If you are tracking ancestors who left the east coast for the center of the country in the early-mid 1800s, hopefully you know to check for them on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)'s General Land Office (GLO) records site, https://glorecords.blm.gov. This is a database of sales, grants, bounty land warrant use (whether by the veteran or someone to whom he or an heir gave or sold the warrant), Indian land allotments to individual tribal members, and other transactions in which U.S. land was transferred out of federal hands. The GLO has a new section highlighting "story maps" selected from their immense holdings. It's in the green box on the home page as "Check out GLO's Survey of the Week!" links. (Stories appear to be more "occasional" than "weekly.") The August 17th "fascinating story of the Neutral Strip in Louisiana" is helpful for genealogists researching ancestors in the Lake Charles, LA area circa 1792-1836. Originally it was contested by Louisiana and Texas when both were controlled by the Spanish government, then decreed "neutral ground" in 1806, making it a magnet for "outlaws, settlers, fugitive slaves, and displaced Native Americans." (Sound like any of your ancestors?) After joining the U.S., Congress acted in 1823 and 1824 to survey the land holdings to see who its newest citizens were. Residents testified as to how they acquired the land, when, whose land bordered theirs, what they did with the land, and then neighbors testified in their support. This information is available as Survey Plats and supporting documents. (To see Survey Plats, first find the grant using the "Search Documents" feature on the home page. Back at the home page, click on "Survey Plats and Field Notes" and enter the coordinates for the land as shown on the grant. This will bring up the hand-drawn map with notes. There may be more data on the grant that will allow you to use the "Land Status Records," "Control Document Index Records," "Tract Books," and "Land Catalog" search features on the home page.) Records not yet digitized are held by the National Archives (archives.gov).
Dr. Maura Mackowski is an Arizona research historian who enjoys the challenge of looking for Mayflower descendants, hers and anyone else's.
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