Homestead Act of 1862

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Land Records

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Land Records
State-Land States
Survey Systems and Terms
Creating a Plat
Public-Domain States
Homestead Act of 1862
Military Bound Land
Taxes in Land Research
English Law in American Land Research
List of Useful Resources About Land Records

This article originally appeared in "Land Records" by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, FUGA in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

The Homestead Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 392, effective January 1, 1863) provided for the taking up of one quarter section (160 acres) or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands by a person meeting the following provisions:

  • Any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years (did not have to be twenty-one if served not less than fourteen days in the Army or Navy of the United States (sections 1, 6).
  • Is a citizen of the United States or have filed

his declaration of intention to become such (section 1).

  • Who has never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies (amended January 1, 1867 to allow Confederate veterans to homestead).
  • Land is for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation (section 2).
  • May enter (record with the land office registrar) the land upon payment of $10 (section 2).
  • No land or lands acquired under the provisions of this act shall in any event become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of the patent (section 4).

The patent was to be issued only after five years of entry (or within two years thereafter) and the applicant had to prove settlement or cultivation (no periods of absence more than six months). Provisions were made in case of the death of the homesteader (see section 2). Source: Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 37th Congress, 2nd Session Laws of the United States, page 352 (May 20, 1862), Chap. LXXV. An Act to secure Homesteads to Actual Settlers on the Public Domain; at http://memory.

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