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Using the U.S. BLM-GLO Web site to Find Land Records

GLO - General Land Office

BLM - Bureau of Land Management


The U.S. Government has made many of the records of the BLM-GLO available online. These records are for the initial transfer of land from the government to an individual, not for records where one individual sells land to another. From this Web site you can search for land records of ancestors, save an online copy of the land patent, and even order a certified copy of a land patent. The site also sells a CD containing the records if you want to search without an internet connection. Best of all, you can get the record numbers to allow you to order the land file from the National Archives where additional information about the family may be found.

Most of the records for the eastern public-land states for 1820 to 1908 are online. Additional data and data for western states is periodically added. If you don't find what you are looking for when you access the website, check back later to see if the records you want have been added. This article gives some tips and information on using this online database.

The Bureau of Land Management does not maintain records for the thirteen original colonies (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia) and their territories (what is now Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky), or Hawaii and Texas. The responsibility for these documents remains with each state. Contact the appropriate State Archives for land information for the states listed in this paragraph.

The states listed above are referred to as "state-land" states and the land is generally measured using the metes and bounds system. The metes and bound system describes the boundaries of a plot in terms of where a line starts, the direction the line follows and the length of the line. Natural features such as streams and rivers may mark boundaries. For example, "beginning at the North East corner of the survey on which John Doe now resides at a stake from which a Post Oak 18 inches diameter bears S 44 W 7 2/10 varas distant Black Jack 4 inches diameter bears N 84 W 8 varas distant" and so on to describe the entire plot.

The other U.S. states are "public-land"; states and their records may be found in the BLM-GLO database online. These states use the rectangular survey system or township-range system of measuring land. The township-range system consist of rectangles of land measured from a central meridian and baseline. These plots are usually described as "the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 16 of township 2 south, range 2 east in Conecuh County, Alabama"; which might be abbreviated as "SW , SE , SW , Sec. 16, T2S, R2E, Conecuh Co., Ala.";

Finding General Information at the BLM-GLO Web Site

The URL to access the U.S. BLM-GLO website is

The URL to access the U.S. BLM-GLO Reference Center is The Reference Center contains links to information about land and land records in the U.S.

The URL to access the map of principal meridians and baselines is|06_Principal_Meridians_And_Baselines

The URL to access survey manuals is|07_Surveying_Manuals. The presentation diagrams are from

Additional Resources

  1. Boyd, Gregory A. Family Maps of [County, State]. Norman, Oklahoma: Arphax Publishing Co. : 2012.
  2. Davenport, Linda Haas. "Taking the Mystery Out of Land Records." Haas/Davenport website. : 2012.
  3. Hatcher, Patricia Law. Locating Your Roots: Discovering Your Ancestors Using Land Records. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2003.
  4. Hawkins, Kenneth, compiler. Research in the Land Entry Files of the General Land Office, Record Group 49, Reference Information Paper 114. Washington: National Archives, 2009. NARA Publications. : 2012. Replaces 2001 document, General Information Leaflet #67.
  5. Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Inc., 1997.
  6. Knepper, George W. The Official Ohio Lands Book. Columbus, Ohio: Auditor of the State, 2002. Digital copy. Ohio Auditor of State. : 2012.
  7. Kvasnicka, Robert M. The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912, Part IV, A Guide to Records of the Department of the Interior for the Territorial Period, Section 3: Records of the General Land Office. Washington, DC: National Archives Trust Fund Board for NARA, 2007.
  8. Rohrbough, Malcolm. The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1797-1837. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
  9. United States Geological Survey (USGS) publications - all accessed 2012:

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