The Homestead Act 1862-2012
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Where are homestead records located? Where are records located for homesteaders who didn’t complete the process?

When a person began the process of getting a homestead from the federal government, the General Land Office (GLO) created a case file. Later the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created the case files. The case file contained the required paperwork that started with the person applying for the land. In instances where the person got the land, those casefiles are mostly located now in the National Archives. Some are retained in other locations. All are saved somewhere and can be located. The first place to check is on the BLM/GLO records site:
However, this site only pulls up records for persons who got patents. Unsuccessful homesteaders aren’t listed there.
Case files for both successful and unsuccessful or “failed” homesteaders are also in National Archives. They can be retrieved by the name of applicant, plus information on the state, GLO recording office, and/or land description. 
To obtain such records, a researcher would need to either visit or order copies from the National Archives. The Archives are located in downtown Washington, D.C. Files for unsuccessful homesteaders will contain much less information that those for homesteads that were patented. Unpatented homestead files would have very few documents. There may only be the application paperwork and little more. Most likely, there would be no witness statements about the homesteader’s use of the land. Witness statements were part of the final “proving up” process for successful homesteads. Similarly, most of the other usual paperwork found for a patented homestead case file might not be there. Many unsuccessful homestead case files would be missing documents of the person telling in their own words about their history of use of the land. These would include the times they were absent, and sometimes details about their family.

Last updated: 03-07-2012