Military Registers FAQs

​​What is the procedure for patenting land with a Revolutionary War military warrant?
First, the veteran or his heirs received a warrant or warrants for service in the Revolutionary War. Second, under the authorization of the warrant(s), the veteran or his heirs or assigns filed an Entry with the Surveyor of the military district, which reserved the land for patenting until the field survey could be made (usually after fees were paid or it was established that the land was eligible for patenting). If there were other claims on the land being reserved, the Entry could be withdrawn or amended. Third, a field survey was made by the principal surveyor of the military district or his deputy in the presence of the surveying team, which consisted of two chainmen, a marker to blaze the trees used as corners and a housekeeper (sometimes called a pilot or director). Fourth, after the survey was completed, the warrant, survey and any supporting papers (such as a will stating the heirs' right to the land being patented) were sent to Frankfort for the issuance of the governor's grant finalizing the patenting process. No one had clear title to any land being patented until the governor's grant was issued.
What are the benefits of locating ancestors' landholdings?
Not all Kentuckians are buried in established church or government cemeteries. Instead, families tended to bury their dead in cemeteries on private land. Thus, there have been many instances of researchers locating gravestones on Kentucky farms.
What is the "Authorized" field on these databases?
Warrants do not convey title; they simply authorize the next step in the patenting process, which is the filing of the Entry in the Surveyor's Office reserving the land for patenting. The Land Office has determined which of the Virginia (VA), Old Kentucky (OK) and West of Tennessee River Military (WTRM) patents were authorized by Revolutionary War military warrants; those patent files are listed in the "authorized" field. The links in the "authorized" field are to color images of the patent file housed with the Land Office.
What does an asterisk (*) beside a patent file number mean?
An asterisk next to a patent file number indicates the Veteran's Warrant is included in the patent file.
Why are some patent files larger than others?
Military warrants could be assigned and used in combination to patent land within the Military District. For example, five military warrants of 100 acres each could authorize one 500-acre survey. All warrants included with a patent file are scanned, so researchers may need to view several warrants before finding the one for which they are searching.
What is an "assignee"?
The name on the face of a Revolutionary War warrant is the name of the Revolutionary War veteran. However, the law permitted persons to sell or trade their warrants and/or surveys. These transactions, known as "assignments," may be recorded on the back of the warrant or survey. The person to whom the land rights are conveyed is known as the "assignee." There may be multiple assignments on a single warrant or survey; the grant was issued to the final assignee. The process is much like endorsing a check to another individual. To fully understand the assignment process, you should examine all original documents and check original signatures against other signatures in familiy files.
Do I have to go to Virginia to see the patent files for military patents issued prior to June 1792?
No. Under the direction of the Virginia General Assembly, all patent files pertaining to Kentucky lands were sent to Frankfort shortly after Kentucky became a state.
Did veterans receive specific tracts of land when they received military warrants?
No. Military warrants, or "bounty land warrants," were payment for services rendered, similar to a check. Warrants did not specify a particular land location, although it was understood the veteran, his assignee or heirs had to confine land locations to the Military District.
If my ancestor is listed in a military warrants database, how can I find out where his land is located?
Neither the warrant from the Military Warrants Register nor the Veteran's Warrant, if included in the patent file, cites a specific land location. Warrants were similar to credit vouchers or checks for services rendered. The laws of Virginia established the Military District for usage of Revolutionary War warrants issued to Virginia veterans.
However, most suveys do name the closest watercourse. Thus, to determine the county in which a particular tract is located, determine the watercourse cited in the survey description and consult the Gazetteer, which lists county locations for more than 1,000 place names identified in early Kentucky patents, the 1818 Munsell map and selected articles. You should also use the County Formation Table to identify the names of mother counties. If the same watercourse runs through multiple counties, you will need to research Deeds and Wills for each of those counties in order to find the exact location of the tract. If no watercourse is cited, you may need to acquire copies of adjacent patents (or "joiners") cited in the survey description.
Once you have determined the current county in which the patent was located, you can plot the survey on a map. Topographical maps are available from t​he Kentucky Geological Survey Office, University of Kentucky, 228 Mining and Minerals Resources Building, Lexington, KY 40506, (859) 257-5500, or may be obtained from various Internet sites. Computer software that transfers poles to feet (16.5 feet equals one pole) is available for plotting surveys. Find the "anchor" patent, then piece together the patents. Overlapping patents may occur. Many professional surveyors and engineers are willing to work with researchers attempting to identify early landownership.
How can I research conveyances after the patent process was completed?
Subsequent conveyances of land patents are recorded with the county clerk and filed as deeds or wills. County records are not collaterally registered (or recorded) in Frankfort, so the Land Office does not have records of deeds, wills, marriages, etc. Those documents must be researched at the county clerk's office or at the Department for Libraries and Archives, 300 Coffee Tree Rd., Frankfort, KY.
Please keep in mind that if there has been a courthouse disaster, such as a flood or fire, records may have been destroyed. In addition, land may have been conveyed via a deed or will that was never recorded by the county clerk, as landowners frequently would "sign over" land claims by making notations on the back of a grant or deed. In addition, since grants for patents stated the land appropriation was valid for "heirs and assigns," meaning the land was not subject to reversion to the Commonwealth when a patent recipient died, the land automatically descended to heirs if no will had been written.
County tax lists through the mid-1830s identify land ownership and who obtained the original land patent, if known. And some Kentucky land conveyances are recorded with the Court of Appeals; Michael and Bettie A. Cook published a comprehensive, four-volume set of abstracts of Court of Appeals records, and microfilm of Court of Appeals records is avialable from the Kentucky History Center and the Department for Libraries and Archives.
Does the Land Office have warrants issued for service in the War of 1812?
No. Warrants for service in the War of 1812 were issued by the federal government and had to be used in federal public domain states such as Missouri and Illinois. Kentucky sent many soldiers to the War of 1812, and they or their heirs were allowed to cash pension checks within the Commonwealth, but they could not use their bounty land warrants to acquire land within the state. This partially explains the movement out of Kentucky into the public domain states by War of 1812 veterans, their heirs or assigns.
Does the Land Office have warrants issued for service in the Mexican War or the Civil War?
No. Kentucky's military patents are limited to warrants authorized for service in the French and Indian War, Lord Dunmore's War and the Revolutionary War. By the early 1860s, the system of paying soldiers with land had been discontinued and replaced with Homestead Laws.