West of Tennessee River Military Patents FAQs

​​Where is "West of Tennessee River" in Kentucky?
Located between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River in far western Kentucky, the region is known as the Jackson Purchase. Counties within the Jackson Purchase are Hickman, Calloway, Graves, McCracken, Marshall, Ballard, Fulton and Carlisle.

Are WTR military patents the only Revolutionary War patents in Kentucky?
No. Other Revolutionary War patents, located in the Military District established by the Virginia Land Law of 1779, are filed with the Virginia and Old Kentucky patent series. The Secretary of State's Revolutionary War database identifies veterans, assignees, military warrant numbers and patents authorized by military warrants. Patents are identified by series and patent number.

Can I access the Virginia and Old Kentucky Revolutionary War patents on the WTR Military Patent Database?
No. Each series has a separate index.

Have the WTR Military patents appeared in published indices of Kentucky land patents?
The Kentucky HIstorical Society indexed the WTR military patents as the original documents were being microfilmed and laminated, but the Society did not publish the finished index. A typed manuscript of the Society's data is available at the Kentucky History Center Library and a limited number of research facilities. Unless the grant finalizing the WTR patent was issued under the Virginia or Old Kentucky series of patents, rather than the WTR military series, the information does not appear in Jillson's Kentucky Land Grant volumes.

If my ancestor is not listed on either the Revolutionary War Warrants Database or the WTR Military Patents Database, does that mean he did not patent land in Kentucky?
No. More than 100,000 land patents were issued in the Commonwealth from 1779 through 2000, and very few were authorized by military warrants. To determine whether an ancestor acquired land through the patent process, you should research all patent series (Virginia, Old Kentucky, WTR Military, South of Green River, Tellico, Kentucky Land Warrants, South of Walker's Line, WTR Non-Military, Warrants for Headrights, and County Court Orders). Jillson's The Kentucky Land Grants indexes all patent recipients by grant name, and the Kentucky HIstorical Society's The Master Index of Virginia Surveys and Grants and The Old Kentucky Patents index surveys with cross-references for grant name. The Historical Society also has typed manuscripts for other patent series, which are available at the Kentucky History Center Library. The Land Office is continuing to index and add information not featured in these publications and scanning additional documents for internet access.

What is the patent process for WTR Military patents?
The process is the same as for other military patents. 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, 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.

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 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 or 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 will 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 available from the Kentucky History Center and the Department for Libraries and Archives.

Could Revolutionary War veterans who served out of states other than Virginia use their military warrants in Kentucky?
No. Each colony paid soldiers for their military service with land in their respective western frontiers. However, Revolutionary War veterans from states other than Virginia could patent land in Kentucky under other warrants, purchase and inherit land in Kentucky, or cash pension checks in Kentucky.

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 heirs or assigns had to confine land locations to the military district

Were any of the WTR Military patents issued for service in the War of 1812 or later wars?
No. The only military warrants honored in Kentucky were for service in the French and Indian War, Lord Dunmore's War and the Revolutionary War. War of 1812 veterans and veterans of later wars, such as the Mexican War, could not use their federally issued bounty land warrants in Kentucky. Such warrants had to be used in public domain states, such as Illinois, MIssouri or Indiana. Kentucky is a state-land state not counted in the federal public domain jurisdiction.

What was the patent process for West of Tennessee River Non-Military patents?
In 1820, the Kentucky General Assembly ordered the Jackson Purchase be mapped according to the public land system, i.e., ranges, townships and sections. After Revolutionary War veterans had completed their land claims, the remainder of the West of Tennesse River was sold by the quarter-section at public auction or in direct sales by the Land Office in that region. Receipts for land purchases were sent to Frankfort where the Governor's grant was issued finalizing the West of Tennesse River Non-Military patents. Those receipts, many of which include original signatures on assignments, and copies of grants are available from the Secretary of State's Land Office (official grants were sent to the landowners). This is the only series in which tract location can actually be determined by plotting range, township, section and quarter-section on the Loughridge Map.

What surveying method was used to map the West of Tennessee River Military patents?
The military patents were mapped by the metes and bounds system. "Metes" refers to distance - in most cases arc and compass bearing, such as "North 45 degrees, East 65 poles." A pole or rod equals 16.5 feet. "Bounds" refers to corners, such as "a white oak tree." The "marker" on the surveying team identified the corners of the survey.

Is there a patent map that depicts the location of the West of Tennessee River patents?
Although it appears that the General Assembly required that the Principal Surveyor of the West of Tennessee River Military District keep an official map depicting tract locations, no such map has been located. Researchers must determine tract location by plotting survey calls in the land patent or running a "chain of title" forward through county deeds.

Could women patent land?
The Kentucky General Assembly did not limit the the West of Tennessee River Military patent process by race or gender. Research reveals that several patent recipients were women.

Where are the original records for the West of Tennessee River Military patents?
Original warrants, entries and surveys for the West of Tennessee River Military Patent Series are housed in the Secretary of State's Land Office. Copies of grants are recorded in the Land Office Grant Books. The official grant, bearing the Governor's signature and Seal of the Commonwealth, was issued to the veteran, his heirs or assigns.