FAQs

What is a treasury warrant?
Kentucky lands are appropriated through the land patenting process, which consists of four steps: (1) a warrant(s) determines the total amount of acreage that may be patented; (2) an entry is filed in the county surveyor's book reserving land for patenting; (3) a field survey depicts and describes the tract being patented; and (4) the Governor's grant finalizes the patent by conveying title. A variety of warrants were used to patent land in early Kentucky; for example, some were awarded as payment for military service or building roads, and some were awarded for meeting residency requirements. The most common type of warrants were treasury warrants. Treasury warrants were purchased, with the price determined by the acreage specified. Warrants on this database were issued by the Virginia Land Office after verification by the Virginia Auditor and Treasurer that the necessary fees had been paid.
 
Does the Treasury Warrant Database include scanned images?
No. Although the Land Office has entered into the database information for each entry in the Treasury Warrants Register, Volumes I and II, the books were not scanned. Many of the patents in the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series that were authorized by the treasury warrants indexed on this database are linked in the "image" field. If no patents are listed, contact the Land Office for additional research suggestions.
 
What is the largest amount of acreage authorized by a single treasury warrant?
On October 21, 1783, James Monroe paid 153,825 pounds for the right to patent 96140.5 acres under Treasury Warrant No. 20139.
 
Were treasury warrants assignable?
Yes. Many of the warrants were assigned immediately after purchase, and those assignees were listed in the Register and are included on this database. Research of patents authorized by the warrants would indicate how many assignments occurred before the governor's grant issued.
 
Were treasury warrants purchased by land speculators?
Yes. The Warrants Register lists a number of individuals who purchased warrants to patent the "waste and unappropriated land" of Virginia. Many persons employed the services of agents to purchase treasury warrants for them. If patents were issued "clear" (free of challenges), the agent would be compensated in land or money. (Agreements between agents and speculators are not filed with patent records.)
 
Could women purchase treasury warrants?
Yes.
 
Did Kentucky issue treasury warrants after statehood?
Yes. In 1815 the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that established the Kentucky Land Warrant Patent Series. A total of 26,080 land patents in Kentucky are authorized by warrants purchased from the Kentucky Land Office. Today warrants are sold by county courts, but the patenting process is not complete until the governor's grant is issued.
 
Who maintains the files containing the Virginia treasury warrants used for patenting Kentucky land?
Warrants, surveys and copies of grants are maintained in the Kentucky Secretary of State's Land Office. Records have been cleaned, deacidified, laminated or encapsulated, microfilmed and digitized for this website.
 
What law governed the use of treasury warrants in the Kentucky land patenting process?
Chapter XIII of the Virginia Acts, approved in May 1779, outlines the function of treasury warrants in the Kentucky land patenting process. It provides:
 
II……….And for creating a sinking fund in aid of the annual taxes to discharge the public debt: be it enacted, that any person may acquire title to so much waste and unappropriated land as he or she shall desire to purchase, on paying the consideration of forty pounds for every hundred acres, and so in proportion for a greater or smaller quantity, and obtaining certificate from the public auditors in the following manner: the consideration money shall be paid into the hands of the treasurer, who shall thereupon give to the purchaser a receipt for the payment, specifying the purpose it was made for, which being delivered to the auditors, they shall give to such person a certificate thereof, with the quantity of land he or she is thereby entitled to.
      
 III. And be it enacted, that upon application of any person or persons, their heirs or assigns, having title to waste or unappropriated lands, either by military rights or treasury rights, and lodging in the land office a certificate thereof, the register of the said office shall grant to such person or persons a printed warrant under his hand and the seal of his office, specifying the quantity of land and the rights upon which it is due, authorizing any surveyor duly qualified according to law, to lay off and survey the same, and shall regularly enter and record in the books of his office, all such certificates and the warrants issued thereupon, which warrants shall be always good and valid until executed by actual survey, or exchanged in the manner herein after directed; provided that no warrant on treasury rights, other than preemption warrants, to be obtained by virtue of this act, shall be granted or issued before the fifteenth day of October next; nor shall the surveyor of any county admit the entry or location of any warrant on treasury rights, except preemption warrants, in his books, before the first day of May next. Any person holding a land warrant upon any of the before mentioned rights, may have the same executed in one or more surveys in such case, or where the lands on which any warrant is located shall be insufficient to satisfy such warrant the party may have the said warrant exchanged by the register of the land office for others of the same amount in the whose, but divided as best may answer the purposes of the party, or entitle him to so much land elsewhere as will make good the deficiency.
The full text of the Land Law of 1779 B is also available on the Land Office website.
 
Disclaimer: The text of this Act is presented with its original spelling and punctuation. It was intered manually, and researchers should consult the published versions of the Kentucky Acts for official use. Those Acts can be researched at the Kentucky History Center Library, the Department for Libraries and Archives, and the Supreme Court Law Library, all in Frankfort.
 
Were any treasury warrants awarded for military service?
Research indicates George Rogers Clark received a special allotment of 300 treasury warrants in lieu of a bounty of $750 for recruiting his battalions. As there was no limitation on the price Clark could charge for the warrants, he could raise with the warrants more funds than the original bounty. Proceeds from warrant sales could be used to purchase supplies, or warrants could have been used as an inducement for enlistment. A study of the patents authorized by Clark's warrants would indicate who bought warrants and whether they served with Clark. See the "Images" field on this database for patent number identification. Studies of Acts and Resolutions by the Virginia General Assembly would reveal whether treasury warrants were issued to other individuals for similar purposes.
 
What form of currency was used to purchase the treasury warrants listed on the database?
The printed warrants indicate pounds, shillings and pence were used to purchase treasury warrants from 1779 to 1783.