[google-site-verification=BUAlvMnZmaWmFqYUikfKRXtYJYxId8l6lrVnALp5aG0] Homestead Act | HALIFAx GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY | Linda Vivian

Homestead Act

By Linda Vivian
GenNews Vol. 19 No. 9
December 2011
Halifax Genealogical Society

If your ancestors were pioneers in the westward expansion during the mid-to-late 1800’s, you may be able to obtain their homestead files from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The 1862 Homestead Act established a three-fold homestead acquisition process: filing an application, improving the land, and filing for deed of title. Any U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land. For the next 5 years, the homesteader had to live on the land and improve it by building a 12-by-14 dwelling and growing crops. After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed of title) by submitting proof of residency and the required improvements to a local land office.Even more interesting is that the act stated “citizens” rather than “men” so women were also eligible to file a homestead application. My great-grandmother, Kate R. (Moore) Dowd filed in Nebraska as a single woman in 1883, but finalized her homestead as a married woman in 1889.

To obtain these records from NARA, you will need the certificate number, land office, and legal property description. Many land descriptions are online at the Bureau of Land Management website (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx). For those that are not, it will require a search of the tract books in that state. I found an online index and then I contacted the county clerk’s office to obtain the information in their land entry register, which included the certificate number. Once I had that information, I could submit my request for a copy of the homestead land entry file online to NARA for $40 [note: now $60]. Because I had several requests, I opted to wait and request the file on my next trip to the Archives. Last month, I sat in the hallowed research room and opened the file box to retrieve my homestead records. I was not disappointed. The original document file at NARA contains her name change, family situation, residency, structures, and land use. I have more than facts; I have a peek into their lives.

HGS 2013