Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 1 at NARA - Land Case Files - Part 1

         Ginger R. Smith waiting for the train at Huntington Station in Alexandria, Virginia.  
Photo courtesy of Liz Tapley,  October 20, 2011. 

Photo of our destination train stop - Archives - Navy Memorial - Penn Quarter
 - from inside the Yellow line Metro Station. Photo by Ginger Smith, October 20, 2011. 

For this trip, we are staying in Alexandria, Virginia. Our hotel is about 1 mile from the Huntington Metro Station (Yellow line). It was a 22 minute train ride to the National Archives / Naval Memorial / Penn Quarters train stop. We got off the train, took the escalator up and crossed the street to get to NARA.

Photo of the National Archives (NARA) building at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue.  
This is the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance side where researchers enter. 
The "touristy" entrance is around to the left - 
that is where visitors go in to view the Constitution. 
Photo by Ginger R. Smith, October 20, 2011. 

Day 1 of the archives consisted of getting our researcher's card, learning our way around the finding aid room, the microfilm room, and the 203 reading room (and locating the cafe in the basement).

We started off in the finding aid room (First floor to your left) to submit forms for the Land Case Files we wanted to look at. These are original records that are pulled at certain times throughout the day. Since I had so many of these, I wanted to get as many ordered for the next pull time that I could - by 11 am.

Land Case Files

Before you arrive at NARA, you should have printouts of all of the land records your ancestors made transactions with. You can obtain this information by going to the Bureau of Land Management website and searching for your ancestor. You should print out the first page that contains pertinent information such as the Land Office, State, Document number, and Authority. You will need this information to fill out your order form. Here is one of my examples of what I printed off before I visited NARA:

We managed to snag a copy of the form you have to fill out so I can share with my readers what it looks like and what you should expect. But don't worry because there is always trained staff on hand to walk you through the process and of course they will check your forms to make sure they are filled out correctly. Here is what a completed form looks like (This is reconstructed to suite this example):

This form includes your name. Liz filled this one out for me. And then your researcher ID number. This is the number that is on your researcher ID card that you keep with you at all time. The date goes at the top. All land case files are in record group 49 which you can see on the left side of the form. The meat of the information goes in the big white space - this is the land office and the state. This is NOT the county, but the LAND OFFICE. This is very important. Below that goes the authority which is usually Cash, Homestead, or Military Script Warrant, and then the document number.

In my first pull, I had 12 files I wanted to see. I wrote one up incorrectly. It was for Cash and I wrote it up for Homestead by mistake, so I have to reorder this file tomorrow. I also tried to take a short cut and printed out the summary page which had a list of all the patents that one ancestor secured. I realized when I went to order them that I did not have all of the information required to order the records like the land office and the authority. So I will be looking them up tonight and placing another order tomorrow. I had an additional 8 records that I pulled for the 2nd pull time today. So in total about 20 files were reviewed and about 17 boxes were pulled for me. Tomorrow I will request an additional 15 land case files!!!

In my next post I will discuss what kinds of information I found in these land case files. Most of them contained only the original patent and a receipt which may or may not have been signed by my ancestor. A couple of documents contained affidavits about what they planned to do with the land and how long they had lived on it.

I will have to deal with the issue of getting the images out of the cameras that I used today. My kodak camera died right away which is pretty typical so I used my phone to upload most of the images. However, the land case files are housed in a box and they are folded, so I found it hard to get them to lie flat long enough for me to take a picture of them. I did not even think to bring my flat bed scanner. I tried Liz's flipPal scanner today but found it slow and the I kept hitting the button when I didn't want to. I did load my researcher's card up with money so I could use the photocopy machine, however, sometimes that did not work so well either, especially if there was any blue paper items in the shucks (which there were)! Oh and in case you are wondering, copies are $0.25 a page, they print out as 8x14, and they are $0.50 for microfilm copies (I will definitely discuss microfilm and military records in another post).

So more land records tomorrow and we will receive the 1812 service records we ordered tomorrow as well. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below or on Google+ or Facebook. Part 2 is forthcoming...


  1. Great summary. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. Exciting! I just read Liz's post about your day. I hope you find a lot of great information. Have fun!

  3. Ginger, I like your detailed instructions, esp. your use of the red boxes. Could you tell me (after your trip) how you did them. Enjoy your time in my old home town, Alexandria.

  4. A very helpful and detailed post. Thanks!

  5. Sounds like you could easily spend a month there - Mecca!

  6. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and taking us along on your trip. I can't wait to read more.

  7. Thanks guys I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I hope to get the rest of the posts up here soon!