Virginia and Old Kentucky Patents FAQs

​What is a land patent?
Land patenting is the governmental process by which Kentucky lands are appropriated. The process 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. Warrants and surveys are assignable during the patenting process, and entries may be withdrawn or amended. Title does not vest until the Governor's grant is issued.

Where can I find conveyances after the grant is issued?
Subsequent conveyances are filed with county clerks in Deed Books, Will Books and, occasionally, court records. There is no central registry of deeds in Kentucky. Keep in mind that you may need to access multiple counties' records depending on county formation dates. Contact the county clerk or the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to research county records.

What types of authorizations were used to obtain land under the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series?
Authorizations for obtaining land under the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series were (1) warrants issued for service in the French and Indian War and Lord Dunmore's War, (2) warrants issued by Virginia Governors, (3) certificates of settlement (or "corn claims"), (4) preemption warrants, (5) treasury warrants, (6) importation warrants, (7) warrants used as payment for clearning roads or finding salt, (8) warrants issued to Virginia veterans of the Revolutionary War, their heirs or assigns, and (9) various legislative acts passed by the VIrginia General Assembly and Kentucky General Assembly.

What is a Virginia Land Patent?
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a daughter of the state of Virginia, and various royal proclamations and legislative acts by the Virginia Assembly established the patenting process for Kentucky County or the Kentucky District. Under the Compact with Virginia, Kentucky agreed to honor patents issued by Virginia Governors prior to Kentucky's statehood on June 1, 1792. Those 9,540 patent files comprise the Virginia Patent Series.

What is an Old Kentucky Land Patent?
After statehood on June 1, 1792, the Kentucky General Assembly maintained the same method of land patenting established by the royal proclamations and Virginia Land Laws, and title to land after that date was conveyed by grants signed by Kentucky governors. The 7,771 patents finalized by those grants comprise the Old Kentucky Patent Series.

Where are the original records for the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series?
Virginia patents affecting Kentucky land title were transferred to Frankfort shortly after Kentucky's statehood. From 1792 until 1898, the Register of the Land Office was a constitutional officer who oversaw the land patent files and directed the issuance of Kentucky land patents. In 1898 the Register's office was abolished, and duties were transferred to the Auditor of Public Accounts. In 1934 a governmental reorganization assigned land office duties to the Secretary of State.

In 1974, Secretary of State Ken Harper contracted with the Kentucky Historical Society for research, lamination and preservation of all Kentucky land patent files. The project was later transferred to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Original documents for all patent series are now housed with the Kentucky Secretary of State's Land Office and have been scanned and made available on this website.

Why does the name on the first image differ from the name on the patent listing?
In most instances the first image in the patent file is a warrant, which was assignable. The grant is usually the last record in the file, and the name on the grant will match the name on the patent listing as the person who acquired title to the land.

How does this information relate to Jillson's The Kentucky Land Grants?
Willard Rouse Jillson indexed the names of persons patenting land in Kentucky prior to 1792 in the "Virginia Grants" chapter and those patenting land immediately after Kentucky's statehood in the "Old Kentucky Grants" chapter of Kentucky Land Grants

How does this information relate to The Master Index: Virginia Surveys & Grants, Index to Old Kentucky Surveys & Grants and Tellico Surveys & Grants? 
These are Kentucky HIstorical Society publications that index patents by the names of the persons for whom the surveys were made. Because these publications index patents by the person obtaining the survey, they will include names not listed in Jillson's publication, which includes only the names of grantees. You can access the image files on this website by searching by patent number ("survey number" in the KHS publications).

Do other Kentucky Land Office websites relate to the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series?
Yes. Depending on the type of warrant, information regarding warrants in the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series might also be available in the Lincoln Entries, Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants, Revolutionary War Warrants or Treasury Warrants databases. If you want to determine whether future generations patented land in Kentucky since 1835, the County Court Orders Database advanced search function will allow you to search for that information.

Is there a master map that depicts the locations of Kentucky patents?
No. Maps of locations of Kentucky patents were likely kept on the local level with the county surveyor. They were not sent to teh Land Office by surveyors, nor did the Land Office track patent locations as grants were issued. Over the years, this has resulted in overlapping claims, usually referred to as "junior" and "senior" patents. However, researchers interested in plotting patent locations may wish to contact local historical societies and surveyors to detemine whether patent maps for particular areas are available and access tax lists from 1795 to the mid-1830s to determine the names of individuals involved in the original patents. The patent, and possibly subsequent deeds and conveyances, could then be plotted if survey calls are provided in the filings.

Are there other Kentucky Land Patent Series?
Yes; there are nine major Kentucky Land Patent series: Virginia, Old Kentucky, South of Green River, Tellico, Kentucky Land Warrants, County Court Orders, South of Walker's Line, West of Tennessee River (Non-Military) and West of Tennessee River (Military).

How many Kentucky Land Patent series are available online?
The Virginia, Old Kentucky and West of Tennesse Military Patent Series are currently available online. In addition, scanned images for more than 8,200 County Court Orders are available on this website. Additional databases are under construction. To request copies of patent files that are not currently available online, submit an online order form or contact the Land Office at 502-564-3490 or via email. In addition, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives has microfilm of many of the patent series, and the Research Library at the Kentucky History Center has microfilm and printed versions of Land Office survey and grant books for series other than the County Court Orders.

How can I determine whether a grant in my possession is an "orginal"?
It is not unusual for Kentuckians who have inhereited land patented by their ancestors or purchased land directely from patent recipients to have the original grants or patent deeds as part of their chain of title. Professional archivists can determine the age of paper and ink by examining the document. We also suggest you check the document for the term "certified" or "certified copy." At one time, the Land Office transcribed each word on a grant form, then wrote "Certified" or "Certified Copy." If one of those terms appears on the document, you can determine the approximate age of the document of your document by determining the years during which that Secretary of State served.

Can I print documents in the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series?
With the exception of the Land Office copies of grants, documents in the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series have been scanned in color. For optimal print quality, we recommend you use a color printer.

Search pages for the series have preview panes for documents contained in the patent files. Preview panes are offered in low, mid and high resolution. Images can be printed directly from the preview pane, in which case print quality is determined by resolution choice.

Additional printing options are available through the Advanced Image Viewer:

  • By clicking "Hide All Options" and "Submit," copies will be branded with the patent series identification and patent file number;
  • Using the page numbers included in the preview pane, you can select which records you want to print, rather than printing the complete file;
  • You can adjust the image for easier reading by experimenting with the "Resize in Browser" option;
  • To print on paper larger than 8.5" x 11", adjust the image size and page count under "File," "Print Preview."

You can also save files, for example in picture format for photo software editing, by right clicking inside an image. All patent files can be downloaded in multi-page .tiff format.