African American Land and Property

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Deeds. Slaves were treated as chattel and their sale may be listed as a deed in land and property records of the county or state. Sometimes slaves were sold as part of the probate of an estate and this sale may be listed as a deed.

Homestead land. After the Civil War many African Americans took advantage of the Homestead Act to obtain almost free federal land in return for occupying and improving it. The application papers for this federal land contains genealogical information and clues. Only about 40 percent of people who applied for homestead land finished the process and received the land. Those that finished have been indexed. The homestead index is available on the Internet. For more details see the Wiki article Land Patent Search.

Homestead applications for the 60 percent who never finished are available at the National Archives, but a researcher will need to find the legal description of the land they started to homestead in order to find the application papers. There is no index to homestead applications that were not completed.


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