At the close of the American Revolution in 1783, the new United States was cash-poor and land-rich. To help fill the federal treasury and ensure an orderly settlement of lands west of the original 13 colonies, Congress devised a system of settlement to encourage westward movement. The result was the Rectangular Survey System (RSS) or Public Land Survey System (PLSS). This post is meant to give you an idea of how western lands in the U. S. were laid out for settlement and how you can find out if your ancestor bought some of this land from the federal government. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the PLSS to control the survey, sale, and settling of the new land. Land was systematically surveyed into square townships, six miles on each side. Each township was then subdivided into 36 sections of one square mile each, or...
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