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  • Spanish Land Grant Register

  • Spanish Land Grant Certificate

  • Spanish Land Grant Certificate


Spanish Land Grants

Land Grants represent some of the earliest land transactions and establishment of title. At different times from the late 1600s to 1803, the French and Spanish governments swapped control of the land that became the Louisiana Purchase. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, one of the major issues was whether the United States government would recognize those land titles from the earliest settlers that were purchased from the French and Spanish. In March 1805, Congress passed legislation establishing rules and procedures for these titles to be confirmed or unconfirmed by appointed land commissions.


This Act declared that persons who actually inhabited and cultivated said property and had a duly registered warrant obtained from the French or Spanish governments on or before October 1, 1800, were considered to have complete claims and were confirmed. Incomplete claims were not to be confirmed unless proof could be provided that the terms and conditions on which the completion of the original grant might depend were fulfilled. Squatters who lived in the territory and didn’t have grants from either government, but were head of the household and cultivated the property, could also make claims. All notice of claims had to be recorded before March 1, 1806, or they were considered void. All land grants or claims that were established after October 1, 1800, were not to be recognized. This legislation created a very contentious process and led to bitter land disputes that often took years to resolve.


Helpful tips:


Register Book:

This has the claimants listed in alphabetical order. Many of the names listed were prominent citizens of the era. For example:

  • Chester Ashley-U.S. Senator (1844-1848) also namesake of Ashley County.
  • Robert Crittenden- Secretary of the Arkansas Territory (1819-1829) and Governor (1836-1840). Also namesake of Crittenden County and along with Chester Ashley co-founded The Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.
  • James Bowie-legendary frontiersman and defender of the Alamo. Namesake of the Bowie Knife and Bowie County, TX.
  • William E. Woodruff-Founder of the Arkansas Gazette and namesake of Woodruff County


Certificate Book:

When researching, notice that many will give a certificate number and a survey number. A proper survey was one of the requirements of having a valid Spanish Land Title and there is a sketch of the property drawn out for each claim. You will also notice the surveys are converting arpens into acres. An arpen was the French unit of land measurement and is approximately .85 acres. Additionally, in the margins you will see a B-Book & Bundle reference. This indicates where the original survey is located in the Louisiana Purchase Survey Field Notes.


Interesting Note:The correct spelling of arpen is actually "arpent". Only in documents originating from the Missouri Territory was the spelling shortened.