In 1776, the Virginia General Assembly formed Kentucky County out of Fincastle County. The complete text of all Acts creating Kentucky's 120 counties, plus the Acts creating Fincastle, Kentucky, Beckham, Henrietta and Zollicoffer counties, is contained on this website.
Land in Kentucky is allocated by the land patenting process, which consists of four steps:
- The warrant(s) authorizing the survey;
- The entry reserving the land for patenting;
- The field survey; and
- The Governor's grant finalizing the patent.
Title is not conveyed until the grant is issued.
The Secretary of State's Land Office is the repository for all records pertaining to patents issued within the Kentucky boundary, including patents issued by the state of Virginia prior to Kentucky's statehood in 1792.
Kentucky land patents are divided into nine major groupings, each of which traces its origin to Acts of the Virginia or Kentucky General Assembly. In all instances the grantor is either the state of Virginia or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the grantee is the person or persons who receives the Governor's grant finalizing the patenting transaction. Images for patent files that have been scanned are available through the Patent Series Overview website; additional patent series will be made available online as they are scanned.
Early Kentucky settlers who made an improvement and planted a crop prior to January 1, 1778, were entitled to a 400-acre certificate of settlement and could purchase an additional adjacent 1,000 acres under a preemption warrant. Persons who made an improvement and planted a crop in Kentucky County, Virginia from January 1, 1778, through May 1779 could purchase a 400-acre preemption warrant. This office maintains a database of settlers whom the Land Commission deemed qualified for Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants.
Chapter XIII, Land Law B, passed in May 1779, expanded the land patenting process to include acquisitions under treasury warrants. Information for all entries in the Virginia Treasury Warrants Registers, Vols. I and II as copied by Edmund Thomas, Register of the Kentucky Land Office, and certified by William Prince, Register of the Virginia Land Office, is available online.
In 1780, Kentucky County, Virginia, was divided into three counties (Jefferson, Fayette and Lincoln), each of which had a principal surveyor who conducted field surveys and oversaw the work of deputy surveyors in the county. Entries for Lincoln County are listed on this website.
Occasionally, heirs and devisees filed Wills in order to finalize patents initiated by deceased family members. Wills that have been located by this office are accessible on this website.
The Jackson Purchase in Western Kentucky is the only portion of Kentucky mapped by the federal government's public surveying method. The Jackson Purchase Locator allows researchers to enter range, township and East/West coordinates to determine the location of a West of Tennessee River patent as defined by the 1885 Loughridge Map. West of Tennessee River patents are indexed in Jillson's Kentucky Land Grants, Vol. 1.