Legal Land Descriptions in the USA
For further discussion of Land Records in the United States, see the chapter by Thorndale in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (1984) edited by Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny, Ancestry, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT.
In terms of land distribution, the states fall into two classes:
 State-land states where the state made the land grants.
- Thirteen original states, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and W.Virginia.
- Particularly in southern states where a gridded survey was not made, legal descriptions are generally in the indiscriminate metes and bounds system. In this system, the plot is described in terms of the location of trees, streams, rocks and neighboring landowners.
 Public-domain states where the federal government made the land grants.
- The other 30 states
- Land is described in the Federal Township and Range System which uses a surveyed system of meridians, baselines, townships and ranges.
- Public-domain land was generally obtained by:
- Federal Land Grants
- Military Bounty Lands
- Revolutionary War in U.S. Military District of Ohio
- War of 1812 in U.S. Military Districts in Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri
- Miscellaneous, including the Mexican War
If you have other questions about land records, try the
Record Reference, a service of
Direct Line Software (authors
of DeedMapper [tm], a computer program to make maps from deeds)
US Geological Survey's National Mapping Information
has info on mapping and a brochure "Using Maps in Genealogy" available in PDF
| Legal Land Descriptions in the USA |
Last update: Tuesday, 07-Dec-2004 16:32:03 CST