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Kentucky Records


Kentucky map section
John Filson, A map of Kentucky. [London: J. Stockdale, 1793] Library of Congress

When the official settlement of Kentucky lands began in 1774, the area was part of Fincastle County, Virginia. On December 31, 1776, the Virginia legislature divided Fincastle County into three counties: Washington, Montgomery, and Kentucky. Four years later, in 1780, Kentucky County was divided into three counties: Jefferson, Fayette, and Lincoln, and within a few years, six more counties had been carved out of those three. On June 1, 1792, the nine Kentucky counties became a separate state.

Records relating to Kentucky can be found within Virginia state government records, including land grants, legislative petitions, personal property tax records, and militia records. Most records predate 1793, with the exception of a few later petitions to the Virginia General Assembly from residents of Kentucky counties.

All county records, including deeds, wills, legal causes, and marriage bonds, were retained by the counties that became part of Kentucky. While the original records are not in the collections at the Library of Virginia, the Library has obtained microfilm copies of some of those records. In addition, the Fincastle County legal records, land entry, and survey books are in the records of Montgomery County, Virginia.

Tax Lists

Personal Property Tax Lists

Personal property tax lists are available for the counties listed. All tax records have been microfilmed (see Kentucky Records on Microfilm). In addition, a negative photostat copy is available to view in the Archives Research Room. Originals will be served only when microfilm and negative photostat are unreadable. 

  • Bourbon county: 1787–1791
  • Fayette County: 1787–1793
  • Jefferson County: 1789–1793
  • Lincoln County: 1787–1791
  • Madison County: 1787–1792
  • Mason County: 1790–1791, 1793
  • Mercer County: 1787, 1789
  • Shelby County: 1792
  • Washington County: 1792
  • Woodford County: 1790, 1792–1793

Land Tax Lists

The original Land Tax records for Kentucky counties were transferred to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The Library of Virginia has copies available on microfilm. The Library has the original 1789 Land Tax record for Bourbon County because it was combined with the Personal Property tax list. 

Land Grants

Patents and grants for land located in counties that became part of Kentucky, prior to 1792, are available online in the Virginia Land Patents and Grants collection. Microfilm copies of the patent and grant books are also available at the Library and may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Because much of the Virginia Land Office operations after 1779 concerned the settlement of open lands in Kentucky, a branch office was opened in that territory in 1781. The deputy register from that office semiannually submitted records to the Land Office in Richmond. After the Kentucky territory became a new state, the Virginia General Assembly instructed the Land Office register to transfer all papers relative to Kentucky lands to a representative of the new state. Some operational records for the deputy register can be found in the Land Office records, including a journal of surveys submitted to that office and a list of plats and certificates turned over to Kentucky (available on miscellaneous microfilm reel 361). 

Legislative Petitions

Petitions to the General Assembly were a primary catalyst for legislation in the commonwealth from 1776 until 1865. The Library has petitions submitted by residents of counties that became part of Kentucky. Petitions were submitted for such reasons as public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of enslaved people, religious freedom, and taxation. There are numerous petitions regarding the division of the Kentucky counties, and the establishment of the state. 

The collection includes petitions from the following Kentucky counties:

  • Bourbon County: unknown date
  • Fayette County: 1781–1791, 1824
  • Harlan County: 1831
  • Jefferson County: 1783–1791, 1826
  • Kentucky County: 1776–1780
  • Lincoln County: 1783–1790
  • Madison County: 1788–1789
  • Mercer County: 1786–1789
  • Nelson County: 1787–1789
  • Pike County: 1849
  • Shelby County: 1825
  • Woodford County: 1789–1791

The Virginia Legislative Petitions collection includes digital images of the Kentucky petitions. Search for them by county or by searching “Kentucky Counties.” The Legislative Petitions are also available on microfilm that may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Research Tip: Only the primary names are indexed in the Legislative Petitions collection, not all the signers. See Petitions of the Early Inhabitants of Kentucky to the General Assembly of Virginia in the Other Resources section for a complete name index.

Military Records

Militia Commissions, 1776 to 1792

The Militia Commission papers are part of the records of the Governor's Office. They contain militia officer nominations submitted by county officials, and include some related correspondence, orders, commissions, returns, and resignations. Pre-1792 militia commission records for the eight Kentucky counties are in this collection. The Militia Commission records have been microfilmed and the microfilm may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

  • Bourbon county: 1786–1791; misc. reel 6463
  • Fayette County: 1786–1793; misc. reel 6487
  • Jefferson County: 1784–1786; misc. reel 6517
  • Lincoln County: 1783–1790; misc. reel 6525
  • Madison County: 1786–1791; misc. reel 6533
  • Mason County: 1788–1804; misc. reel 6535
  • Mercer County: 1786–1791; misc. reel 6539
  • Woodford County: 1788–1791; misc. reel 6602

George Rogers Clark and the Board of Western Commissioners Records

In June 1781, the Virginia Council appointed a five member Board of Western Commissioners to settle the the accounts of George Rogers Clark, Oliver Pollock, and others involved in the western military campaigns. Because Clark's claims that he submitted in 1779 were misplaced, he resubmitted his accounts to the Western Commissioners in 1783. The original claims (since found) and the resubmitted copies are now intermixed. The records include the payrolls of Kentucky militia, and records of those in the Kentucky region who supplied goods for the military force. See the following collections and finding aids for additional information:

  • George Rogers Clark papers, General correspondence, accounts, and vouchers, 1776–1795, 1834–1835. APA 204. Available on microfilm (Misc. Reels 3349–3361).
  • Western Expedition Quartermaster Records, 1778–1784. APA 205.
  • George Rogers Clark papers, Supply Agent Correspondence and Accounts, 1779–1850. APA 206.
  • George Rogers Clark papers: Illinois Department Account book, 1778–1783. APA 206a.
  • Board of Western Commissioners expenses incurred in the conquest and protection of the North Western Territory and due from the United States to Virginia, 1777–1787. APA 207.