Historical records subscription service Footnote
is embarking upon a project to post hundreds of thousands of US homesteading records online.
Those records comprise land entry case files of people who claimed land under the Homestead Act of 1862, which opened the door for Americans to own government land in exchange for making improvements (such as residency, raising crops and planting trees).
A land entry case file might include an application for land, witnesses’ testimonials, military records, citizenship papers and more.
Footnote already contains 1,824 case files for people who registered homesteads at the Broken Bow, Neb., land office
between 1890 and 1908. The National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA) had microfilmed these; the rest of the General Land Office (GLO) records are still on paper.
You can search land patents at the Bureau of Land Management’s GLO records site
, but until your ancestor’s full land entry case file is digitized, you’ll need to order copies of it from NARA. If your ancestor applied for a land claim but didn’t “prove up,” the GLO database won’t contain a patent for him.
NARA, the National Parks Service
, the University of Nebraska—Lincoln
are partners in the digitization project.