A Guide to Genealogy
Research in Arkansas

Land and Property Records

Land and Property Proprietary Grants Royal Period State Land Records County Land Records When the United States organized the Missouri Territory in 1812, it agreed to recognize the private land grants previously issued by Spain and Mexico. Most of these are in Arkansas and Desha counties. A preemption law of 1814 gave those already living on the land the first right to claim the land. Private land claims commissions were established to process these claims. Private claims to 1837 in the American State Papers are indexed in Phillip W. McMullin, Grassroots of America (Salt Lake City: Gendex Corp., 1972; FHL book 973 R2m; fiche 6015123).

Another helpful publication is First Settlers of the Missouri Territory, 2 vols. (Nacogdoches, Tex.: Ericson Books, 1983; FHL book 977.8 R2f). Volume l has the grants from the American State Papers, class 8, public lands. Volume 2 has the grants in the present states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

As the various Indian tribes were removed from the area, their land became the public domain. The land was surveyed and sold by the United States government through land offices, in a process called land-entry. The first general land offices were established in 1818.

Records of the land offices are located in the Arkansas State Land Office (State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201). Patents are located at the Bureau of Land Management (Eastern States Office, 350 S. Pickett Street, Alexandria, VA 22304). Land-entry case files and applications of those who settled in Arkansas after the Homestead Act of 1862 are in the National Archives. All of the above files are arranged according to legal descriptions of the land. The Family History Library has the land tract books and original survey plats on microfilm.

See the "Military" section of this outline for information about land in Arkansas that was given for service in the War of 1812.

Subsequent transfers of land between private owners were recorded by the clerk of the circuit or county court. Some counties have two courthouses where the documents could have been filed. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most of the county deeds and indexes. From Pulaski County, for example, the Family History Library has 57 microfilms of deeds (1819-86) and land indexes (1819-1919).


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This page was compiled by Edward Hayden.

Copyright 1998 by Edward Hayden, Coordinator. All rights reserved.
This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any manner without written consent.