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Definition for

Homestead Act

This federal law, adopted in 1862, essentially provided that heads of families or persons 21 years old, who were U.S. citizens or had filed for citizenship, could obtain up to 160 acres of unappropriated public land. Five years' residence on and cultivation of the land were required in order for the individual to receive title to the land. The land was free, except for small transaction fees. The Act was repealed generally by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-579); it remained in effect in Alaska until 1986. Approximately 287,000,000 acres were provided to homesteaders during the life of the act.

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