The Pre-emption Act of 1841 allowed settlers to file on up to 160 acres and receive title after paying a fee of $1.25 or $2.50 per acre. Claimants had to be 21 years of age, head of a family, and a U.S. citizen or have declared intention to become a citizen. Pre-emption is recorded as a "cash" sale. A pre-emption could be changed to a homestead and the settler was credited with his residence time.
The Homestead Act, passed in 1862, opened millions of acres in the public domain for settlement. In order to obtain a farm of up to 160 acres almost without cost, an applicant was required to reside on the claim for not less than five years and to cultivate the land. To qualify a homesteader had to be age 21 and a citizen or to have taken out his first papers for citizenship. Soldiers and sailors were permitted to deduct the length of their military duty, up to four years, from the residency requirment. At any time after the first six-months of the five-year settlement period the homesteader could commute his claim to a cash sale. Cash, military bounty warrants or agricultural college script could be used.
The Timber Culture Act passed in 1873 was designed to promote tree-planting in the treeless plains. Up to 160 acres could be claimed. Timber claims did not require residency on the land. Originally 40 acres of trees had to be planted on each 160 acres. This was later reduced top ten acres. Not less than 2700 trees were to be planted on each acre! At the end of eight years, but not more than thirteen years, from entry date the final proof could be made. The claimant had to prove the trees had been planted and cultivated and that not less than 675 per acre were still living.
For more information on U.S. government Land Laws in Nebraska, visit the Nebraska State Historical Society web site:
Getting Copies of Homestead and Timber Claim Records
To get copies first locate your ancestor on the list below. If they fulfilled their claim, make a note of the Section and Township listed. The document a settler got when they fulfilled their claim is a Patent. A copy of the Patent is filed in the county land records. You will need the Application Number and Patent Certificate Number from the Patent. To get a copy of the patent, write:
Adams County Register of Deeds P.O. Box 203 Hasting, NE 68902
When you write the Register of Deeds include your ancestors name, the Section number and township name. The fee for a copy of the Patent is $1 plus a long Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.
After obtaining the Patent, you need to get a copy of NATF Form 84. You can get this form by logging onto www.nara.gov web site or write to:
Textural Reference Branch-Land, NARA, 7th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20408
The cost for copies of one file is $17.75. It can take from several weeks to several months to obtain a copy.
Index to Original Pre-emptors
This index was compiled using microfilm of original land office tract books. These books list every person who filed on each tract of land. That list was then compared to the patent records at the Adams County Register of Deeds office in the courthouse. Only those persons who completed the process and received a patent are recorded on the county level.
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