Property History Public Records: How to Research Historical Land Records

Posted by Team - 19 December, 2018


searching land offers multiple services for enhancing your search for courthouse records throughout the United States. You can use our tools and applications to search the largest repository of historical courthouse information in Texas and New Mexico.

Our team continually adds documents to our data library by sending scanning crews to courthouses all over the State of Texas. The types of records vary between counties, but you can access geographically indexed title plants from the 1800s, historical real property documents, images of handwritten grantor-grantee indexes, and starters and deed restrictions.

Everyone from abstractors and title companies to oil and gas landmen makes use of our databases and search tools. You have 24-hour access to information in over 150 counties. Most of the information you need is available online, so you can search court records, land grants, and public property information.

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Facts about Court Records

Court records are public records. They are available to anyone and do not require special permission to search or read. Land records are court records and open to the public.

Each county has one courthouse where physical records are stored for that county. Texas has 254 counties and therefore 254 county courthouses. Considering the size of the State of Texas, visiting one may involve hours of travel.

Identifying the correct county and searching under the correct name streamlines the search, whether you are searching physical files or online.

Land Entry Case Files, Land Grants and Land Patents

Land entry case files document the transfer of public lands from the U.S. Government to private ownership. These files can be found in 30 public land states. The files may be military bounty land warrants or a general land entry performed before 1908. There are over 10 million individual land transactions in the National Archives for these 30 states, many hand-written.

Depending on which part of the United States the land is located, records are also kept in tract books for the Eastern States and the Western States. Tract books for the Western States also reside in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. The tract books for the Eastern States are stored by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); for access, you must contact the Department of the Interior.

Land grants are defined as the original grants of land issued by the sovereign of the soil. In Texas, a land grant may be from Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, or the State of Texas depending on the government in charge at the time of the transfer of ownership.

Texas is one of 20 states that were never part of the original public domain, along with Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont and the original colonies, to name a few. These records can be found in the State Archives.

A land patent is a legal document transferring ownership from the U.S. Government to an individual. Land patent search for any state can be performed online, however, if a case file was canceled or relinquished, it may not be available in the records. In this case, you would need to access a tract book.

Gone To Texas - The History of Texas Public Land Records

Public Property Searches

Public property records may be part of the chain when you are tracing land ownership. For example, family residences may be connected to records of divorce, previous foreclosure, or short sale. If you are searching the records at a county courthouse, you may be able to avail yourself of knowledgeable staff to help you find property deeds and encumbrances.

An online search for these records and more are also available.

You can search for bankruptcy records, litigation, and information to help you find missing owners.

If you search property tax records, which are also public, you can identify the name of the present owner of the parcel, the tax identification number or parcel number, and the amount of present taxes. These records also show if there are unpaid back taxes on the land.

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Searching Physical Records

To find a physical property record, you will need to visit the courthouse of the county in which the property is located. You are restricted to that courthouse’s hours of operation and may need to share resources if someone else requires the same book of records you do.

Original land grants are filed in the Texas General Land Office and are organized according to an alphanumeric filing system.

Each file number has three parts: land district, class, and file number.

Districts correspond to the original counties under the Republic of Texas plus two additional districts. These land districts make up the first part of the GLO (General Land Office) filing system number.

Each land grant has a class. The Republic of Texas issued many different types of land grants including grants to settlers, veterans of the Texas Revolution, and grants to pay for railroad and steamship building. The class indicates the type of grant and the circumstances under which it was issued.

A full file number is formatted as [District Name]-[Class]-[File Number]

Examples: Sabine Pre-emption 15 or Harris 1st 131.

Each file is assigned a file number regardless of district or class. In some instances, the file will not contain a district or class, which merely means that the grants were sold as lands to benefit educational institutions, state hospitals, or other lands sold off as part of the 1900 Scrap Act.

Searching Online

Searching online from the field or your home office is a quick and easy way to find property records. For example, searching a grantor-grantee index requires nothing more than a person’s name or an abstract number.

Enter the person’s name into the Original Grantee field and select Search.

If the name doesn’t appear, try using multiple variations of alternate spellings.

For a broader search, use the % sign after a letter or set of letters to search spelling variations. The percent sign is known as a "wildcard" symbol, letting the software fill in the space indicated with similarly spelled words from the database.

If you are using the abstract number to search the grantor-grantee index, you need to know the name of the associated county. Select the county from the drop-down menu and type the abstract number into the search bar.

If you want a listing of all abstracts within a county, do not enter an abstract number after selecting the county from the drop-down menu. The abstracts will appear in alphabetical order.


We offer a tool called FileViewer that provides access to scanned indexes and images of handwritten and typed real property and oil and gas records. You can preview documents before you purchase them to ensure they contain the information you need.

Thousands of historical land records have been made available through an online database. Learning the best way to search each type of record efficiently and effectively can increase your revenues by reducing the time spent on the road.

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Topics: Real Estate, Oil and Gas, Title

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