​How many patents are filed in the County Court Order Series?
This patent series is still active. To date 70,241 patents have been assigned to the County Court Order Series.

Are patents in the County Court Order Series awarded by courts?
No. Although the county courts authorize warrants for the patents contained in this series, as with all patents, the grants conveying title to unappropriated land are issued by the governor.

How is the process for obtaining a patent in the County Court Order Series different from other patent series?
The distinguishing factor for patents in the County Court Order Series is that the warrants authorizing the patents are issued by the county court. The practice began in 1835 when the patent series was authorized by the General Assembly. Currently, under KRS 56.210, individuals may apply to the county judge/executive of the county in which land lies for a court order authorizing an entry and survey. The fiscal court establishes a price for the order, with a minimum of $5 per 100 acres and a maximum of 200 acres per order. Proceeds of sales of county court orders are paid into the county treasury.

Once the county court order is obtained, the process for patenting the land is the same: the party obtaining the order files an entry in the county surveyor's book; the surveyor completes a metes and bounds survey of the entry and the governor issues a grant finalizing the patent.

What is the difference between unappropriated and vacant land?
Unappropriated land has never been patented; it belongs to the Commonwealth and is subject to KRS Chapter 56 regarding appropriation of land in Kentucky. Vacant land does not appear to be occupied, but that does not mean it is not owned. To determine if land has been appropriated, contact your local property valuation administrator's office to determine whether taxes are being paid on it. If not, the land may be subject to sale for back taxes or adverse possession claims.

Can I apply for a patent for land that is unappropriated but not vacant?
Pursuant to KRS 56.200, an actual settler on any vacant and unappropriated land has a preemption right to up to 100 acres, to be laid off as nearly as possible in a square with his improvements in the center. Before any other person may locate the same land, three months' notice of intention to do so must be given to the actual settler, describing the land intended to be taken up or appropriated. If the actual settler does not have the land entered and surveyed in preparation for obtaining a patent within three months from the notice, the person giving notice may enter and survey the land and proceed to obtain the patent.

When does title to patented land vest?
Legal title vests at the time the survey is made, unless the plat and certificate are filed more than six months after the survey is made, in which case legal title vests as of the date of the patent. KRS 56.230(2).

Is there a way to stop a patent from issuing?
Yes. Under KRS 56.245, if it appears a patent application has been filed for land to which another claims better right, the landowner may enter a caveat with the Office of the Kentucky Secretary of State (as Register of the Land Office) to prevent the issuing of a grant until the right to issue the patent is determined. The caveat must state the plaintiff's claim and the reasons why the grant should not issue, be verified by his or his agent's affidavit and declare that it is entered in good faith with the intention of procuring the land for the plaintiff and not for the benefit of the person against whom it is entered. Please review KRS 56.245 to determine the procedures that apply to filing and determining a caveat.

What are the fees associated with the Land Office's services?
Fees associated with the Land Office's services are established by KRS 56.300:

  • Filing a caveat - $0.25
  • Filing a copy of a judgment in cases of caveat, mandamus or other action relating the the Land Office - $0.25
  • Official certificate with seal of office affixed - $5 per patent
  • Filing, registering and issuing and recording a patent on a plat and certificate of survey - $2.50
  • Copy of warrant, survey or grant - $1 each
  • Copy of any other document - $0.50 per page

Is there a map that depicts the location of Kentucky land patents?
No; patents are not mapped as they are issued.

Are county court order patents restricted to "white males over the age of 21"?
The statutes defining the patenting process for the County Court Order Series do not list exclusions for age, race or gender, and survey and grant names suggest women and African-Americans received county court order patents both before and after the Civil War. The office cannot determine how many Native Americans received county court order patents, because an applicant is not required to list ethnic background.

Why would an entry in a county surveyor's book not be listed in Jillson's Kentucky Land Grants?
Under the County Court Order Series, patents begin in the county and are finalized in Frankfort. Thus, if a warrant was purchased or survey was made for a patent application, but there is no record of the warrant or survey in Frankfort, it is possible the process ended when fees were not paid or it was determined the land was not eligible for patenting. Both Jillson's publications and the databases on this website are based on patent files in the Secretary of State's office, not local filings.

Where can researchers study court cases involving land title and mineral rights?
To review court cases, you should begin on the local level with the circuit court's files. Appellate records are available from the Department for Libraries and Archives. Court cases are not filed with the Office of the Kentucky Secretary of State.

Do Kentucky counties still have county surveyors?
Yes; although the office of county surveyor is a constitutional office elected every four years, not all counties have an office holder. The county surveyor's duties include performing any business in the civil engineering profession that he/she is lawfully ordered to do by any court in the county, and he/she may select chainmen and other necessary assistants to aid in carrying out those orders.

What laws govern surveyors and engineers?
KRS Chapter 322 sets forth the licensure requirements for engineers and land surveyors in Kentucky. Chapter 18 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations defines the standards of practice and continuing education requirements established by the Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Does the state retain surface or underground mineral rights when a patent is issued?
No. When a grant is issued finalizing a patent, the Commonwealth conveys title to all facets of the property, including surface and underground rights to timber or minerals.

Where can researchers find information on coal, oil and gas permits and leases?
Topographical maps for Kentucky are available from the Kentucky Geological Survey Office. For more information on mine licensing, mine and safety analysis, miner training and certification, oil and gas permits and maps, contact the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.