk may also have land records.