Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants FAQs

​​What do the records in the Certificates of Settlement & Preemptions Database contain?
The certificates reflect the district in which the commissioners met, the location of the meeting, the date on which authorizations were approved, the type of authorization granted (i.e., 400-acre certificates of settlement, 1,000-acre preemption warrants or 400-acre preemption warrants), applicant's name, tract location, and time period in which the settlement was made. Some certificates also name the improvement as a cabin or hut. If the rightful applicant was deceased, the certificate may relate the nature of death and heirs' names. Certificates are signed by the land commissioners and certified by the clerk of the Commission.

The database and patent file indicate my ancestor received a 1,000-acre tract under a preemption warrant. Why wasn't the total acreage 1,400 acres?
Persons who had "marked out" or chosen unappropriated lands and built any house or hut or had made improvements prior to January 1, 1778, were entitled to one preemption warrant of no more than 1,000 acres. Proof of actual settlement, such as planting of a crop, was not required. Research suggests this type of preemption warrant may have been issued to a member of a surveying party.

What land patent series were authorized by certificates of settlement and preemption warrants?
A number of patents in the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series were authorized by certificates of settlement and preemption warrants.

Where can I see patents authorized prior to 1792?
The original patents authorized prior to 1792 were sent to Kentucky shortly after Kentucky's statehood. The records are housed in the Kentucky Secretary of State's Land Office. All records have been cleaned, deacidified, laminated, microfilmed, indexed and digitized for this website.

Where can I access the microfilm of the original certificates of settlement and authorizations for preemption warrants?
The Office of Secretary of State has placed copies of the microfilm in its Land Office, the Kentucky HIstory Center Library, the Department for Libraries and Archives Research Library, the Filson Club, the Sons of the American Revolution Library and the Library of Virginia.

If a patent file shows a warrant with an embossed seal, is that a preemption warrant?
Yes - that is the warrant purchased by the applicant and given to the surveyor when the entry was filed. The warrant and the survey were then submitted to the Land Office for the issuance of the governor's grant finalizing the patent. If the survey in the patent file indicates the preemption warrant was not located, access the "Cropped Images" on the "Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants Database," as several applicants' warrants are included in those files.

Are there separate documents associated with certificates of settlement?
No. The slips of paper signed by the land commissioners served as the authorizations for the certificate of settlement tracts. No other warrants were generated by the Virginia Land Office.

How many certificates of settlement and authorizations for preemption warrants were included on the Library of Virginia microfilm?
There are 2,738 files spanning October 14, 1779, to May 10, 1785. According to this office's database, certificates of settlement and authorizations for preemption warrants were issued in the following counties now in Virginia or West Virginia:

  • Monongalia (687)
  • Yohogania (214)
  • Washington (136)
  • Ohio (109)
  • Montgomery (100)
  • Greenbrier (49)
  • Botetourt (9)
  • Augusta (4)
  • Yohogania & Ohio (2)

The remaining 1384 certificates of settlement and authorizations for preemption warrants were located in the Kentucky District.