Land records begin with European settlement in North America and are among the most complete public records in existence. Genealogists use land records to establish when and where an individual was living at a specific time and to obtain clues about familial relationships. Although researching land records can be challenging, it can also be a rewarding experience for the family historian.
Land records of Missouri are unique in that land has been granted by three nations: France, Spain, and the United States.
Land records in Missouri, 1804-1811, deal mostly with individual private claims made by early settlers to obtain a clear title from the United States government to land which they had owned or had been granted under French or Spanish governments. Recording of land titles began September 16, 1805, in St. Louis.
Land sales in Missouri were delayed until 1818 as a result of the 1812 New Madrid Earthquake because those with “injured land” were entitled by Congressional Act to new land from the public domain.
Records of land transactions of Missouri are available through the Missouri State Archives. Records include: Recorder of Land Titles, 1805-1872 (these contain the Spanish concessions); the Livres Terriens, the land books of the French inhabitants of St. Louis; United States Land Sales, 1818-1904; and Individual Private Claims, 1818-1852.
After property was transferred into private ownership, transactions regarding the property such as deeds, liens, and mortgages, were recorded and kept at the recorder’s office at the county courthouse.
While the SHSMO does not have land records in its collection, researchers can find land records at the recorder’s office at the county courthouse or on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives. Researchers will need to know the name of the purchaser, the approximate date of purchase, and the county in which the land was located.