Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kentucky's Revolutionary Land Grants - Part I

Part I - J. Mark Lowe

All land in Kentucky should follow a pedigree back to a governmental grant, generally Kentucky or Virginia. This process is called land patenting. Once a part of the commonwealth of Virginia, the land of Kentucky began to be granted after the King’s Proclamation of 1763 stating that land would be granted in lieu of cash to the veterans of the French & Indian War. The Land Law of 1779 expanded the granting of land to the state’s Revolutionary War veterans. John Filson discussed the land grant process in his 1784 publication.

“The proprietors of the Kentucke lands obtain their patents from Virginia, and their rights are of three kinds, viz. Those which arise from military service, from settlement and pre-emption, or from warrants from the treasury. The military rights are held by officers, or their representatives, as a reward for services done in one of the two last wars. The Settlement and pre-emption rights arise from occupation. Every man who, before March, 1780, had remained in the country one year, or raised a crop of corn, was allowed to have a settlement of four hundred acres, and a pre-emption adjoining it of one thousand acres. Every man who had only built a cabbin, or made any improvement by himself or others, was entitled to a pre-emption of one thousand acres where such improvement was made.
In March, 1780, the settlement and pre-emption rights ceased, and treasury warrants were afterwards issued, authorizing their possessor to locate the quantity of land mentioned in them, wherever it could be found vacant in Virginia.
The mode of procedure in these affairs may be instructive to the reader. After the entry is made in the land-office, there being one in each county, the person making the entry takes out a copy of the location, and proceeds to survey when he pleases. The plot and certificate of such survey must be returned to the office within three months after the survey is made, there to be recorded; and a copy of the record must be taken out in twelve months, after the return of the survey, and produced to the assistant register of the land-office in Kentucke, where it must lie six months, that prior locators may have time and opportunity to enter a caveat, and prove their better right. If no caveat is entered in that time, the plot and certificate are sent to the land-office at Richmond, in Virginia, and three months more are allowed to have the patent returned to the owner.”

John Filson, The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky: And an Essay Towards the Topography and Natural History of that Important Country....(Wilmington, 1784)p 36-38.

Kentucky's Military District over current county map


  1. My ancestor came to Kentucky in the early 1850s. The father of this man was a Revolutionary War soldier. If the land settled in Kentucky was not within the Military District as shown above, would I assume there was no military grant?

  2. Lisa,
    I would first say, "Never assume anything with genealogical research." It is unlikely it was military grant if located outside the district. You can check the database at the Kentucky Land office for Revolutionary War grants and other non-military grants. http://www.sos.ky.gov/land/ We will follow this process in later blogs, too.

  3. So, if a family came to Kentucky and settled outside this district (i.e. Lewis Co. or Bourbon Co.) in the 1790-1805 range, their land was not a military grant?
    Thank you for this series....I know I'll learn a lot.

  4. Mary - Probably not. We will cover the specifics and how to find the grant (military and non-military) in this series.

  5. My Family came to Kentucky in 1782 with a Revolutionary War Grant 7 miles up the Ohio River from the Little Miami River.I have copies of Grant and Map.Approximately across river from East Outer belt of Cincinnati Ohio in Kentucky.


    1. Do you know where to get information on land grants for Dayton, KY? Any help would be appreciated. It's important.

  6. My family came to KY in the early 1800 and settled in Christian County. Abram or Abraham Adams estate settled in 1825. I would like any information regarding where he came from and if he was in the Revolutionary War?
    Thanks very much.

    1. Abraham and Sarah Adams came from Laurens County SC and had William and Sylvia Dunn Adams. Abraham dies in 1815 in Christian County Kentucky. I am his direct descendent.

    2. My 4th great-grandmother, Charity Adams, was supposedly born in Southern Kentucky in 1783 to a William Adams and an unknown mother. She claimed to be an orphan in 1800 when she married John Bly.

  7. My brick wall is my great-great-grandfather, Reuben Miller Dillon. According to censuses he was born in KY in 1832 (place and date is unknown; also his parents and siblings are unknown). He probably was in the Warrick County, IN census of 1850 living with the Cyrus K. Allen family who were from Cumberland County, KY. If that's my Reuben Dillon living with them I would presume he MIGHT be from Cumberland County as well. In 1857 my Reuben Miller Dillon was in California where I've been able to track him to his death in 1899. Also, in the censuses he states his parents were born in VA. I have not made any headway on this brick wall for several years. What else can I do? There is a slight chance this may be his parents and siblings but I cannot prove it.

    William Dillon (born 3/25/1806 in Halifax, VA) married on 9/19/1825
    Elizabeth Nunn (born 1801 VA, died KY); children
    Andrew J. Dillon (born 5/11/1834) in KY
    James Ingram (born KY)
    Jane (married Hart)
    Martha (married Woodruff)
    Dorothy (married Shumate then Amos Gardner)

  8. My brick wall is my 4x great grandparents Robert and Elizabeth Campbell Mitchell. They came to Ky in the early 1780s. He was given a land grant in 1782. I'm interested in finding the present day location of this land. I've looked at maps from that era but with the changes in the natural landscape of Louisville, it's difficult to figure it out. Also, on land plat maps, I can't find his name. Where would you go to find this information? Thank you.

  9. In the county where I live in KY the land maps are kept in the County Clerks office or the County assessor's office. That would be the places where I would start. As that is where the bill for taxes comes from also. Some cities may have started putting those land maps on the computer due to lack of space. The books are really big. Unfortunately some places may have lost information due to flood, fire, or other unfortunate incidents. The only thing you can do is try. If you are wanting to look on the computer just type in the google search engine exactly what you want. You may have to keep typing in different phrases until you find the right one.
    Many local libraries offer classes sometimes for free on how to learn genealogy. Give that a try. Good Luck

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