Many of our ancestors benefited from land grants or were able to purchase land under a number of Acts of Congress. Some of our ancestors may have even claimed land and were able to keep it if they worked the land and made significant improvements under the Homestead Act of 1862 (this Act ended in 1974!).
Records were created to document land ownership and may date back as early as 1787 (these include early land auctions in Ohio). These land records can be a great resource to find out information about your ancestors. Land records may contain information about family member names, ages, birth locations, marital status, naturalization information, and the names of other family members and neighbors. You may even be lucky enough to view an original land patent!
Some of this information resides at the Bureau of Land Management and some information is located at the National Archives both located in Washington, D.C.
If you want to find out more information about Land Records, The National Genealogy Society’s Continuing Genealogical Studies offers an online course with lots of great information and links!
Of interest – Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in land zoning? You can read more here. . . http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffwest.html.