Minnesota 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.

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


Minnesota is a Public-Domain State.

Minnesota is a public-domain state, with twelve General Land Office (GLO) districts, the first opening in 1848 at Falls Saint Croix River, Wisconsin. However, pioneers were staking their claims long before that. Immediately following the tribal treaties of 1838, the European settlers built homes and sawmills, logged the white pine, and generally took possession of land that was not legally available. The federal government was, apparently, exceedingly slow to begin land surveys in the territory. The pressure of settlers and investors finally resulted in that process in 1847. The Pre-Emption Act of 1841 allowed home-seekers to purchase up to 160 acres of surveyed public lands at $1.25 per acre.

Numerous land records are held by the Minnesota Historical Society including records of the state auditor; land department’s state land sale correspondence, sales and accounting records; and U.S. General Land Office files comprised of correspondence, accounting records, and location records (which include homestead records and preemption sales). The earliest records are for the Stillwater district, beginning in 1848. The Minnesota Historical Society Research Center also has duplicates of the records of the U.S. Surveyor General’s Office and a list of lands allotted to the White Earth Reservation in 1901. A Guide to the Records of Minnesota’s Public Lands (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1985), by George Kinney and Lydia Lucas, indicates holdings at the research center. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website (see page 6) allows researchers to search federal land patents for Minnesota and other states.

At the county level in Minnesota, land records are kept by the county recorder. This office will have deed and mortgage records, grantor-grantee indexes, township and village plats, and various records pertaining to power of attorney, contracts, and leases.

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