Monday, March 7, 2011

Using Land Records to Solve Genealogical Problems - Part 1

A while back my search into the earlier years of William H. Ballinger's life, in the hope of eventually identifying his parents, led me to the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records website. I love land records as they can be chock full of valuable and interesting information. What I discovered this time did not disappoint (although I'm still working on his parents). I thought I would share this particular land file with you as it is different from others I have used, and, well, we'll just see where this goes.

On this particular trip to the BLM website, I searched several spelling variations of Ballenger in Mahaska County, Iowa since that is where I have found William and family in several Iowa State censuses in the 1850s. Here are the results:

Using the information listed for William H. Ballenger, I was able to order this particular land file from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Next up, I'll present the contents of William's land file, lessons learned, and what questions came up. This particular file is different from others I have ordered in the past so it raises a whole new set of questions.

Later on, we will revisit this results list and see how some of these other Ballenger/Ballinger individuals might fit into the picture. One thing at a time...

For a full list of posts in this series, go to Using Land Records to Solve Genealogical Problems Compendium.

© 2011, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. I don't believe I have ever ordered a file, most likely just downloaded the "final" document transferring the property to the ancestor in question. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

  2. I'm waiting to see just what a file contains, also. Have ancestors from several Iowa counties who had farms.
    Thanks for the blog. --Donna

  3. I'm interested in seeing just what a land record file looks like also. Thanks for the blog! - Donna

  4. Stay tuned Donna. I'm planning on going through several types of land files.

  5. Land claim files can differ based on the laws by which the land was granted. The federal government granted land ever since its inception, through military bounties, cash purchase, homestead acts, etc. The requirements for each of these were laid out be Congress, and differed greatly. The circumstances of the patentees themselves also affected what information would appear in a file. For example, my wife's ancestor purchased land in Dakota Territory under a Homestead Act. Because he was an immigrant from Norway, his file contains information on his naturalization.

  6. Thank you for your input Michael. It's nice to receive input from a real expert.