Missouri Land Records

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This entry was originally written by Marsha Hoffman Rising CG, FUGA, FASG, and Pamela Boyer Porter, CGRS, CGL for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Missouri Family History Research series.
History of Missouri
Missouri Vital Records
Census Records for Missouri
Background Sources for Missouri
Missouri Maps
Missouri Land Records
Missouri Probate Records
Missouri Court Records
Missouri Tax Records
Missouri Cemetery Records
Missouri Church Records
Missouri Military Records
Missouri Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Missouri Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Missouri Territorial Records
African Americans of Missouri
Missouri County Resources
Map of Missouri

Missouri is a Public Domain State.

Land in Missouri was granted by the three nations of France, Spain, and the United States. The original papers, as well as microfilmed copies, of the Spanish and French land grants are retained by the Missouri State Archives. Recording by the United States government of clear land titles granted by the Spanish and French governments actually began in St. Louis on 16 September 1805. An index to the land grants was published privately by Betty Harvey Williams in 1977 as Index to French and Spanish Land Grants Recorded in Registers of Land Titles in Missouri, Books A, B, C, D, E. The St. Louis Genealogical Society published Index to the Minutes of the first and second Board of Land Commissioners, Missouri, 1805–1812 and 1832–1835 (1981; reprint, St. Louis: St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1998). The original minutes are housed in the Missouri State Archives.

Two good printed sources that describe the attempts to settle the early land conflicts are Missouri Land Claims (1835; reprint, New Orleans: Polyanthos, 1976) and Walter Lowrie, Early Settlers of Missouri as Taken From Land Claims in the Missouri Territory (1834; reprint, Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1986). The former publication, beginning in 1812, is the 1832 report from the Commissioner of the General Land Office (GLO) to the 24th Congress. The latter publication contains records compiled and indexed from the American State Papers.

The United States began granting land in Missouri from its Land Offices in 1818. For a brief history of locations and land policies in Missouri, see “Missouri’s Public Domain: United States Land Sales, 1819–1922,” Archives Information Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 3 (July 1980), produced by the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State. An Index of Purchasers of U.S. Land Sales in Missouri, 1818–1846 (vols. 1-3) and Springfield Land Office Abstracts, 1835–1846, can be obtained from the Ozarks Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 3945, Springfield, MO 65808. The original records of the United States Land Sales have been microfilmed on seventeen rolls and are located in Record Groupi5 at the Missouri State Archives. A complete name index is on each roll. They are available for purchase at $15 per reel.

If the researcher knows the land description of the property of interest, copies of the original land patents granted by the United States government can be obtained from United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Land Office. A search of the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records online database can provide the information needed to order land entry files from NARA.

The Missouri State Archives also holds other land records of interest to the genealogical researcher: an alphabetical index to War of 1812 military lands of north Missouri; the Savannah Land Grant Pre-emption Grants from 1845 through 1857 (indexed); the Platte Purchase records (with an index available at the archives); the Land Office Reports, microfilmed copies of American State Papers, volumes 1 through 8; and the United States General Land Office Reports, 1828–59. Other records of interest, which are indexed, include the township school lands, seminary lands, saline lands, and swamp lands, all of which were patented by the state.

Each county has a recorder of deeds. Here the researcher can expect to find the direct and indirect index to deeds, a transcript of deeds, warranty deeds, administrator’s deeds, quit claim deeds, sheriff’s deed records, index to mortgages, mortgages, school fund mortgage records, chattel mortgages, deeds of trust, patent records, plat books, the index to marriage records, marriage records, applications for marriage licenses, records of certificates of marriage, records of marriage of persons of color (from 1865 to the twentieth century in separate registers), and military discharge papers. Note that in Missouri, all marriage records are held by the recorder of deeds (see Missouri Vital Records).