The collection consists of images of application files for military bounty land. Related bounty land certificate files are indexed, but not imaged. Following a 1779 legislative act, the state offered bounty lands for Revolutionary War military service. To qualify, a Virginia soldier or sailor had to serve at least three years continuously in the Continental or state forces. No bounty land was given by the state for militia service.
To apply, the veteran or his heirs submitted proof of military service, such as discharge papers or affidavits from commanding officers and fellow soldiers. The Governor's Office reviewed the claims. Some applications were not approved if the service could not be verified, or if the claim was considered fraudulent. Application records are designated “Bounty Warrants” if approved or “Rejected Claims” if disapproved.
Once a claim was approved, the Governor's Office issued a military certificate that authorized the Land Office to issue a warrant for a specific amount of land based on the veteran's military rank and length of service, from 100 acres for a soldier or sailor to 15,000 acres for a Major General. The Governor's Office issued 9,926 certificates, beginning in 1782 and ending in 1876, as veterans’ heirs continued to make claims. The printed certificates include an individual's name, military unit, and length of service. The submitted certificates are filed with supplemental claim papers such as the designation of heirs, attorneys, agents, or claim assignees. Certificates verify Revolutionary War service but not necessarily land ownership since in many cases the veteran or his heirs sold or “assigned” the certificate to land speculators or other individuals.
The Land Office recorded the submitted military certificates in a register that often included a notation of the associated land warrants. Often multiple warrants were issued based on the same certificate, particularly for larger land bounties. The certificate files and registers have not been digitized, but they are available on microfilm that may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Since Virginia bounty land was located either in present-day Kentucky or Ohio, most records of surveys and grants are held by those states and are not in the Library of Virginia's archival collections. Land grants in Kentucky, before it was established as a state in 1792, were recorded in the Virginia Land Grant Books. The land surveys were transferred to Kentucky in 1798.
After the U. S. Congress passed the Scrip Act in 1830 (amended in 1832 and 1833), those who held Virginia state warrants could exchange them for scrip that could be used to acquire Federal land available for public sale. In 1852, Virginia relinquished all remaining land claims, and the U. S. Congress required outstanding warrants to be submitted for Federal scrip. Warrants surrendered for scrip, along with accompanying application records, are held by the National Archives.
The federal government also granted bounty land for Revolutionary War service. Many Virginia veterans and their heirs applied for federal military bounty land grants, particularly as more land became available and the qualifications were reduced. Records of federal claims and grants are held by the National Archives. See the Related Resources section for publications about federal grants.