Homestead Act of May 20, 1862

Free Land! Small registration Fee. Just take up residence on the land, improve it—and it is yours!

This drew people like my great-great-grandfather, Harmon Coffman, to migrate from one state to another. In his case from Kentucky to Missouri. And I suspect that many people did what he did—brought part of his family with him. Not all of his children came but some did.

The Homestead Act did not offer free land everywhere. This available land was found in vast territories known as “public domain” which had already been surveyed by the Government. The land was offered to settlers in hopes people would move west from the Atlantic Coast states. Kentucky wasn’t a coast state but the Homestead Act is what I believe drew my Coffman bunch west.

In fact Kentucky was westward state along with Tennessee. These states along with West Virginia and most of Texas were excluded. “To qualify for a homestead under the Act, the applicant had to be an American Citizen or show that he had declared his intention to become an American.”1

I do not know if Harmon applied for a homestead. Nor do I know if his children (most were grown) also applied. The next time I’m in Grundy County Missouri, I will check at the courthouse to see if the records exist there. More information on how to do find the actual file is found at FamilySearch Homestead Records page.

More sites about the Homestead Act:


  1. Kossuth County Genealogical Society Newsletter. Research Tips, p. 6, 20 Sep 2010. Available at http://www.kossuthcountygenealogicalsociety.com/Newsletters%20PDFs/KCGSNewsletter%20Sept%202010.pdf, Accessed March 6, 2016.