An index has been kept of the patents on record, but many of these indexes were made at a time when little thought was given to efficiency, and much confusion has resulted, both to the public who seek information, and the custodians of the Land Office who seek to supply the information.

In all about 160,000 patents have been granted to land located in the State of Kentucky. These patents are divided into nine groups, as follows: Virginia Grants, Kentucky Grants, Kentucky Land Warrants, County Court Orders, South of Walker’s Line, South of Green River, West Tennessee River, and W. F. H. Lands. Besides these patents, there are seven or eight volumes of “Entries” of surveys made before the State of Virginia or the State of Kentucky perfected any method of patenting land. Very few of these entries are indexed at all, or if they have ever been indexed, the indexes have long since been lost. It also frequently happens that patents are found which have not been indexed at all.

Another source of confusion arises in the following manner: Where patents have been granted to joint owners, the index only carries the name of the first person appearing on the original survey, with a “&c” following, which sheds no light whatever upon any other of the owners. For example, a patent has been granted to John Smith, William Brown and James Jones. The old index shows a patent in the following manner: “John Smith &c” and persons seeking information relative to the rights of Brown or Jones have no way of ascertaining that fact from the index. In this work, a separate number is given each party in the patent, so that the same patent is indexed to Smith, Brown and Jones.

Calls come from all over the country for copies of Virginia Military Warrants. In hundreds of cases the original grantee under these warrants assigned them to some one else, and they are indexed to the latter party. It therefore follows that no information can be given, although the information is in the office. In this work we have not only indexed the warrants to the person to whom they were finally assigned, but we have gone back over the warrants and made up a secondary index of assignor, so that it will be possible to ascertain at once whether a warrant was granted to the party in question.

This work has been prepared by taking each record page by page, and then checking back after a record is finished, so that we have no hesitancy in saying that it is accurate.

In searching for patents under this index, a little confusion may result because of the spelling of names. While the sound is the same, the manner of spelling has changed, as in the case of the name “Yocum.” The name as originally spelled was “Y-o-k-a-m.” The name “Huffaker” was originally spelled “H-a-l-f-a-c-r-e.” The most variations appear in the names “Creech” and “Kincaid.” The former is variously spelled “Creech, Critch, Screech and Scritch.” The latter is variously spelled “Kinkead, Kincaid, Kincade, Kenkade” and other ways also. In looking for patents it is therefore necessary to look for the “sound” as well as the information given in the inquiry.

In giving the watercourse, it sometimes happens that no reference of any kind is made to streams or rivers. In other instances, reference is made to some notable river, which is very indefinite. But in such cases we have endeavored to give the most information available.

That part of Kentucky which lies east of the Tennessee river was first known as a part of Fincastle County, Va. Later Kentucky county was made into a separate county, hence many of the Virginia Grants call for either Fincastle or Kentucky County.

In 1780 Kentucky County, Va., was cut up into the counties of Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln, Va. By reference to the map showing the original county of Kentucky, or the original counties of Fayette, Jefferson arid Lincoln, it will be. seen that the three latter counties covered a large territory, and that a patent recorded as being in either of these counties might be, and often is in what is now some other county.

Proclamation of King George III

Three-thousand acre land grant to the heirs of Hugh Mercer, Kentucky County, Virginia

Three-thousand acre land grant to the heirs of Hugh Mercer, Kentucky County, Virginia

The first authentic record of title to land in Kentucky, or the manner of acquiring title, is the record of entries made by virtue of Royal proclamation of George III, King of England, in 1763. This proclamation was issued in favor of the soldiers and sailors of the French and Indian War, and the part that affects territory in (Kentucky reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, We are desirous, upon all occasions, to testify our Royal sense and approbation of the conduct and bravery of the officers and soldiers of our armies, and to reward the same, we do hereby command and empower our governors of the three new colonies, and all the governors of our said provinces on the continent of North America, to grant without fee or reward, to such reduced officers as have served in North America during the late war (The French and Indian War) and to such private soldiers as have been, or shall be disbanded in America, and are actually residing there, and shall personally apply for the same, the following quantities of land, subject at the expiration of ten years, to the same requirements as other lands are subject to in the province within which they are granted, and also subject to the same conditions of cultivation and improvement, viz:

“To every person having the rank of a field officer, five thousand acres; to every captain, three thousand acres; to every subaltern or staff-officer, two thousand acres; to every non-commissioned officer two hundred acres; to every private man, fifty acres.

“We do likewise authorize and require the governors and commanders of our said colonies upon the continent of North America, to grant the like quantities of land, and upon the same conditions, to such reduced officers of our navy, of like rank as served on board our ships of war in North America at the times of the reduction of Louisbourg and Quebec in the late war and who shall personally apply to our respective governors for such grants.”

Following the promulgation of this proclamation, hundreds of people from Virginia entered the territory of Kentucky, and made what was termed “entries” or “pre-emption,” that is they made a survey or filed a boundary of certain territory with the Surveyor of the county in which the land was located, and after the State of Virginia provided for the issuance of patents, hundreds of these entries were carried into patent. However, many of them were never carried beyond the formal entry.

The first patent granted by the State of Virginia to land in what is now Kentucky was issued June 1, 1782, to Robert Todd for 200 acres of land “about 2 miles South East of Harrodsburg.”

The first entry under the proclamation of 1763 was made in 1773, and similar entries continued to be made until 1785. Just why settlers made “entries” after 1782 instead of securing patents, is hard to understand, unless it be that they were made by settlers who had not visited Virginia for a long time and did not know of the laws relative to patents.

The Virginia Grants

The “Virginia Grants” arc contained in 16 volumes, numbered consecutively, averaging about 500 pages per volume, or a total of about 10,000 patents. The last patent granted by the State of Virginia to land lying in Kentucky was granted September 21, 1796, four years after Kentucky was admitted to Statehood. The lands embraced in this patent lie in Harlan county, and were patented in part of patent supposed to lie in Lee county, Virginia. Following the granting of this patent, as well as some others in the same territory, a dispute arose between the States of Kentucky and Virginia over the boundary line between the two states, and the dispute was finally settled by a commission in 1799.

  • Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series
    This website allows researchers to access files for both the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series. The master database is under construction, but files can be accessed by patent number or grantee. To expand the search, we suggest researchers access the Kentucky Historical Society publications :

  • Virginia Treasury Warrants
    This database includes information recorded in the Virginia Treasury Warrants Register, Vols. I & II, housed in the Kentucky Office of Secretary of State. This index includes: (1) the name(s) of persons purchasing Treasury Warrants; (2) immediate assignees; (3) acreage allowed under the warrant; (4) price paid in pounds, shillings and pence; (4) date of warrant purchase; and (5) Treasury Warrant number. Patents within Kentucky that were authorized by these Treasury Warrants are listed in the “Authorized” field. Patents identified in the “Virginia Patents in Kentucky” series are encoded as “VA” followed by the patent number. Patents identified in the “Old Kentucky Patents” series are encoded as “OK” followed by the patent number. An asterisk * indicates the Treasury Warrant is included with the cited patent file. Many patent references link to color scanned images of patent files maintained by the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Land Office in Frankfort.
  • Early Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants in Kentucky County, Virginia
    Under the Virginia Land Law of 1779, residents of the Kentucky District could purchase Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants if they met certain residency requirements. This database is indexed by Preemption Warrant number, the individual acquiring the Warrant & Certificate of Settlement, immediate assignees, and tract location. They have included information on the resulting patent number and series for the Kentucky Preemption Warrants. Some counties in present-day Virginia and West Virginia are also included in this index. For further information see: Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants Database.
  • Lincoln County Entries
    In 1780 Kentucky County, Virginia, was divided into three counties: Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln. The Virginia General Assembly instructed the Kentucky County Surveyor to copy land entries into separate volumes for each of the new counties. This database contains 4,763 entries reserving land for patenting in the Lincoln County area from November 3, 1779, through April 19, 1792.
  • Wills
    This database includes scanned images of wills that have been located in patent files during the Land Office’s ongoing scanning project. Because wills include names of family members, disposition of slaves (many of whom are named in the will) and other estate components, they can be valuable for historical and genealogical research.

Virginia Grants Example



 

These Patents are recorded in sixteen volumes of about 500 pages each. They are not numbered.

Kentucky Grants

Following the admission of Kentucky into the Union, which took place on June 1, 1792, steps were taken to provide for the patenting of vacant and unappropriated lands. The first patent granted by the State of Kentucky was to John Abney for 500 acres in what was then Mason county, and was issued on January 29, 1793.

The series of patents known as “Kentucky Grants” are contained in nineteen volumes, numbered consecutively from 1 to 20, there being no volume 9. For some reason the register failed to make up volume nine, but skipped from 8 to 10. Patents in this series extend from 1793 to 1856, although the manner of issuing patents was changed by act of the legislature in 1815. However, the extension from 1815 to 1856 is accounted for by reason cf the fact that many persons held warrants or surveys which had not been carried to patent in 1815, and they were permitted to file them and secure title. This series of records embrace both Treasury Warrants and Military Warrants.

The last patent granted under the Kentucky Grants was in 1856, and was granted to the Trustees of Hodgenville Male and Female Academy in Larue county.

Kentucky Grants Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageNoWatercourse
AbercrombieC600Fayette24386Jessamine Creek
AllenParmel1000Fayette2101125N Fork Elkhorn
BarrRobert480Fayette2274233Elkhorn Creek
BeallWalter10000Jefferson2146154Panther Creek
CalkWilliam1400Fayette2179178Small Mountain Creek
CampbellChas474Lincoln2123139None Given


 

These Patents are recorded in nineteen volumes, of about 400 pages each. They cover the period from the admission of Kentucky into the Union to 1815, when the law was changed creating the Kentucky Land Warrants. However, patents were granted under this series until 1856. These patents are numbered.

Kentucky Land Warrants

On February 6, 1815, an act was approved providing for the issuance of Kentucky Land Warrants, and this mode of acquiring title continued in effect until 1836. Under this act persons desiring to acquire title were required to pay the State Treasurer a sum equal to $20.00 per one hundred acres, for the amount desired. The Treasurer issued a receipt to the Auditor of Public Accounts, who in turn issued a certificate to the Register of the Land Office. The Register of the Land Office then issued a warrant, directed to any surveyor in the State of Kentucky, directing that official to “survey and lay off, in one or more plats” the number of acres called for in the warrant.

The Kentucky Land Warrants are recorded 43 volumes, numbered as follows: “A” to “Z” inclusive, and “A No. 2” to “R No. 2” with the exception of “J No. 2,” there being no volume of this number, nor none provided for in the index of the office. More than 26,000 patents were issued under the Kentucky Land Office Warrants. The first patent issued under this act was in 1816, and the last one in 1873. Patents granted under these warrants from 1836 to 1873, were granted to parties who had secured warrants prior to the act of 1836, but had not been perfected by patent.

Kentucky Land Warrants Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageNoWatercourse
AdairAlexander150Barren27/11/20178780In the Barrens
AdamsJohn200Floyd27/11/20178881Carr's Fork
BakerA65Garrard27/11/2017131112Scott's Fork
BarleyL150Knox27/11/20175244Lynn Camp Creek
CarterMans400Barren27/11/20171716Bardstown Road
CraddockWm150Hopkins27/11/20174956Bull Creek


 

These Patents are recorded in forty-three volumes of about 450 pages each, and cover the period from 1815 to 1836, although patents were entered in this series until 1873. These patents are numbered, and run from 1 to 26080.

County Court Orders

In 1836 the legislature passed an act permitting persons desiring to patent vacant lands to secure the order of survey from the County Court of the county in which the land was located. This system is still in practice, to this day, and an occasional patent is granted, although it is a safe guess that all patents granted now are covered by senior patents.

This series of patents is known as County Court Orders, and are contained in 125 volumes, numbered consecutively. More than 69,000 patents have been granted under County Court Orders. It will thus be seen that a patent in the general plats of the State may be recorded in either Kentucky Grants, Kentucky Land Warrants or County Court Orders. It sometimes happens that patents belonging to one of these series has been recorded in another series, and no little confusion has resulted by reason of this duplicate system of recording patents.

We have shown the various steps of title from the time Kentucky was a province of Great Britain to the present time. Aside from the records of patents above enumerated, there are five intermediary or special plats, known as “South of Green River,” “South of Walker’s Line,” “Tellico Grants,” “West Tennessee River” and “W. F. H.”

  • County Court Orders
    In 1835 the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that allowed counties to sell warrants authorizing surveys for patent applications. The County Court Order Series consists of 70,241 patents from 1835 to 2000. It is the largest patent series in this office, and the database is particularly useful to surveyors, engineers, land title researchers and lawyers involved in land litigation.

 

County Court Orders Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageNoWatercourse
AdamsJefferson127Grayson170127Big Ready
AverittJohn73Marion11938Rolling Fork
BakerAdoniram100Clay167122Sexton's Creek
BrawnerLuther200Clay124S Fork Ky River
CraigJefferson100Harlan12547Cannon Creek
CassellT. J1700Pendleton192170None Given


 

These patents cover the period 1836 to the present time. They are recorded in 125 volumes, and embrace more than 69,000 patents. These patents are numbered consecutively.

South of Green River

Prior to the admission into the Union of Kentucky, the State of Virginia had set apart the territory south of Green River for the benefit of her soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and had made a survey from the head of Green River to Cumberland Mountains ; with the Cumberland Mountains to the Carolina line ; thence to the Cherokee or Tennessee River ; thence with the Tennessee to the Ohio River, and with the Ohio to Green River. This was known as the “Military Reserve,” and no person was permitted to enter or survey land in that territory except a soldier of the Revolution.

On December 21, 1795, three years after Kentucky became a state, an act was passed entitled, “An Act for the relief of the settlers on the south side of Green River.” This Act provided than any person with a family, or a male over 21 years of age could survey not less than 100 acres nor more than 200 acres, provided they had been a bona fide resident of the territory for at least one year. Tire Act provided for the appointment of three commissioners and a clerk, who were to hold hearings in Green and Logan counties “on the first day of June and July and then continue by adjournment for the term of fifteen days at each place if the business should require it.” The commissioners and the clerk were allowed the sum of twelve shillings per day, each. The salt licks and mineral rights were reserved to the State, but by subsequent Acts, this restriction was removed, and such settlers were given fee simple titles.

The first patent granted by the State of Kentucky to land “South of Green River” was issued on the 4th day of May, 1797, to Dennis Donham. The last one was granted on April 30th, 1866, to William Lewellen.

In the records of patents “South of the Green River” will be found many patents in territory outside of this reservation. This has occurred through error in recording. For example, patents to land lying in Clay, Knox, and other counties in South-eastern Kentucky are sometimes recorded in this survey.

South Green River Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageWatercourse
AdamsRobert200Lincoln1396Fishing Creek
AllardHardy200Logan1365Gasper's River
BarnesBenjamin200Logan1150Big Whippoorwill
BlackRobert150Green173Clover Creek
CabernessJohn200Green157N Frk Russell Creek
CampbellM100Green165Little Barren


 

These patents are recorded in 29 volumes, and cover the period 1795 to 1866. This is the original territory set aside by the State of Virginia for the benefit of the officers and soldiers of the Revolution. The patents are imperfectly numbered, and for that reason the numbers are not given in this index. In many cases the numbers are made to correspond with numbers in some other series. For further information see treatise South Green River.

Lands South of Walker’s Line

While Kentucky was part of Virginia, and Tennessee a part of North Carolina, the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina was the meridian of 36° 30′ North latitude. Thomas Walker headed a commission which ran this line in 1779-80, and after Kentucky was admitted into the Union, this was the recognized line as the Southern boundary of the State from Cumberland Mountain to the Tennessee River. In 1819, Robert Alexander and Luke Munsell, while surveying in the Cherokee reservation west of the Tennessee River were commissioned to establish the true line between Kentucky and Tennessee, and ran the line upon what was recognized as the true meridian 36° 30′ north latitude. They ran the line south of the line ran by Walker, varying in width from two to ten miles. A dispute at once arose between Kentucky and Tennessee as to the right to the land ‘between the line run by Alexander and Munsell, and the line run by Walker. A commission was appointed by each State, and a compact was finally agreed to in 1824, by which Kentucky retained the right to grant title, but Tennessee the right of political and civil jurisdiction. We thus have the unique condition of Kentucky granting title to land to settlers who at once became citizens of Tennessee. In other words, so long as the land remained vacant and unappropriated, it belonged to Kentucky, but as soon as that State granted a patent on same, it became a part of Tennessee. In all, Kentucky has granted 4,323 patents to Land South of Walker’s Line, which are recorded in 8 volumes, numbered consecutively, and are known as “Lands South of Walker’s Line.”

 

South Walker Line Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageNoWatercourse
ArcherJohnl00Op. Whitl'y TN13634Couch's Creek TN
AshferdDempsey100Sumner1118112Drake's Creek
BabbsJesse10Rob'son13331Meads Frk Red River
BogardEdgar100Stewart122Opposite Trigg County
CampbellJames100Fentress16259Lick Creek
CherryWm W.100Stewart17168Dyer and Salem Creek


 

As explained above, this land lies in the State of Tennessee. The patents in this series are recorded in eight volumes, covering the period 1825 to the present time. These patents are numbered consecutively from 1 to 4323. For further information see treatise South Walker’s Line.

Lands West of Tennessee River

The counties of Ballard, Carlisle, Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall and McCracken, in Kentucky, lie West of the Tennessee river. This land was originally owned by the Chickasaw Indians, and was purchased from them by the Federal Government in October, 1818. The members of commission empowered to make the purchase was headed by Andrew Jackson, and was known as the “Jackson Purchase.’’ Altogether about 7,000,000 acres were embraced in the purchase, a great deal of the land lying in the State of Tennessee. The price paid the Indians for this valuable tract of land was $20,000, payable in fifteen equal installments or a little less than three mills per acre. Isaac Shelby, the first Governor uf Kentucky, was appointed as a member of this commission, but the Indians remembered having met the dauntless Kentuckian at the battle of the Thames, and they refused to enter into negotiations so long as Mr. Shelby remained on the commission.

On February 14, 1820, an act was passed by the legislature of Kentucky, ordering the appointment of a commission to survey and lay off in section the land West of Tennessee river.

By an act approved Dec. 21, 1921, the Register of the Land Office was directed to proceed to Princeton, in Caldwell county, and beginning Sept. 1, 1822, and continuing from day to day, expose to public sale, certain sections and fractional parts of sections in this territory, just why he was ordered to Princeton, instead of some county in the reservation, is probably due to the fact that Princeton was the nearest town at that time that contained a branch of the Bank of Kentucky, because the act recites that payment for the lots so sold shall be made to the branch bank at Princeton.

By an Act approved Dec. 11. 1822. a grant of 160 acres, or the X. W. Quarter of Section 10, Township 3, Range 4 Fast, was made to Gideon D. Cobb, Matthew Lyon, Arthur 11. Davis, Henry Darnall and Lindsey Martin as Trustees of the Town of Waidsborough, in Calloway county. This was the first patent granted in the territory West of Tennessee River.

By an Act approved Jan. 3, 1825, the Governor was empowered to appoint a Receiver of Public Moneys for the District West Tennessee River, who should open an office at Waidsborough on June 1, 1825, and beginning Oct. 1, 1825, offer for sale all the remaining vacant, and unappropriated lands lying in said territory.

Patents to this territory are recorded in eleven volumes, besides one volume of “Military Grants” and contain more than 10,000 patents.

West Tennessee River Example

GranteeAcresBookPageNo.Description
AndersonBailey160178161N E Q S 32 T3 R3 E
AndersonJohn1601176367N E Q S 10 T3 R1 E
BlakeleyJames16013950N E Q S 8 T1 R4 E
BondThomas16014052N E Q S 33 T5 R3 E
CookJohn16011116N E Q S 34 T1 R2 E
CurdEd160167N E Q S 9 T3 R4 E


 

These patents are recorded in 11 volumes, and one volume of Military Grants West Tennessee River. This is the only section of the State of Kentucky where the land is laid off and patented in sections and fractional sections. These patents are numbered from 1 to 9312. For further information see treatise West Tennessee River. In these patents no county reference to location being the township, range and section.

Tellico Grants

By a treaty made on the 25th day of October, 1805, the Cherokee Indians ceded to the United States a certain boundary of land, part of which lies within the State of Kentucky, in the territory of what is now Whitley county. About 600 patents have been granted to land in this territory, which are contained in two volumes. The treaty was made at a place called “Tellico” and the grants are known as “Tellico Grants.”

The first patent granted in the Tellico Survey was to John Shanks for 300 acres on the West side of Fishing Creek, above Jarvis’s improvement, and was issued Nov. 9, 1803.

Tellico Grants Example

GranteeAcresCountyBookPageWatercourse
AllenThos A129Bourbon185Stoner Frk of Licking
AndersonJohn400Muhlenberg14Cypress Creek
BeaverThos400Warren131Big Barren
ButlerThos150Logan173Red River
CampbellAugust250Christian158None Given
CarpenterAdam200Green152Head Goose Creek


 

This series of patents are recorded in two volumes, and cover the period 1803 to 1853. They are not numbered. The territory covered by these patents is that purchased from the Cherokee Indians, by the treaty perfected at Tellico, hence Tellico Grants. For further information see treatise Tellico Grants. In this series, as in others, many grants are recorded out of place, that is, grants have been recorded in this series which belonged to some other series.

Lands W. F. H.

Just what the term “W. F. H.” means has caused the writer no little amount of work and research, with the result that it is still an unknown quantity. Inquiry of those familiar with land titles in Kentucky has shed no light upon the puzzle. In the report of Thomas H. Corbett, former Register of the Land Office, made in 1888, he makes no mention of “Lands W. F. H.”

These patents are recorded in one volume, being only 47 in number, and are divided among the following counties: Laurel 6, Lincoln 6, Russell 3, Knox 2, Adair 9, Clay 3, Cumberland 7, Caldwell 2, Wayne 3, Monroe 1, Allen 1, Barren 1, and Pulaski 3.

The first patent in this plat was granted to James Henry for 200 acres in Laurel county, on Woods Fork of Little Rockcastle, on Sept. 20, 1827. The last one was granted to Joseph Bardin for 100 acres in Adair county on July 6, 1849.

Lands W. F. H. Example

GranteeAcresCountyPageNo.Watercourse
BardinJoseph100Adair3143Sulphur Fk of Russell
BeardJohn T100Adair1723Short Creek
BradshawSeth95Adair3649Glen Fk of Russell
ColeDavid200Cumberland1013Caney Branch
CollinsZachariah53Adair1724Cabin Fk Russell Crk
CramerJohn50Laurel78Woods Fk Rockcastle


 

This series embraces 47 patents, recorded in one volume, and extend over the period 1827 to 1849. No data can be found in the Land Office as to what the letters W. F. H. mean. The patents are numbered 1 to 47.

Military Warrants

At the close of the Revolutionary War the State of Virginia issued a great many warrants in recognition of military services during the war. These warrants were originally recorded in two volumes of about 1000 pages each, but the original volumes were so badly worn that die Auditor, only recently, had the warrants rebound, into four volumes, of about 500 pages each. These warrants are recorded three on each page, and are numbered numerically from 1 to 4627.

The first Military Warrant was granted to James Askew, on August 8, 1782, for 100 acres. The last warrant was issued to Henry Redinger, on Oct. 20, 1793, for 1300 acres.