13 March 2007
An article I wrote several years ago about the Bureau of Land Management website is still accurate--thankfully they leave the search interface alone for the most part.
A search for William Newmans in Indiana resulted in one match for my William. The legal description for his property is as shown in the image below.The legal description is available on the patent image, but the quarter section can be viewed on the BLM site as part of the database entry for William's patent.
Then using the legal land description of William's 40 acres, I searched the BLM database of patents again. This time I searched for patents granted to people for property in the same section of the township.
I was excited when I viewed the names. One last name was the same last name as William's wife, Rebecca Tinsley. Viewing the patent for William Tinsley indicated he was living in the same county William was when William purchased the land in Tipton County. Both men were listed as residents of Rush County, Indiana.
Patents are not only for "early" or pre-statehood settlers. There were federal land sales in many states long after statehood. After all, these sales are in Indiana in 1850.
The article goes into more detail on using these patents. I would view the BLM website's information on patents and the rectangular survey system descriptions before I did extensive searches.