Animation of Miners

How The Prospector Staked A Claim

If you suspect you have a prospector or miner in your ancestry, here is an explanation of mining tradition and where to find the records. In the 19th century, once a new mining area was discovered, the earliest group of miners held a meeting to form a mining district. The boundaries, rules and presiding officers were decided upon, including who would be the Mining District Recorder. It would be that man's responsibility to keep a recordbook of all the claims made within that district.  


When a prospector found good mining ground (or what he thought he could pass off to someone ELSE as good mining ground...), he marked the boundaries of the claim with rock piles or wooden stakes. The claim could be no larger than the size allowed in that mining district. This is called "LOCATING A CLAIM" or "A LOCATION.

The next step - the miner sought out the Mining District Recorder, gave him a description of his new claim (size, where it was, owners names), paid him the required fee and went on his way. Some recorders just took the word of the miner and wrote down whatever he was told. It could be something as vague as "Joe Cool stakes a claim on Mount Gibbs" or as specific as "Joe Cool stakes a claim 600' by 1500' on Mount Gibbs. Bounded on the north by the Uncle Bill, on the east by the Ella Bloss and on the south by the Sweet Mary. Tom's Creek borders the west side." Other Recorders demanded to see the miner's claim and make sure it was properly marked and did not impinge on anyone else's claim.  

Today, Mining District Recordbooks can now be found almost anywhere. Some Recorders left their recordbooks with the local County Recorder's Office and others... well, who knows where some of them went - maybe a local museum, library, a descendant's attic, antique stores, or local dump.  


Frequently the second thing a miner did was to register their claim with the County Recorder's Office. They did not always do this, but those who wanted to be certain of the legality of their claim would do so. The description could be as vague or as specific as the claims made in the Mining District Recordbook. The County Recorder would fill out a mining claim form and give the claimant a copy. The Recorder would also enter the information in a large recordbook titled either LOCATIONS, QUARTZ CLAIMS or PLACER CLAIMS. These recordbooks are a permanent part of the county's collection - NEVER to be thrown away (although a few counties have been caught red-handed...). The paperwork could be thrown out after a time period prescribed by state law. The County Recorder hopefully also entered the claimant's name in the index which was either part of the recordbook or was a separate index-recordbook.  


When the original claimant (or prospector, if you prefer) sold all or part of his claim, it was usually recorded with the county in recordbooks titled either MINING CLAIMS or MINING DEEDS. Usually. Some counties lumped mining claim sales and real estate sales into recordbooks titled DEEDS or OFFICIAL RECORDS.


©1998-2009 Susan Guhm, All Rights Reserved