Wisconsin Land Records
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This entry was originally written by Dawn M. Knauft and Carol L. Maki in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Wisconsin is a Public-Domain State.
Being a public-domain state, Wisconsin was divided into a grid of 1,554 townships by the General Land Office (GLO) survey crews. The earliest land office was at Mineral Point, opening on 10 November 1834. Land that is presently Grant County, with the exception of mineral land, was available at that time. The local records of the nine GLO district offices are at the Commissioner of Public Lands, P.O. Box 8943, Madison, WI 53708-8943. Many records of the Commissioners of Public Lands are in the State Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society. These include, for example, copies of original federal survey plat books from 1834 to 1858. The State Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society, holds copies of all Wisconsin Local Land Office Tract Books, showing original owners or recipients of most land in Wisconsin. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eastern States Land Office in Alexandria, Virginia has patents, copies of tract books, and township plats; an online searchable index and downloadable images of Wisconsin land patents are also available. The National Archives has land-entry case files. See Alexander F. Pratt, “Reminiscences of Wisconsin,” in Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, vol. 1, Lyman Copeland Draper, ed. (reprint, Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1855), 137, regarding claims to associations near Milwaukee in the late 1830s.
Subsequent land transactions after initial ownership are recorded in the county’s register of deeds. Most counties have grantor/grantee indexes to their land records. Some are available on microfilm at the Area Research Centers of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the FHL.
Additional information is available in Paul W. Gates, “Frontier Land Business in Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 52 (1962): 306-27; and Frederick N. Trowbridge, “Confirming Land Titles in Early Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 26 (1942): 314-22.