Arizona Land and Property
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,they are consistent and continuous record of many ancestors' lives. Land records can be used to learn where and when an individual lived in certain areas, and often reveal useful and interesting family information.
Arizona is a “federal-land” (public-domain) state, unclaimed land was first surveyed, then granted or sold by the government through federal and state land offices. The first sale of a piece of land from the government was called a land patent and the first owner of the land was called a patentee.
Later when the land was sold or mortgaged by private owners the document was called a deed. These land transactions were recorded at the office of the county register of deeds. A patent may also have been recorded as a deed.
Family history researchers usually use land records from county offices. (See Private Land Records section shown below) Records from federal and state offices can also have genealogical value. For detailed descriptions of land record types see United States Land and Property.
The Wiki page Previous Jurisdictions to land in Arizona describes the changing borders in what is now Arizona in greater detail. This information will help you decide where to search for records of ancestors living in what became Arizona.
The earliest land grants were given by Spain (up to 1821) and Mexico (from 1821 to 1848). Some of those early records were kept by the Secretary's Office of New Mexico. A helpful published source of information about these grants is:
- John R. and Christine Van Ness, Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in New Mexico and Colorado. Manhattan, Kansas: AG Press, 1980. (Family History Library book 978 R2s).
When the United States acquired the area in 1848, it agreed to recognize prior claims. The claims were processed by the U.S. Surveyor General from 1855 to 1890, and by the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims from 1891 to 1903. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the following records which are located at the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office. Most of the documents are indexed and written in either English or Spanish:
- Miscellaneous records for 1695-1842. (Family History Library films 1016947-48; use Vigil's Index, 1681-1846, on film 1106949.)
- Land titles kept by the Secretary of the Territory for the years 1847-1852. (Family History Library film 1016950; use Vigil's Index, 1681-1846, on film 1016949.)
- U.S. Surveyor General's records for 1855-1890. (Family History Library films 1016950-74 items 2-4; the index is on film 1016950 items 2-4.)
- U.S. Court of Private Land Claims 1891-1903. (Family History Library films 1016975-96; the docket listing the cases is on film 1016975.)
On 24 February 1863, Arizona Territory was created by the United States from the western portion of New Mexico Territory. The territory included all of present day Arizona plus the southern portion of present day Nevada. Records of this area from 1850 to 1863 can be found in New Mexico.
On 05 May 1866, the United States transferred the northwest corner of Arizona Territory to the State of Nevada. But Arizona did not officially recognize this loss until 18 February 1871. Records of this area from 1863 to 1871 can be found in Mohave county, Arizona. See also Pah-Ute county (extinct).
Previous Jurisdictions to land in Arizona showing dates the jurisdictions were created and maps. This will help in determining what jurisdiction your ancestor lived in and where the records are now located.
Public Domain Land
Unclaimed land became public domain and was surveyed and sold to private owners through land offices. The first General Land Office was established in 1870 at Prescott. Other offices were at Florence, Tucson, and Phoenix, Arizona. Most of these records, along with mining, timber, and homestead entries, are at the National Archives - Pacific Region formerly at Laguna Niguel, now at Riverside CA. A few records are at the National Archives - Rocky Mountain Region in the Denver area at Lakewood CO.
General Land Office Records are searchable online and most have free images of patents to download. The minimum information needed for a search is the state where the land is located and the name of the person receiving the patent. Surveys and Land Status Records can also be searched here.
Private Land Records
All land and property records between private owners are kept by the Recorder in each county. These records include maps of subdivisions. Deed records are indexed by Grantor and Grantee. Mortgages and Miscelaneous records are also indexed.
To start your deed search, first determine the county covering the land at the time the deed was made. Then contact that county recorders office. All Arizona counties have at least some land records online, check the websites below. You might be able to obtain a copy of a county land record by writing to the county recorder. Land records of many counties have been recorded by Family Search, check the Family Search Catalog. You may have to the visit the recorders office.
The Maricopa County Recorder has led the way in Arizona and accross the nation to make recorded records searchable online, with images of all records from 1 Jan 1871 to present made available online without charge. Other counties only allow online access to recent records.
| Website Address to Search for Recorded Documents
|| From Year
| theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Apache - Search
| theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Cochise - Search
| Coconino County Government - Recorders Office - Public Users
| Gila County Government - Recorders Office - Public Users
|| theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Graham - Search
|| theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Greenlee - Search
theCountyRecorder - Arizona - LaPaz - Search
| Maricopa County Recorder - Recorded Document Search
| Mohave County Recorder - Public Users
theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Navajo - Search
| Pima County Recorders Office - Public Research
|Pinal County Recorder - DocumentSearch|| 1980
| Santa Cruz
|| theCountyRecorder - Arizona - Santa Cruz - Search
| Yavapai County Government - Yavapai Recorder - Public Users
| EagleWeb - Yuma County Clerk and Recorders Office - I Acknowledge
- U.S. Stat., vol. 12, ch. 56/pp. 664-665; Ariz. Terr. Laws 1864, 1st assy./ pp. vii-viii; Van Zandt, 162
- U.S. Stat., vol. 14, ch. 73/p. 43; Van Zandt, 158, 165; Ariz. Terr. Laws 1867, 3rd assy./ pp. 67-68; Ariz. Terr. Laws 1868, 4th assy./ pp. 68-69