After the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution of the United
States for the United States of America, the United States Treasury Department was placed
in charge of managing all public lands until 1812 when the General Land Office was
delegated that duty.
The General Land Office issued more than 2 million patents that passed evidence of title to individual parcels of public land. Some patentees bought their land for cash, others homesteaded a claim, and still others came into ownership via one of the many donation acts that Congress passed to transfer public lands to private ownership. Whatever the method, the General Land Office followed a two-step procedure in granting a patent. First, the private claimant went to the land office in the land district where the parcel was located. The claimant filled out "entry" papers to select the parcel, and the land office register (clerk) checked the local books to make sure the parcel was still available. The receiver (bursar) took the claimant's payment, because even homesteaders had to pay administrative fees. Next, the district land office register and receiver sent the paperwork to the General Land Office in Washington. That office double-checked the accuracy of the claim, its availability, and the form of payment. Only then did the General Land Office issue a patent relative to the particular land in question.
Click on the thumbnails.
Land ownership maps are portrayals of land purchased, granted, or inherited. They range in complexity from rough outlines of the boundaries of one tract of land to detailed county atlases showing every landowner at the time of compilation. A key element sets county land ownership atlases apart from most other maps: they list property owners names.