In my last post on the Florida State Census, I talked about finding your ancestors between censuses. Another way to keep up with your ancestors between censuses is to follow them through their land records.

Our ancestors bought, sold and leased land to family members and other members of the community. Through land records, you can discover who your ancestor had relationships with and start to see what role he or she played in the community. There are many types of land records, including mortgage deeds, records of sale, and liens. For part one of this discussion, well talk about finding Federal Land Grant records on a free website, the Bureau of Land Management.

Bureau of Land Management

Head to the BLM General Land Office Records site to search land patents for a patent record belonging to your ancestor. Land patents document the transfer of land ownership from the federal government to individuals. For our purposes, we will focus on land patents filed just after the Civil War. Lets use my fourth great-grandfather, Major Reddick, as an example of how to use the BLM site. Use the screen demonstration or the instructions below to find your ancestors land patent.


  1. Go to the General Land Office Records site at
  2. Click "Search Land Patents".
  3. Type in your zip code and click continue.
  4. Select the state to search. For Major Reddick, select Florida.
  5. Type in a last name, like Reddick. Remember to try different variations of the last name.
  6. To narrow your search, type in a first name, like Major.
  7. Click "Search".
  8. The results show the state, county, issue date, land office and the identifying numbers for the parcel of land.
  9. Click the patentee name to view more information about the patent. You'll need this information if you want to request original documents (the patent application) from the National Archives.
  10. Click the Legal Land Description tab. Note the Aliquot Parts, Sec./Block, Township, Range, Meridian, State and County. In the next post, we'll show you how to interpret this description and map it using Google Maps.
  11. Click the "Document Image" tab to view the scanned image of the land patent. You can save this image to your computer (right-click and select "Save image as…") or print it. You can also order a certified copy of the document.

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