I was reminded of the importance of searching the Bureau of Land Management website for 19th century ancestors. Potential ancestor Harrison Ramsey was born in the late 18th century and lived in Clinton County, Illinois, in the 1840s-1850s. He actually appears in the BLM database of federal land patents three times:
- once for a land warrant received in the name of his son Andrew who served in the Mexican War (the January 1850 patent shown below) [discussed earlier in another post]
- once based upon his own service in the Mexican War (the December 1849 patent)
- once for a cash land purchase (the September 1851 patent)
|Accession||Names||Date||Doc #||State||Meridian||Twp – Rng||Aliquots||Sec. #||County|
|MW-1033-418||RAMSEY, HARRISON,||1/10/1851||55687||IL||3rd PM||003N – 004W||NW¼, Lot/Trct 2||30||Clinton|
|003N – 004W||NW¼, Lot/Trct 3||30||Clinton|
|MW-1090-180||RAMSEY, HARRISON,||9/1/1851||62694||IL||4th PM – 1815 Illinois||013N – 003W||SW¼||22||Mercer|
|IL2380__.288||RAMSEY, HARRISON||12/1/1849||24339||IL||3rd PM||002N – 005W||SE¼NE¼||29||Clinton|
Harrison is fairly typical of the majority of individuals who appear in this database. Not every 19th century American (or their spouse) appears in this database, but it is generally worth searching. Urban dwellers (other than veterans or land speculators) typically do not appear in this database as by the time an area became “urban,” most federal land was already transferred to private ownership. Individuals who lived in state land states (other than veterans or land speculators) also are less likely to appear in this database. Five of my direct line ancestors appear in this database:
- Thomas Rampley–credit sale in Coshocton County, Ohio, 1810s.
- William Newman–cash sale in Tipton County, Indiana, 1850.
- Agusta Newman–War of 1812 military land warrant, 1850s.
- Rufus Stephens–War of 1812 military land warrant, 1850s
- Foche Goldenstein–homestead in Nebraska, 1880s.
I have several ancestors who lived during the 19th century who do not appear in this database.
The ones who are in the BLM land patent database represent typical reasons most individuals appear in this database:
- credit purchases of property in the early 19th century–typically in the early days of settlement in an area–that’s what Thomas Rampley did.
- cash sales of “leftover” unclaimed federal property in states that were no longer on the frontier-that is what William Newman did, likely as a speculator.
- military land warrants based on military service–Agusta Newman and Rufus Stephens were in the War of 1812.
- homesteaders applying for property under the Homestead Act–Goldenstein
Women may occasionally appear in these records as well (largely as widows obtaining land warrants for their husband’s service or as homesteaders in their own right. I just don’t have any female ancestors who acquired federal property.
The applications for federal land patents are at the National Archives.