If you think your ancestor homesteaded in the United States and completed their application process, an image of their original patent should be on the Bureau of Land Management website.
As we saw in an earlier post (“Forty Acres in Section 28-Once, Maybe Twice“), there are completed homesteads whose patents are not in this index. Completed homestead applications are at the National Archives and contain significant genealogical information (usually related to their homestead application, the growth of their farm, and their citizenship status). These applications are organized geographically at the National Archives either by the state in which the property was located or the land office at which the application was finalized–so knowing where the homestead is at is necessary. If the patent is not online, determining the location will require a little bit of work.
After being received by the new owner, the patent would have been recorded the local county recorder of deeds office. The patent will provide the the geographic location and the recorded copy of the patent can be located in the local office that recorded land records using the grantee index to deed records.
County atlases or plat books also can show names of landowners. The legal description can be determined by the location of the property in the book. Keep in mind that just because a relative appears in the plat book does not mean he or she was the original homesteader–they were just the owner of record at the time the book was compiled.
Probate records (also filed at the county courthouse) should list real property the individual owned at his or her death. The legal description of the property can be obtained from this list.