Surnames and Family Research Forum Archive
The Homestead Act of 1862
The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed native-born or naturalized citizens to settle up to 160 acres of public land. They were required to cultivate and to reside upon the land for five years. This requirement was later reduced to three years. Subsequent acts permitted cash purchase of homesteads.
The name index to homestead claims is on the Internet at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), www.glo records.blm.gov. From time to time, the Web site goes down, but it is up as I write this. If you try the URL and can't get through, try later.
The land claim files created under the Act of 1862 are a gold mine of genealogical information. The claimant (called entryman) answered 44 questions.
These included age, post office address, description of the tract and house, date of first residence, number and relationship of family members, citizenship, crops and acres under cultivation. A copy of the naturalization papers was included if the entryman was foreign born. Two witnesses, usually neighbors, had to answer 28 questions about the applicant.