Brazil Land and Property
Land records are primarily used to learn where an individual lived and when he or she lived there. They often reveal other family information such as the name of a spouse, heir, other relatives, or neighbors. You may learn where a person lived previously, his or her occupation, and other clues for further research. In Brazil only a very small percentage of the population was included in land records because few people owned land.
The Family History Library currently has no land records from Brazil. Because of their excellent genealogical value, church records and civil registration records are generally searched before land records during Brazilian research.
The existing land records are found at the National Archives, in Rio de Janeiro, and at the various state and municipal archives. You might be able to use land records for your research if you can visit the Brazilian archives in person or hire a local professional researcher.
The early sesmarias (land grants) were issued by the donatarios, captain generals, and viceroys. Originally large grants of land were made. In 1695 single grants were limited to four leagues (1 league = 3 miles, about 4.83 kilometers) by one league. In 1697 the grants were reduced to three leagues by one league. In 1699 all land not under cultivation was to be expropriated.
The land grants (sesmarias) collection in the National Archives contains 5,000 volumes for 1590 to 1830 for the state of Rio de Janeiro. They are described as one of the three most important genealogical records in Brazil. They contain information similar to that in inheritance records, including the names of spouses and children, residences, dates, relationships, petitions, and so forth.
The land records in the state archive of Bahia in Salvador for 1552 to 1821 are in the "Historical Section" of the archive and for 1862 to 1940 are in the "Administrative Section." Land records in the state archive of São Paulo cover 1601 to 1821.