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Virginia Land Patents and Grants

Virginia land patents (1623–1774) and land grants (1779– ), including land grants within the Northern Neck proprietary (1690–1874) and survey plats and descriptions for Northern Neck land grants (1786–1874)

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Virginia Land Patents and Grants

Overview

This collection consists of Virginia land patents (1623–1774) and land grants (1779– ), including land grants within the Northern Neck proprietary (1690–1874) and survey plats and descriptions for the Northern Neck land grants (1786–1874).

The Virginia government began recording land patents around 1623 when the royal governor, as the agent of English crown, assumed control over the distribution of unappropriated land within the new colony. A few earlier patents, issued by the Virginia Company of London, were recorded or affirmed in the first volumes. Land was principally distributed to people who brought settlers to the colony. For each immigrant, the importer was entitled to a “headright” of fifty acres of land. Because the land patents list the names of imported persons, they are the primary source for documenting early Virginia immigration. Beginning in 1699, a person could acquire unappropriated land through the purchase of “treasury rights,” and by 1715, this practice had mostly supplanted the headright system.

The Northern Neck proprietary originated in 1649, when King Charles II, then living in exile, bestowed land in northern Virginia to seven of his supporters. Through purchase and inheritance this land was consolidated by Thomas, Lord Fairfax. The land consisted of 5,282,000 acres, located between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, and stretching into what is now West Virginia. Beginning in 1690, land grants could be purchased from the agents of the proprietor. Although the proprietary ceased granting land in 1781, grants within the Northern Neck area were recorded in a separate series of volumes until 1874.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Virginia General Assembly established the Land Office and a revised system for the sale of land warrants. The warrant system remained the practice until 1950, when the distribution of vacant lands became the responsibility of the counties and independent cities. The state continued to issue grants for escheated lands.

Virginia also awarded military bounty land grants for those who had served in the French and Indian War (1754–1763), Dunmore’s War (1774), and the American Revolution (1775–1783). For additional information and online records of the military bounty land grants, see Revolutionary War Bounty Land Claims.

For a more detailed overview see the Virginia Land Office Research Note.

Search Tips

  • This collection does not index the names of people claimed as headrights.
  • Patents and grants may be searched by county (when listed), year, and acreage. In some cases, geographic place designations, such as waterways, are included in the catalog entry and may be searched. 
  • There are two copies of patent volume 4 (1655–1664) and volume 5 (1661–1666). Both copies are included in this online collection. The copy linked in the index is the transcription and does not include the names of headrights. See the original volume 4 and volume 5 to view the patents with headright names.
  • A few early volumes have duplicate page numbers, and as a result, the index is linked to the wrong patent image. If you discover a problem link, please contact us, and we will locate the correct image.
  • The index uses the name as spelled in the original documents. First names were often abbreviated; for example, Wm., Benj., Jas., and Jno. (John). In addition, some entries have only a last name, or a last name and first initial.
  • Using quotes around phrases may return fewer, more relevant results.
  • Boolean operators OR, NOT and AND written in ALL CAPS may be used. By default, all search terms will be combined with the AND operator. To exclude terms, use the NOT operator before a term.
  • Wildcards can be used to find variant spellings. The question mark (?) will match any one character. For instance, “Ols?n” will match “Olsen” or “Olson”. The asterisk (*) will match any number of characters (including zero characters). “Ch*ter” would match “Charter”, “Character”, and “Chapter”, and “Temp*” would match “Temptation”, “Temple”, and “Temporary”. Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search or within phrase searches (quotation marks).

Revised February 2021