Over the course of the Homestead Act’s 123-year history, more than 1 million homestead claims were made. Each one of these claims generated a written record known as a Homestead Land Entry Case File that was kept by the U.S. General Land Office. Today, these case files exist as paper originals stored at the National Archives in Washington D.C. The complete collection contains over 30 million individual pieces of paper! Since 1999, Homestead National Monument of America has been involved in a project to eventually digitize all 30 million documents and make them available online.
The records that have been digitized so far can be found on Fold3.com and Ancestry.com. At Homestead National Monument of America’s Heritage Center you can search these websites, using the Records Computers, for detailed information on people who claimed land through the Homestead Act. What can you learn about these individuals by looking at the records? What rights, liberties, and freedoms do we have today because of their efforts? Have fun exploring!