Land Ho! Using Land Records to Determine Citizenship … or not. — 8 Comments

  1. Hi … regarding passports in the 1880s, my understanding is that passports did not exist in their present form till World War I and later. Before that, I would imagine that now and again a prominent or controversial person might have some kind of certificate of passage issued by a consul if they were visiting a foreign country, but for regular people passing from country to country? I think the most you could aim for would be a ship arrival passenger manifest or some kind of “Oath of allegiance” record (as Germans coming to America in the 18th century before the Revolution had to go through in Philadelphia before being released to the general population. Regards.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Steve!

      I don’t know what form the old passports were in, but the State Department issued more than a passport here and there. According to the NARA website: “statistics show that the State Department issued 130,360 passports between 1810 and 1873, more than 369,844 between 1877 and 1909, and more than 1,184,085 between 1912 and 1925.” I really want to find a passport for them, because I know for a fact that Zenophile and his brother Philippe traveled to Canada and back at least once. The problem is that if he wasn’t naturalized until after 1884, he could not have been issued a passport to travel back to Canada in 1881. (Passports were only issued to citizens).

      Because he came from Quebec through the port of Detroit before 1895, there are no passenger lists or border crossing records – they weren’t required. The only thing I have so far that indicates when he came to the U.S. is his Declaration of Intent. That’s why I’m looking for his Certificate of Naturalization. It’s pretty much the only option I have left.

  2. Great job using the tract books Jenny! I am glad you found my handout useful and that you have learned more about these records. Thanks also to FamilySearch for digitizing these records.

    The clerks in the General Land Office did not always go back and put the date of the patent in the tract book. For a transaction like a homestead they would put the final certificate number in the column on the right page, and sometimes a patent date, but not always. This was a cash transaction (even though it was a pre-epmtion) and so it was legally complete. The patents for the western federal land states are not online on the BLM website, but you can obtain a copy of the patent from the National Archives.

    • Angela, thank you SO much for confirming that I’m at least on the right track 🙂

      I received a copy of the land record file (on a CD) from NARA, but would the patent be located somewhere else and not a part of that record? If so, I will request it immediately. If it’s supposed to be (and isn’t), should I ask them about it? And what does it mean if it’s not there?

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