Monday, December 4, 2017

Researching on the Bureau of Land Management Website

Did you know that you can find land records from certain states on the Bureau of Land Management website? You can even view scans of the original patent record and even pinpoint the area on a map where you ancestor owned land.

I will explain how to go about doing this. For some, however, this will not work as certain states did not have land patents, or military warrants. For the sake of this post, I am going to be using my ancestor's patent from the state of Florida.

To begin with, visit the Bureau's website at

You can look over the home page to see what they have to offer. Then, to begin searching your ancestor, click on the "Search Documents" tab.

You will see the screen pictured above. Under the location section, choose the state of your ancestor. Next choose the county. *the county is not necessary if you would like to search records from the whole state*

Next enter the last name of the ancestor (this is required.)
 The first name is not required if you want to search everyone with a particular surname. This tactic can be used to see others that may have been related acquiring land in the same area. For this illustration, I searched for the surname Studstill in Levy County, Florida. The following page shows the results.

This page lists the names, date, document number, State, Land description, and county of the person receiving the land patent. Notice most were for Emanuel Studstill, my 3rd great grandfather. The last one was for William J Studstill, who was Emanuel's son. On the left is a column described as "Image." By clicking that link, you will be taken to the scanned image of the original patent document. Here is an example of one of Emanuel Studstill's land patents.

From this page, you are able to download or print a copy of the patent image. Notice the tabs above the image: Patent Details, Patent Image, and Related Documents. The current view is the image, but by going to the Patent Details tab, you can get more information about the patent itself. This is beneficial for those that do not know how to decipher land descriptions.

On this page you will find the names listed on the document, the document number, and other information including the acreage and land descriptions. By clicking on the check boxes in the "Map" column, you can view approximately where the land was. It will narrow the land description down to the township - range. You will need to remember the section, as that will narrow it down more. The aliquots is the specific area in that section.

Here you will see an orange square on the map. This is the township. This narrows the location down to a general vicinity. But if you are like me, this is not good enough. Remember I said that you will need to know the "section?" This is where that fits in. In this example the section is 33.

Left: Sections - Right : Aliquots

In the above image, the left side shows a square with 36 smaller squares. This is how you find the section in the orange square on the map. Notice where section 33 is? Lets go back to the map and pinpoint that down. I have enlarged the orange square for easier viewing. 

I have drawn a red square around section 33. That red square represents 1 section which is equivalent to 640 acres. Now we are getting close. From here we can use the aliquots to determine exactly where in the section the land was located. If you refer back to the previous image showing sections and aliquots, it explains how aliquots are used in a decription. As an example, the Northeast quarter has 160 acres. the Northwest corner is split up in to quarters of 40 acres. For the top left square you see NW 1/4 NW 1/4. This means the northwest corner of the northwest quarter of the section. The bottom part of the section shows 80 acre aliquots. On the bottom left you see S 1/2 SW 1/4. This would read the south 1/2 of the southwest quarter.

So by using this, we can determine exactly where Emanuel Studstill's land was located. We are looking for the East 1/2 of the northeast quarter. I have zoomed in a bit more on the map to show exactly where that is by drawing a blue line around it.

The blue represents the east 1/2 of the northeast quarter of Section 33
 And there you have it! Now you know how to find ancestors land (if it was patented) by using the BLM GLO website. Now it should be a piece of cake, right? Don't worry, it takes a little practice and getting used to. If you get a little discouraged or confused, you can always refer back to this blog post.

Please let me know if you found this useful and tracked down where your ancestors land was located. I would love to hear it!

If you would like to read Emanuel Studstill's story that includes a tale of murder, Indians, wars, prison, and even finding iron ore on his land that was used to make artillery for the Confederacy; click here.

For further information on reading land descriptions

Georgia Land Plats (1779-1785)

Map of Florida Land Plats (1850's)

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  1. Thanks for your post. I have used the BLM/GLO website for years. Your post does a good job of explaining how to use it. Another website is the data base for place names:

    It has been most useful in locating cemeteries and other places of genealogical interest.


  3. Thank you very much for this useful article. I like it. Bangkok to Pattaya