Contact: Susan Cook, 4022233514
Free Land was the Cry!
Digitized Homestead Records from the National Archives
Now Available Online for Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, and Ohio
For the first time, Land Entry Case Files: Homestead Final Certificates – Record Group 49: Records of the Bureau of Land Management from the National Archives for Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, and Ohio have been digitized and are available online and at the following research facilities: Homestead National Monument of America, the National Archives, and FamilySearch Family History Centers. This marks a milestone in the Homestead Records Project: an ambitious multi-institutional partnership to digitize and make publicly available online all 823,575 Homestead land-entry final certificate case files (totaling more than 30 million individual pieces of paper). These states join Nebraska – which was the first state to have its Homestead Records completely digitized and available in 2014. This project includes Homestead National Monument of America, the National Archives, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), FamilySearch International, Fold3.com and Ancestry.com.
Each case file tells the story of a claimant’s effort to “prove up” a 160-acre piece of land and earn it for free from the US government under the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862. The process required hard work and sweat as each homesteader labored for five years to build a home and bring land into cultivation as a working farm. The case files were amassed by the General Land Office as the proof that each homesteader had met the requirements of the law – legitimately earning title to the land.
These files are accessible free of charge at Homestead National Monument of America and National Archives research facilities nationwide. They are available by subscription from Ancestry.com. The Nebraska records can be accessed free of charge at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Libraries.
This recent five state release provides digital access to an additional 3,462 case files – adding to the 76,871 Homestead final certificate case files for Nebraska. More record releases are expected later this year for Iowa, Utah and Wyoming.
These records offer a treasure trove of information to genealogists and scholars. Dr. Richard Edwards, Director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL, said “this newly released information could rewrite our Nation’s Homesteading History.”
Do these records apply to you? Nearly one-third of the entire nation has an ancestor that homesteaded - this could apply to over 92 million Americans! Containing both genealogical and historical information, the records describe improvements made to the property such as houses constructed, wells dug, crops planted, trees cleared and fences built. Some case files include citizenship, naturalization, and military service records.
Last updated: February 21, 2017