Arizona Land Records
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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford and Nell Sachse Woodard for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Arizona is a Public-Domain State.
On 24 February 1863, Arizona became a territory. From 1850 until that date, it was part of New Mexico Territory. In 1866, what was then Pah-Ute County was ceded to Nevada. Long after its early explorers came in the 1500s, the state had very little settlement, and then only in the area of Tucson.
The wars with Native Americans did not end until 1886 and were a continuing impediment to frontier expansion. For lands granted to the United States in 1848 and for private land claims, write to the National Archives—Southwest Region. In the late 1800s, by the time U.S. authorities authenticated private land claims, fraudulent claims were relatively frequent. In 1960 these private land registers were transferred to the National Archives—Southwest Region. The Pima County Recorder’s Office at Tucson should be researched for Gadsden Purchase land records, which also include mission claims.
Arizona is a public-domain state, meaning that land could be acquired directly from the federal government. Arizona was admitted as a territory in 1863, and it was in that year that the U.S. Federal District Land Office opened. Land offices opened in Prescott (1863), Florence and Gila (1873) that moved to Tucson (1881), and Phoenix (1905). The land office in Phoenix replaced all earlier offices. Many of these early land claims were for mining enterprises. Patents, copies of tract books, and plat maps are at the BLM Arizona State Office, 222 N. Central, Phoenix, AZ 85044. When searching for early land records in Arizona, one needs to include the U.S. Land Office entries at the National Archives—Southwest Region, which has mining and homestead surveys, land claims, grazing service records, and rights-of-way claims and settlements for Gila, Salt River, and Navajo Meridians; or the National Archives—Rocky Mountain Region, which has land entry case files. When inquiring, indicate the person’s name, state of Arizona, and whether it was before 1908. Arizona records prior to 1908 have been alphabetically indexed.
The county recorder for each county has jurisdiction over land records within their respective counties. Before good use can be made of land records in Arizona, the researcher must bear in mind how ownership was acquired. Since Arizona entered the jurisdiction of the United States as part of the New Mexico Territory, where pueblos had already been established, most of the previous claims were recognized by the federal government. In examining land records, it will be normal to find Spanish phrases such as “leagues” and “varas” as units of measurement for surveys. The FHL has microfilm copies of most county land records in Arizona.