Tract books are usually only found in Public Domain states. A tract books is a large ledger book organized by Range, Townships within the Range and Sections within the Township.
Something like this:
Range xx, Township xx
NW 1/4 Patent Holder (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg)
SW 1/4 Patent Holder (bk-pg)
NW 1/4 SW 1/4 buyer (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg)
SW 1/4 SW 1/4 buyer (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg)
NE 1/4 NE 1/4 Patent Holder (bk-pg), buyer (bk-pg)
SE 1/4 NE 1/4 (blank line for unsold property)
The same breakdown is repeated for each township and section within the range.
The pieces of property within the section are listed, followed by the first buyer's name (this is normally the patent holder), followed by the deed book number and page number where the deed is recorded. Each time the property changes hands the same information is listed. If a piece of property is split the new divisions are usually listed under the designation of the larger piece they came from. The chain of ownership of an individual piece is property is found in the tract book. The last name listed for a piece of property is the current owner.
When a person brings a deed to the courthouse to be recorded the court clerk looks at the legal description on the deed and locates the page in the tract book for the correct Range, Township and Section. Once the correct page is located the court clerk finds the actual piece of property being sold and after the name of the seller adds the name of the buyer and the book and page number of the deed book where the deed is recorded. The last name listed on the line is the current owner. Each piece of property's Chain of Ownership is found in a tract book.
A tract book page can look like this:
Top of Page: Range 18, Township 12, Section 9
NWNE - John Haas (patent 3-17) - Collector to State 19-312 - W G Elkin 19-312 - Collector to State 25-39 - J M Gilleylen 25-39 - Thos Cook 21-575
SWNE - Nick Tubb (patent 3-18) - T C Sugg 14-28, E Myatt 15-260 - Geo Tubb 20-447
Here's a scan of the actual Tract Book page for the above.
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