Quite often, when looking for early land records, you’ll see recommendations to go to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website at glorecord.glm.gov. That site is great if you are researching in a Federal Land State. Federal land states survey their land in neat little squares. The survey begins with a square township, 6 miles on each side. Each township is divided into 36 section of 1 square mile (1 mile on each side). A piece of land was surveyed within these squares and given notations like “The Northeast Quarter of Section 14”, abbreviated as NE1/4. Or “The Northeast quarter of the Northwest quarter of Section 14”, abbreviated as NE1/4 NW1/4. It’s a very organized way to plat out land and you can read more about that on the FamilySearch Wiki.

But Kentucky is one of the State Land States, which survey land in metes and bounds. “Metes” are the landmarks such as trees, rocks, riverbanks, or stakes at each endpoint of a boundary. “Bounds” show the direction and distance of the line drawn to the next landmark. You can’t find the original land documents for State Land States on the Bureau of Land Management site.

To find the early land records for Kentucky, we need to go to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website. This site holds a TON of information for us – if you know where to look. But here’s the thing…every time a new Secretary of State comes into office, they seem to want to change the website around! So keeping track of links is nice, but don’t be surprised if they change. Now here’s the moral of this story – If you find a record for someone you are researching, even if it’s not your direct ancestor, DOWNLOAD IT! Perhaps you’ll find a record that mentions your ancestor as a neighbor. DOWNLOAD IT! Perhaps you find a record where your ancestor assigns his rights to another person. DOWNLOAD IT! Be sure you have your file naming system set so that you will be able to find it easily within your digital files. The amount of time you will spend looking for that record again could lead to some inappropriate language flying around your desk, so save yourself the headache and DOWNLOAD THE FILE! Don’t want all those records taking up drive space? Put them in the cloud or on an external drive. But if you do that, make sure you have a way of keeping track of what you have. And I have a form you can download to help keep track of the information as you find it. See yesterday’s post for more details on using the form. You can download 3 versions of the form in the Downloads tab at the top of the blog.

I try to keep a stack of blank forms nearby when I’m doing land research. I add any information as I find it and I use the blank box as a place to write down “unknown” information. For example, I might see a number in a margin or on a map, but I can’t figure out what it’s referring to. Later, if I decide to keep a digital version of the sheet, I add any survey maps or maps I’ve made myself in DeedMapper to the empty box.

Confession time: I have written this post at least 5 times over the last couple of years. I have drafts of several uncompleted posts, but I always end up stopping because I get confused myself! Which index? Was that a book or a website? After finding a listing, where do I search for images? Where did I get that record from? Many of the resources used for finding these records either look exactly alike, have very similar names, or are just plain labeled incorrectly! So I decided to make an outline instead of a narrative. This is the outline that I will keep in my own digital folder to pull up any time I want to do land research. I’ve included the outline in my Google Drive and you can access it here. There are many more resources on FamilySearch, but they can only be viewed from a Family History Center or Affiliate Library. My library IS an affiliate library, but they currently have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the computers due to Covid restrictions. As I discover more about these resources over time, I will update the document in Drive. You can also download the current outline in the Downloads tab at the top of the blog, but that version won’t be updated as often as the Google Drive version.

Quick refresher: there are 4 steps to obtaining land through a land grant program:

  1. Warrant (or Certificate)
  2. Entry – an intention to file for a patent and get permission for a survey
  3. Survey
  4. Patent (or Land Grant)
  • Military Warrants were recognized for service in the French & Indian War and Revolutionary War. No Military Warrants for service in the War of 1812 or later.
  • Warrants & surveys could be traded, sold, or reassigned anytime during the patenting process. Pay attention to the back side of documents.

Just like in regular genealogy – it may be helpful to search “backward” beginning with the land grant then moving backward to find the other documents.

Indexes and Links to Images of Land Records

Step 1: Warrants or Certificates

  1. Was the individual a French & Indiana War or Revolutionary soldier?
    1. Images: Revolutionary War Warrants Search – Link
  2. Do you have a Warrant Number?
    1. Use the number to search Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
  3. Feeling lucky?
    1. Where to search – Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
    1. Perform a search for the name (one word search is best – if you search “Edison, Thomas”, you will get every Edison and Thomas in the database, including assignee (Thomas Smith), watercourses (Edison Creek) or notes (3 miles east of Edison).
    1. If the watercourse was not too large (i.e., Kentucky River), search for the watercourse and scan the list. (Remember, if you search for Smith Creek, you will see every Creek listed on a warrant.)
    1. Right now (2/21), I get an error message if I try to un-check any of the boxes (Search notes, Search watercourse, Search assignees) to narrow down the search.
  4. No luck? Could be due to spelling variations. Use the indexes below.
  5. These links are for early warrants. Before Kentucky became a state or in Kentucky’s early years. There are later warrants, but so far, I have not been able to find their location. This outline will be updated as more information is collected.

Step 2: Entry

  • See Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds (Jillson) for an index – viewable on FamilySearch – Link
  • Fayette County Entries Index (1782 – 1817) – Link
  • Search the SOS site for images of Lincoln County Entries – Link 
    • Using this site gives you the cropped image. Using the FamilySearch site (FHC or affiliate library only) allows you to see the entire page.
      • Note: The SOS site gives the Entry # in the information box. That is not seen in the image and I’m not sure where it comes from but it’s worth noting. (County Entry books usually include the number.)
  • Images: Fayette County Entries (1782 – 1783) – Link (beginning with image 125)
  • Images: Fayette County Entries (1783 – 1817) – Link
  • Later surveyor entry books are housed on the county level. (Search FamilySearch under the county name > Land records)

Step 3: Survey or Plat or Survey Certificate

  • On the FamilySearch website, there is a group of records titled “Kentucky land warrants, 1815 – 1844” with the author being the Kentucky State Land Office. HOWEVER, these books are actually the surveys! Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library) There is a similarly named group of records called “Kentucky land warrants, 1816-1873” with the author being the Kentucky Governor. This set of records contains the warrants. Link included below in the Kentucky Land Warrants section.
    • If you have a copy of the land grant (see below), look in the margin for the survey number. It isn’t labeled, it’s just part of the margin notes.
    • The book is arranged numerically by survey number. However, be sure to check different books in the same number range if you don’t find it in the first book you look for. Here’s a list that I compiled of the survey numbers by book:
      • Book 1: 1-1022 (there is no Book A)
      • Book B: 517-1899 (notice the overlap in numbers)
      • Book C: 1095-3133
      • Book D: 3134-4093
      • Book E: 3229-4542
      • Book F: 4543-5237
      • Book G: 5238-5854
      • Book H: 5248-7748
      • Book I: 6738-8714
      • Book J: 7795-9450
      • Book K: 8853-10262
      • Book L: 9043-11729
      • Book M: 10263-11336
      • Book N: 11592-16121
      • Book O: 11822-16115
      • Book P: 11776-13524
      • Book Q: 14075-24872
      • Book R: 14167-15178
  • Images: Land grant surveys south of the Green River, Kentucky, 1796-1825 (includes a book for index) – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
  • Images: Land grant surveys south of Walkers line, v1, no. 1-904, 1825-1829 – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
  • Images: County court order warrant surveys, 1836-1844; survey warrants for headright, 1827 – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)

Step 4: Land Grants (Patents)

  • Note: these images may not include the warrant certificates. To see those:
  • Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
  • If there is an SOS option, I did not include FamilySearch links because most of them cannot be viewed from home. I may update later to include these links as well because they are easier to scroll through as opposed to going directly to an image. Sometimes, it is helpful to view the pages before and after a specific grant.

(1782 – 1792) Virginia Series  

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link 
    • Begins on p15
  • Master Index to Virginia Surveys and Grants (KHS) –  Link (downloadable) Link (I have not tried to download.)
  • Images: SOS site – Link (Select Virginia Patent Series in the dropdown)

(1793 – 1856) Old Kentucky SeriesLink 

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p140
  • Index for Old Kentucky Surveys and Grants (KHS)
    • Kentucky Historical Society – Link 
    • FamilySearch (microfilmed version of the book, but easier to skim than the link above) Link 
  • Images: SOS site – Link (Select Old Kentucky Patent Series in the dropdown)

(1797 – 1866) South of Green River Series (often known as “Headrights Claims”)

  • after Kentucky became a state, they opened the former Military District to settlers meeting certain requirements: 21 years or older, resident on the property for at least 1 year, an improvement: planting a crop or building a cabin
  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p256
  • Index and Land Grant books on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)

(1803 – 1853) Tellico Seriesland is primarily located in southeastern Kentucky

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p443
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1816 – 1873) Kentucky Land Warrant Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p451
  • Images on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
    • Includes an index (1812-1836) and books A-R2 (1816-1873)

(1822 – 1858) West of Tennessee River Military Claims (Jackson Purchase) – 242 patents

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p783
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1822 – 1858) West of Tennessee River Series (Non-Military)

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p783
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1825 – 1923) South of Walker’s Line Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p892
  • Images on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library) Are these grants or surveys?

(1836 – 1924) County Court Order Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p952
  • Images on the SOS site at Link