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.




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