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Genealogical Resources: Maps and Land Records

Sanborn Maps

The New Mexico State Library provides access to digital, color versions of the New Mexico Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from all of the library’s public computers (in-library use only). Originally made to assess fire insurance risk, the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are accurately scaled and show street layout, building locations, and construction type. They are a great way to better understand your relatives' communities and can add a visual component to genealogy research. 

Land Records

Ancestry.com has a collection of  U.S. General Land Office Records from 1776-2015; however, New Mexico is not covered by the collection. The information contained in land patents is important if you desire to request a case file from the National Archives. If you need information on a patent outside of New Mexico, this may be a great place to start. 

New Mexico is included in the records of The General Land Office (GLO) . GLO maintains a free, searchable database of land patents. Like Ancestry.com, the information obtained from GLO can be used to request a case file from the National Archives. 

According to the National Archives,"Land case entry files can contain a wealth of genealogical and legal information. Depending upon the type and time period of the land entry, the case file may yield only a few facts already known to the researcher or it may present new insights about ancestors, family history, title, and land use issues. For example, the records may attest to one's age, place of birth, citizenship, military service, literacy, and economic status, and may even include similar information about family members. But even the smallest case files can establish locations of land ownership or settlement and dates essential to utilize other resources at NARA, such as census, court, and military service and pension records."

To order a case file from the National Archives, be sure to provide the following information: name of land office, land description (township, range, and section), final certificate number or patent number, and authority under which the land was acquired (i.e., homestead, cash, bounty-land warrant, mining claim).

To learn more about requesting land case files visit the National Archives website's forms section.

Homestead Records

U.S. Homestead Records, 1863-1908 is available on Ancestry.com; however, New Mexico is not currently included in the collection. These documents are part of the Records of the Bureau of Land Management (formerly known as the General Land Office), Record Group (RG) 49. The collection currently includes records from Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming. Additional records will be added in future updates.

Homestead files include a wide variety of information including: an application (which noted the applicant's name, place of residence, the date, the land office, and the complete land description), military records (dates of military service, units of service, manner of military service, discharge papers, and physical description), and citizenship papers.

Also in these records are the required testimonies of two neighbor witnesses in good standing that were required to answer, under penalty of law for untruthfulness, a set of questions to verify fulfillment of the homestead requirements.

The questions included:

full name, age, and address
if native-born, where born; and if foreign-born, proof of citizenship
married, with family information, or single;
if a married woman, status of husband’s property;
when actual residence was established;
when house was built;
whether absence has occurred, with dates and why;
character of the land, improvements made (house built, outbuildings constructed, acres cultivated, property improvements);
whether claimant has made other entries 

Spanish Archives of New Mexico 1602-1855 (SANM I), Land Records of New Mexico

Spanish Archives of New Mexico I, Land Records of New Mexico

SANM I includes the records of the Surveyor General and the records fo the Court of Private Land Claims. The records were translated from Spanish and put in a calendar by Ralph Emerson Twitchell and published in 1914. His work served as the basis for the Calendar of the Microfilm Edition of the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, 1621–1821. The calendar includes names and descriptions (in English) of the wide variety of documents that can be found in this collection, with “Twitchell numbers” linking items in the calendar to images of the actual record. The New Mexico State Library has this collection on microfilm and it is available digitally at Ancestry.com as New Mexico, Land Records of New Spain, 1692-1846.