Land Patents at the Bureau of Land Management Site

The website with land patents from the Bureau of Land Management site is wonderful, but there are a few suggestions and warnings:

  • the site is incomplete for several western states
  • patents represent federal land records only–the local courthouse has subsequent transactions which likely contain more information
  • cash file entries contain minimal information unless there is something unusual about the transaction–the claimant died during the process, was actually filing a pre-emption claim etc.

And if you don’t know your township from your section, read their FAQ first. The website is at

Online Databases Should be Used as Clues

What you find in someone’s online genealogy compilation should be used as a clue. There’s one tree on (with over 20,000 names) that shows my great-grandparents with a child they never had.

Some days I even wonder if it’s worth my time to contact someone whose database contains more than several thousand names.

I’ve gotten some clues from the online trees, but do not use what you see there as anything other than a hint of a suggestion.

Learn About the Records

Have you really learned about the records in that “new” area in which you are researching? Don’t assume that records in one location are the same as in another. When I started my late 1700 research in Virginia in never dawned on me to ask for a marriage bond. I had never used them in the upper Midwest, so I never thought to ask for them.

Had I read a basic Virginia guidebook or research outline, I would have been aware of them. Now familiarizing myself with the basic sources in a new area is one of the first things that I do.

Are You Missing the Obvious?

Is it possible that the answer is staring you right in the face? Sometimes re-analyzing a document will bring the “obvious” out of the dark. Sometimes typing it will. Sometimes reading something outloud will. Sometimes having someone else look at it will make a difference. It just depends. Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion and never really get that out of our heads.

Casefile Clues Back Issues and Subscribing

Starting today, we are offering back issues of Casefile Clues in sets. First set will be issues 1-10 and we will continue in that fashion so that subscribers can get the ones they missed easily. Those who want set 1-10 can purchase it through…i-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=8934803 or can email me directly for information.Those who wish to subscribe to Casefile Clues can do so here.

Tomorrow we’ll be back offering one tip a day–so stay tuned or become a fan on Facebook.