Why Bounty Land Records are Essential for Early Virginia Research

Bounty Land Records are an essential genealogy research source in identifying early Virginia ancestors for many reasons:

  1. Bounty land records identify the earliest date of residence/arrival in Virginia and frequently supply other places of residence.
  2. Names of sponsoring groups or individuals provide kinship networks for new immigrants and a variety of clues to places of origin. Sometimes, the exact place of origin is stated.
  3. Military bounty land was awarded in specific tracts or areas whose boundaries were set by law. For example, Virginia awarded bounty lands for French and Indian War service within old Rowan County, North Carolina, which became Surry and Stokes counties along the Virginia/ North Carolina border. Sometimes these grants are called British Crown Grants.
  4. When heirs claimed these military lands, they had to submit both proof of service–French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc.–as well as documenting their exact relationship to the soldier/sailor.
  5. If the soldier applied for the land, he was required to describe his military service with dates and ranks, naming his commanding officers. This proof of military service can be used to qualify for lineage society membership.
  6. Caution: once military warrants were assignable, both warrants and certificates could be endorsed like a modern check and used as currency for purchase and exchange. In such cases, military service is not proven.
  7. Bounty Land was an inducement to serve in the military, payment for risking life and limb in time of war, enticement to desert enemy forces–British Regiments or Hessian mercenaries.
  8. Experienced fighters were needed to hold frontiers against the Indians, and settlers were required to support the sovereignity of first, England and then, Virginia against foreign governments–France, Spain, Netherlands, who often enforced their territorial claims with Indian warriors.
  9. Bounty Land Records provide a unique set of documents, separate from courthouse records–they can fill in genealogy gaps caused by burned courthouses in Virginia. Bounty Land Records are the original land recordings! ORIGINALS! Review this checklist:

__Certificates of Service
__Affadavits of Service
__Land Warrants
__Assignments of Ownership
__Grants, Patents
__Land Entries
__Certificates of Importation or Arrival
__Import Lists
Surveyor Team Records
__Oaths of Office
__Hunters Lists
__Guards Lists
__Deputy Surveyors
__Chain Carriers–adjoining landowners or their heirs/relatives
__Commissioners’ Reports (incl. investigation of overlappiing claims)
__Land Agent Files
__Land Spculators’ Records
__Court Records for Land Claims and Frauds
__Re-issued Warrants, New Locations
__Land Office Ledgers

Virginia issued 82,000 headrights between 1635 and 1700. A headright was a grant of land awarded for immigrating to the Colony, usually 50 acres for each person who paid their own passage to Virginia. Agents, ship captains, and well-to-do plantation owners, in need of cheap labor, who “imported” others, could claim the headrights for each person they paid passage for. Lists of imports were filed with local county courts and submitted as proof for land claims.

Nell Nugent published the card index entries, for persons who received land grants, and the people they imported, compiled by the Archives Division of the Vriginia Library in her Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants. 3 vols. Her work was continued by other compilers in 3 more volumes. See Richard Slatten, “Virginia Land Patent Books 15-22,” Virginia Magazine of Genealogy 23-26 (1985-88). And Edgar B. Sims, in his Supplement (1963) to Index to Land Grants in West Virginia, published by the State Auditor’s Office, Charleston WV, 1952, included 50,000 names for Fincastle, Giles, and Rockingham counties. These were not available when the first edition was published. Edmund S. Morgan, “Headrights and Head Counts: A Review Article,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (1972): 361-71 compares the headright importations with extant tax rolls for 1644, 1653, 1662, 1674, and 1682. Locations for these tax lists are given in footnote 13 of this very significant article.

Bounty Lands were also awarded for special services rendered: building a fort or establishing a station, financing a settlement, or importing slaves and servants to work the lands. And for purchasing shares in Land Companies who were awarded large acreages of western lands. See Arlene H. Eakle, Virginia Research Notebook II (Family History World, P.O. Box 129, Tremonton UT 84337) for Virginia Land Companies, with maps and records, and Virginia Research Notebook VIII for a list of forts and stations.

Tune in 2 October–for a special review of migrating Europeans to Virginia–Polish, Scottish, Danish, German, and French settlers came to Virginia and blended into the population. Watch the naming patterns. You don’t want to miss this information!
NEWS FLASH! I am preparing two new volumes for my Virginia Research Notebooks series– Volume X will focus on little-known and rarely-searched Virginia jurisdictions and their records and Volume XI will discuss special Virginia genealogy research collections, where they are located, how you access them, and what you can expect to find in them. If you would like to be notified when these two volumes are ready–sometime in October–send me an email and I will place you on the list.

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One Response to Why Bounty Land Records are Essential for Early Virginia Research

  1. arlene says:

    Nell Nugent’s work has been continued by Dennis Ray Hudgins:
    Vol. IV: 1732-41. 1994.
    Vol. V: 1741-49. 1994.
    Vol. VI: 1749-62. 1994.
    All three volumes published by the Virginia Genealogical Society, 5001 W. Broad St., Suite 115, Richmond VA 23250. Last Royal land patent was granted Dec. 1774. Arlene

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