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Eastern States Office of External Affairs
Release Date: 01/31/12
Contacts: Davida Carnahan , 703-440-1717  

200 Years of the General Land Office Commemorated by the Bureau of Land Management

SPRINGFIELD, Virginia – Two hundred years ago this April, the General Land Office (GLO) opened its doors for business. Today that “land office business” continues at the Bureau of Land Management-Eastern States office, which will commemorate the occasion with events scheduled throughout the year.

In 1812, a young American nation faced the challenge of transforming wilderness to agricultural use and acquiring the revenue to pay its war debts. The GLO was established to handle the business associated with the sale of public lands for private ownership, transforming wilderness to agricultural use, and generating income for the Federal government. The GLO, in fact, became the “Gateway to Land Ownership” for millions of Americans. As the successor agency to the original GLO, the BLM, a bureau of the Department of the Interior, was established in 1946 with the merger of the Grazing Service and the GLO.

Today’s real estate transactions are based on land records that were first written a decade after the American war for independence, predating the establishment of the GLO. These historic documents are maintained and managed for public access by the BLM-Eastern States Office in Springfield, Virginia. The Secretary of the Interior’s copies of the original land records for most of the United States between the years of 1787 to the present day are located here. As land was sold, land patents were issued. Those same land records are valuable resources today for natural resource agencies, historians, title companies and genealogists.

These documents have their beginnings in original land surveys required by the Land Ordinance of 1785, which authorized the transfer of public land to private individuals. Employees of the GLO traveled by horse and in wagons to complete the surveys. Many times, they were the first non-native people to enter the land. Their field notes reveal much about the development as a nation beyond boundaries on the ground or lines on a map. These notes recorded deaths, births, and other significant events.

Today, the General Land Office provides more than four million of these historic documents on-line. They include patents, original survey plats and field notes and land status records that were issued between 1820 and the present. Work continues on this automation project. Go to to view a document, print a copy or request a certified copy of a document from the BLM online.

The GLO opened on April 25, 1812. The BLM will participate with partners and communities throughout the calendar year to bring the message of the “Gateway to Land Ownership” to the American public. To request that a BLM land records expert attend any events or meetings during the year, please contact Davida Carnahan, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM Eastern States office, (703) 440-1717 or e-mail to:  

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Eastern States Office of External Affairs   7450 Boston Blvd.      Springfield, VA 22153  

Last updated: 03-12-2013