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 was a “federal-land” (public-domain) state, where unclaimed land was 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. The transactions were recorded at the office of the county register of deeds. Family history researchers usually use land records from county offices. Records from federal and state offices can also have genealogical value. For detailed descriptions of land record types see United States Land and Property.
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.
The first land grants in Arizona were given by Spain and Mexico. Some of the early records were kept by the Secretary's Office of New Mexico at http://www.sos.state.nm.us/. 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.)
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.
Most of the land in Arizona was originally obtained from the US federal government by patent. These 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.
The Maricopa County Recorder has led the way in Arizona and accross the nation to make recorded records available online, with images of all records from 1 Jan 1871 to present being made available online without charge. Most other counties permit online access only to recent records.