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The availability of land attracted many immigrants to America and encouraged westward expansion. Land records are primarily used to learn where a person lived and when he or she lived there. They often reveal other family information as well, such as the name of a spouse, an heir, other relatives, or neighbors. You may learn a person’s previous residences, his occupation, if he had served in the military, if he was a naturalized citizen, and other clues for further research.
Vermont’s first landholders were called proprietors. There are many proprietors’ records in the town records of each town. Most of these records are available at the Vermont Public Records Division, General Services Center. Vermont is a state-land state. After the Revolutionary War, the land was controlled and dispersed by the state government.
Originally, Vermont was part of Massachusetts. In 1749, New Hampshire claimed a large portion of the area and granted land for 129 towns in Vermont. In 1764, New York claimed jurisdiction over a large portion of the land held by New Hampshire. In 1777, Vermont became independent, and claimed the land was under its jurisdiction. The towns remained the same, and the town records contain the land deeds without regard to the political jurisdiction of the time.
Some records of early land transactions are:
Holbrook, Jay Mack. Vermont’s First Settlers. Oxford, Massachusetts: Holbrook Research Institute, 1976. Family Hisstory Library book 974.3 R2h.) This source is an alphabetized list of persons who received land grants in Vermont from 1763 to 1803. Each listing identifies the time and location of the property and the page number of the source in volume 2 of the State Papers of Vermont. See the “Public Records” section of this outline.
Holbrook, Jay Mack. Vermont Land Grantees 1749–1803. Oxford, Massachusetts: Holbrook Research Institute, 1986. (Family History Library fiche 6044861.) This does not circulate to Family History Centers. This source contains a listing of the first 15,000 land grants by New Hampshire, 58 percent of which are in present-day Vermont. The remainder of the land became Vermont land charters. New York did not recognize the legality of the New Hampshire land grants, and New York issued its own land patents for much of the Vermont territory. This book lists the land grant townships with maps of the localities. It includes an alphabetical list of those persons who received the grants and shows the name, year, and source of the information.
Sequestration, Confiscation, and Sale of Estates. State Papers of Vermont, v.6. Montpelier, Vermont: Secretary of State, 1941. (Family History Library book 973.6 B4s v.6; film 1321236, item 4.) This source includes an index. During the Revolutionary War, many residents would not sign an Oath of Allegiance to the rebel government. Their lands and property were confiscated, and by 1778 many fled to Canada. In 1783, after the war, many returned to Vermont, decided to sign the Oath of Allegiance, and petitioned to have their property returned. This 465-page source lists their names, claims, and value.
Vermont. Secretary of State. New York Land Patents 1688–1786: Covering Land Included in the State of Vermont, (Not Including Military Patents). State Papers of Vermont, v.7. Montpelier, Vermont: Secretary of State, 1947. (Family History Library book 974.3 B4s v.7.) New York and New Hampshire both claimed disputed land now in Vermont. This volume shows names and dates and includes an index.
Vermont. Secretary of State. Petitions for Grants of Land 1778–1881. State Papers of Vermont, v.5. Montpelier, Vermont: Secretary of State, 1939. (Family History Library book 974.3 B4s v.5.) This source includes an index. Each petition describes the property, location, and the reason for the petition.
Before 1780 jurisdiction over land records was with the county. During the 1780s the town clerks were given jurisdiction over land records. You should consult records of the town clerks.
Additional information on available land and property records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
VERMONT- LAND AND PROPERTY
VERMONT, [COUNTY]- LAND AND PROPERTY
VERMONT, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- LAND AND PROPERTY
Vermont Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.