Montana Land Records

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Montana sil.png
the Montana Family History Research series.
History of Montana
Montana Vital Records
Census Records for Montana
Background Sources for Montana
Montana Maps
Montana Land Records
Montana Probate Records
Montana Court Records
Montana Tax Records
Montana Cemetery Records
Montana Church Records
Montana Military Records
Montana Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Montana Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Montana Immigration
Montana Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Montana
Montana County Resources
Map of Montana

Montana is a Public-Domain State.

Montana federal land offices were originally located in Bozeman, Glasgow, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Lewistown, Miles City, and Missoula. All of these offices were eliminated by 1950, leaving Billings as the only land office at present.

The land entries for the Montana area (1800–1908) are filed by state, land office, kind of entry, and certificate number. There is no name index prior to 1908 for Montana. To access a federal land entry either the certificate number or the legal description of the land such as range, township, and section must be known. The description can be obtained from the county recorder of deeds. Lands that went to patent after the twentieth century can be found on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website. Public land records can be accessed through the Department of the Interior. Major federal land records include survey plats and field notes, tract books, register’s returns, case files or land-entry papers, and patent records. The survey plats, tract books, and patent records prior to 1908 are available at the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office, 5001 Southgate Dr., P.O. Box 36800, Billings, MT 59107.

Patent records after 1908 and case files or land-entry papers prior to 1908 are available through the National Archives system (see page 11). Both the Seattle and Denver centers hold Montana research materials. The case files are the most important genealogically as they often contain military papers, naturalization records, and other documentation.

Subsequent land transactions after the initial federal grant are filed with the respective county clerk and recorder.