"Land records such as property tax lists, deeds and deed indexes go back further in time that any other type of genealogical research record. Deeds can help you discover your heritage. Deeds can often provide evidence of family history relationships, names of neighbors, how long an ancestor was living in an area, given name of the female spouse, approximate dates of death and many other useful clues. The Homestead Act of 1862 enabled approximately 800,000 citizens or intended citizen to become landowners. Many states had their own land lotteries starting in the 1700's to bring people to new territory and help establish communities.
Why Land Records?
Tracing males is easier than females. This is due in large part to many extra available records for males, such as railroad, military, voters, tax, and deed records. It is estimated that 90% of the adult white male population owned land.
Land records such as property tax lists, deeds, and real estate transactions go back further in time than any other record used for genealogical research. Certain Scandinavian land records date back to 950 A.D. In this country, land ownership has always been important. If a courthouse was destroyed, the deed records were reconstructed by local authorities soon after.
Prior to 1850, census records only list head of household. If you find a land record, it might have more than one family member listed, which can help in filling out missing family information. If you can find any type of land record for your ancestors, it will provide evidence of where an ancestor lived and for how long.
A Warrant -Is the first document in the land grant process. Warrants were issued to soldiers for service in various wars, including the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The warrant could be assigned or sold to someone other than the person granted the warrant before the land was surveyed.
A Survey - Defines the exact location and boundaries of the land grant authorized in the warrant. The land had to be marked on the ground before the land grant could be possessed. The survey might include the names of the surveyor's assistants, who were often chosen because they lived next door to the property being surveyed, giving insight to tracing your family history.
A Patent - Is the title certificate issued by the governmental agency that originally owned the land". - Amy Yencer, ArticlesBase
Be sure to check out the newest database offered in the Special Collections department. It's called HistoryGeo and offers 'a SINGLE, INTERACTIVE MAP containing over 7 MILLION LANDOWNERS spread out among 16 of the 23 public land states and Texas. Imagine constantly expanded map coverage, and having the ability to keep track of all the early homesteaders you're researching.'