Land records exist from the first permanent settlements in America. These records are among the best-preserved, largest, and most comprehensive genealogical record groups in the United States. Because land was inexpensive and readily available, 90% of adult free males were landowners before 1850.
Most land records consist of deeds and deed books. A deed is a legal document by which title to real property is transferred from one party to another. The deed establishes ownership; describes the property; lists the sellers (grantors), buyers (grantees), and their addresses; provides names of witnesses (who may be family members or neighbors); lists heirs of inherited property; and notes the consideration (monetary or otherwise). Deeds offer important clues to family relationships and may be the only records in which a wife's name appears. Deeds place an individual in a particular locality at a specific time.
A deed book contains transcriptions of original deeds for a specific location during a particular time. Not all deeds concern the sale and purchase of real estate. Because slaves were once considered property, deed books may include records of the buying or trading of slaves. Deed books may also contain copies of indentures, cemetery lot sales, records of births, ownership of church pews, trust deeds (mortgages), powers of attorney, etc.
New England town records frequently include land transactions, but in most states land records are kept at the county level.
Genealogical researchers should check this website's Tax Records section since tax records are also part of land records.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Library owns numerous and varied examples of land records.
The early records of the town of Providence: printed under the authority of the city council of Providence
Call Number: F 89 F9 F9
Most volumes contain town meeting records and other papers and include land claims and land grants as well as name and subject indexes. The subject indexes refer to such topics as "Land claims by," "Land granted to," "Land laid out to," "Deed recorded to," "Boundary of private estates," "Layout of common land," and "Land controversy between."
The history of Enfield, Connecticut.../compiled from all the public records of the town known to exist; covering from the beginning to 1850...; with the graveyard inscriptions and those Hartford, Northampton and Springfield records which refer to the people of Enfield - Allen, Francis Olcott
Call Number: Special Collections F 104 E4 A4
Volume 1 contains land grants and includes a name and subject index.
Volume 2 has deeds for Enfield and Somers, the earliest Enfield land grants, and a name index.
Index to the papers of the Surveyors-General: published by authority of Number 221, Acts of 1906 by the Secretary of State
Call Number: F 46 V35 1973
"Indexes the contents of more than forty manuscript volumes concerning the original and early surveys of the towns, counties and gores of Vermont."
The Maine historical and genealogical recorder
Call Number: F 16 M182
Volumes IV through VIII contain a transcription of the Book of Eastern Claims. "A listing of extinguished and disputed land claims made after the Indian Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. Covers most early settlers of Maine and their descendants." Each volume includes a surname index.
Milford, Connecticut; the early development of a town as shown in its land records - Labaree, Leonard Woods
Call Number: F 91 C6 no. 1-29
Proprietors' records of the town of Waterbury, Connecticut, 1677-1761
Call Number: F 104 W3 W3
Includes a name and subject index.
Provincial and state papers - New Hampshire
Call Number: F 31 N42
Volumes contain maps (which often include names) and place and name indexes. "John Mason, the first proprietor, may well be regarded as the founder of the state." Of particular note are the following volumes:
Volume I Ancient grants
Volume XXIV Grants of New Hampshire territory by the Government of Massachusetts; Town Charters (Volume I, Acworth-Exeter)
Volume XXV Grants of New Hampshire territory by the Government of New Hampshire; Town Charters (Volume II, Farmington-Woodstock)
Volume XXVI Grants of Vermont territory by the Government of New Hampshire
Volume XXVII Township Grants of lands in New Hampshire included in the Masonian Patent; Town Charters (Volume IV, Albany-Moultonborough)
Volume XXVIII Grants of New Hampshire territory by the Proprietors of the Masonian Patent; Town Charters (Volume V, Nelson-Wolfeborough)
Volume XXIX Documents relating to The Masonian Patent; Town Charters (Volume VI)
Rhode Island land evidences, vol. 1, 1648-1696, abstracts
Call Number: F 82 R5 1970
Abstracts were transcribed from the oldest of four volumes of Land Evidences in the Rhode Island State Archives. Volume also includes probate and other legal records. Name index at end lists the type of document, date, and page number.
Salisbury, Connecticut, records - Russell, Donna Valley
Call Number: F 104 S2 R87 1983 Volume 2
Covers deeds from 1738-1763 and contains a name index.
York deeds (Book I) (Book II) (Book III) (Book IV) (Book V) (Book VI) (Book VII) (Book VIII) (Book IX) (Book X) (Book XI Part 1) (Book XI Part 2)(Book XII Part 1) (Book XII Part 2) (Book XIII) (Book XIV) (Book XV) (Book XVI) (Book XVII) (Book XVIII)
Call Number: F 18 Y62
"Prior to 1760, all of Maine was in York County." From 1652 variously until its statehood in 1820 Maine was under the control of Massachusetts. Volumes contain the earliest records in the registry of deeds and cover 1642-1737. Each volume has indexes for grantors, grantees, other persons, places, and a general index.