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This is a brief introduction to the Fort Wayne Land Office Database, compiled by the Archives' staff with the aid of an Indiana Heritage Research Grant.
The "land office business" in Indiana began in 1801, when public lands in the southeastern corner of the Indiana Territory were put up for sale at Cincinnati. The U.S. Congress subsequently opened land offices at Vincennes in 1804; at Jeffersonville in 1807; in 1819 at Terre Haute (later Crawfordsville) and Brookville (later Indianapolis); and at Ft. Wayne in 1822.
The Fort Wayne District embraced all or part of the present counties of Adams, Allen, Blackford, Cass, Clinton, DeKalb, Delaware, Grant, Howard, huntington, Jay, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Madison, Miami, Noble, Randolph, Steuben, Tipton, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley.
The first sale of land at Fort Wayne took place on 22 October 1823. Receipt No. 1 went to William Willson, of Middletown, Ohio, for 93.30 acres just east of Fort Wayne at the bend of the Maumee River. After the Fort Wayne Land Office closed on 21 February 1852, its records were transferred to the State Auditor and from there to the Indiana State Archives.
Land office records comprise the most detailed history available of the settlement of 23 counties, providing the names and residences of the purchaser; the date of purchase; and the legal description of the tract. All this information is now on a computerized database of 73,250 records, each structured in 12 fields documenting the details of a land sale.
Because the project staff did not amend or standardize the entries found in the tract books, many variants can be found for the same name. For example, all these entries may well describe one man: Jedediah Cummings, Jedediah Cummens, Jediah Cummmings, Jediah C. Cummins, Jediah Cobb Cummings, Jedediah Cobb Cummens, Jedediah C. Cummins. This variety simply reflects the lack of a standard orthography in a society where not everyone was literate, as well as the vagaries of 19th century clerks. Patrons, then, should search under all conceivable spellings to find the names they want.