Tours of historic land vaults offered

Tours of historic land vaults offered

Now on display: Land records signed by the notorious Jesse James and the indispensable Thomas Jefferson.  

May marks the General Land Office Records Web sites 10th Anniversary of online access to historic Federal land records  During this event special tours are being offered to the public.    

The Bureau of Land Management’s Eastern States office, loctaed at 7450 Boston Blvd in Springfield, houses over nine million historic land documents, and is one of the largest land title offices in the world.   

During the May 1 tour, participants will be allowed in special vaults that protect these precious records that were created or signed by figures such as Jesse James and Thomas Jefferson.  The first group tour begins at 10 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m. on May 1.  

The opening of the vaults marks an important milestone for the BLM and provides a rare chance for the public to enjoy and use this valuable information at the click of a button.   

Having these documents available for ten years has made a huge difference, not only for our employees who work so hard to provide these documents to the public, but for the public to have easy access to these documents, said Juan Palma of the Bureau of Land Management. We will continue to work until all documents are available online, and look forward to serving the public for another 10 years.”  

The website is one of the most widely used websites in the Department of the Interior, receiving thousands of clicks everyday, Palma said.  It also provides image access to more than three million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and 1908.  

Images of Serial Patents (land titles issued between 1908 and the mid-1960’s) have also been added to the website.  Palma said the initial phase of this project is complete, with two million eastern records issued between 1820 and 1908 now available online. 

The Web site offers researchers a source for information on the initial transfer of land titles from the Federal government to individuals.  In addition to verifying title transfer, this information allows  researchers to associate an individual (Patentee, Assignee, Warrantee, Widow, or Heir) with a specific location (Legal Land Description) and time (Issue Date).  The site also contains an online shopping cart, where users may request certified copies of land patents electronically or through the mail. 

Survey plats, a recent addition to thie Web site, were the official survey documentation used when land title was transferred (via a land patent) from the Federal government to individuals.  

The survey plats are the graphic drawing of the boundaries created by each survey and contain the official acreage used in the legal description of the public lands.  Plats are critical historic documents that can help researchers locate the land referenced in a land patent’s legal land description. 

For more information or to explore the site yourself, visit