Indiana Land Records
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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Indiana is a Public-Domain State.
Following a 1795 treaty with the native residents, the first strip of land was surveyed in southeastern Indiana. In 1801 the Cincinnati Land Office was opened, the first such office to serve Indiana. Vincennes opened in 1807. Indiana Land Entries, 2 volumes, by Margaret R. Waters (1948; reprint, Knightstown, Ind.: Bookmark, 1977), includes registers for the Cincinnati (1801–40) and Vincennes (1807–77) land districts. Five additional land offices opened as demand increased, principally following the conclusion of the War of 1812: Jeffersonville (1807), Brookville (1819; moved to Indianapolis in 1825), Terre Haute (1820; moved to Crawfordsville before 1828), Fort Wayne (1823), and LaPorte (1833; moved to Winamac in 1839). Registers are available on microfilm at Indiana State Archives, Allen County Public Library, and through The Family History Library (FHL). Although not all registers are indexed, some have been published. Land was usually sold for under $2 per acre, frequently at public auction, and it could be purchased on an installment basis. Land patents were issued by the United States government when the total purchase price had been paid. Frequently, the documents recorded at the land offices included the purchaser’s “outside of Indiana” residence. Original land records (1805–76), plus microfilmed copies, are at the Indiana State Library, Archives Division.
Private land claims, which are first-title deeds surveyed outside the regular federal system of townships and ranges, also existed in Indiana. The legal description of these lands are in lot numbers assigned by the governor. The parcels of land are frequently long and narrow, giving each owner access to an adjacent river or road. Patents, copies of tract books, and township plats are available through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eastern States Office (see page 6). Land-entry case files are at the National Archives. The BLM offers a searchable database of patents at www.glorecords.blm.gov.
National Archives—Great Lakes Region has records of the General Land Office for Indiana (1808–76), which include the cash certificate books denoting completion of purchase of land from the federal government. They are arranged chronologically by land office.
A grant of land was provided for George Rogers Clark and his men for their service in the Revolutionary War. The property was situated in what is now Scott, Floyd, and Clark counties. Clarksville, established in 1784 on the northern bank of the Ohio River and within the grant, was the first American town to be laid out in the northwest. Most land owned by individuals prior to 1800 was either in Clark’s Grant or at Vincennes. At Vincennes, between 1779 and 1783, the court would grant land, usually 400 acres, to every American immigrant who wanted property.
The recorder’s office of the county courthouses has grantor and grantee indexes, land transfers, deeds, titles, mortgages (and releases and assignments of mortgages), and tract books of original land purchases from the U.S. government. The tract books include name of purchaser, purchase date, location (section number, township, and range), and number of acres.