National Genealogical Society

Educational Courses

CGS: Federal Land Records

Learn about different types of land entries including cash entries, donation land, homesteads, and military bounty land.

Author: Angela McGhie, CG®
Prerequisites: None

This course introduces you to the different types of land entries including cash entries, donation land, homesteads, and military bounty land, and discusses how land ownership was transferred from the federal government to an individual or group. More than three million people received patents from the government in the thirty public land states. The land application files may contain valuable information for genealogists including details on family members, neighbors, citizenship status, and land improvements.

Angela Packer McGhie, CG is a professional researcher, lecturer and instructor. She has been working with federal records at the National Archives for the last decade and specializes in federal land records. She also focuses on genealogy education and enjoys teaching at genealogy conferences, institutes, and in study groups.

Federal Land Records is a self-paced, independent learning course designed to help family historians hone their skills in researching their ancestors Federal Land Records. The course modules include:

  • Module 1—Introduction to Federal Lands
  • Module 2—Background and History
  • Module 3—Public Land Survey System
  • Module 4—Land Acquisition Process
  • Module 5—Records Created by the General Land Office
  • Module 6—Homestead Files
  • Module 7—Types of Federal Land Records
  • Module 8—Accessing Federal Land Records

Reading and Reference List


To learn more about Federal Land Records, see the course syllabus here.


Since the courses under the Continuing Genealogical Studies category are cloud-based, you need either a computer or tablet with an Internet connection to access the lessons, examples, exercises, and quizzes. No software or material is loaded onto your computer or tablet.

To optimize your online learning experience, the Canvas system uses the current version of a number of different browsers. To check for your browser compatibility, please see for further information and details.

NGS grants a license to an individual to take the course shown above. This grants the individual a personal, nonexclusive, nontransferable right to the course materials for that student's personal educational use only. All students work independently.


Continuing Genealogical Studies


Non members

Federal Land Records



How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Course?

The Continuing Genealogical Studies series courses have no set time or date for attendance. These courses are geared toward individuals who have a variety of schedules.

Upon registration, you have access to the course for six months from the date of registration. If you need extra time, a one-time extension of three months is granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator.

Certificate of Completion

Since the Continuing Genealogical Studies series are independent learning courses, the CGS courses do not have a certificate of completion.

Please note: The National Genealogical Society is not a licensing body, so no certification or accreditation is implied. For more information about certification or accreditation, please see Becoming a Professional Genealogist.

When Can I Start the Course?

Within three business days, you receive two separate e-mails, one that confirms your registration and one that provides log in instructions.

Refund and Cancellation Policy

All purchases of courses are final. No refunds or credits are available.


Here is a link to the Continuing Genealogical Studies: FAQs. If you have further questions, please contact the NGS Course Administrator.


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