Take the History Underfoot Tour!August 4, 2023
Cemetery Tour 2023 HighlightsOctober 5, 2023
Other Research Resources
To view the actual records, we recommend researchers access the scanned color images of the Virginia & Old Kentucky patents on the Secretary of State's Land Office website.
Researchers can view metadata and images from following pages on the Kentucky Secretary of State's website:
- Treasury Warrants Register
- Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants
- Doomsday Book
- Lincoln Entries
- Early Tax Lists
The tax lists (through the mid-1830s) can also provide information regarding the original patentees for properties within Mercer County and using that information, researchers can access the "Mercer County Land Patent" book to find the location of the property their ancestor may have acquired by Deed or Will.
(We express our eternal gratitude to the Kentucky Secretaries of State who realize the patent files need to be available online at no expense to researchers.)
Contents of the Book
The "Mercer County Patent Book" also includes:
- An overview of the patenting process using scanned images of James Harrod's earliest land acquisitions as examples;
- "Facts & Figures" Information such as 15 French & Indian War Warrants authorized land patents in Mercer County and 2 warrants issued to individuals who cleared a road over the Cumberland Mountains authorized Mercer County patents. (1)
- Abbreviations & terms used in the publication
- Other research suggestions
- The "Mercer County Patents" book concludes with a series of topical indices that identify persons such as the chaincarriers whose feet were on the ground the date of the field survey, markers who set the corners by blazing trees or planting stakes, county surveyors, deputy surveyors, and Governors/Lt. Governors signing the grants.
(1) - Revolutionary War warrants could not be "spent" in Mercer County according to the Virginia Land Laws--there were two separate districts for those warrants. One district was located South of Green River & the other Virginia Military District was located along the Little Miami River in Ohio. Revolutionary War veterans could cash their pension checks in Mercer County; they just couldn't use their military bounty land warrants outside Virginia's Revolutionary War Military Districts.
A New Book... for History!
The James Harrod Trust recently announced the availability of the "Mercer County Land Patents" book. Let's learn more about the historical significance of this volume...
What is a Land Patent?
In 1763--thirteen years before the Declaration of Independence was signed--King George III of England issued a proclamation that addressed two of his major concerns:
- Getting veterans of the French & Indian War paid
- Reminding surveying companies he was in charge of land appropriation.
In his Proclamation of 1763, King George III developed a four-step process by which he (or a royal governor) could transfer property ownership east of his Proclamation Line. (The Kentucky territory was located west of the Proclamation line.)
- Step 1: A warrant was purchased or earned
- Step 2: The Warrant was used to file an Entry with the county surveyor reserving the land for field survey
- Step 3: The County Surveyor (or his appointed Deputy) conducted a field survey that depicted and described the tract being acquired by patent
- Step 4: The issuance of the Grant finalizing the patenting process by conveying title to the patentee.
Following the King's Lead
After the Revolutionary War, the Commonwealth of Virginia used the same system for appropriating land and in May 1779, the Virginia General Assembly passed two Land Laws adopting the same four-step process "in order to raise funds to pay the public debt and resolve endless land litigation."
When Kentucky separated from our mother state (Virginia) in June 1792, the Kentucky General Assembly reaffirmed the patenting process; land patents are still issued under provisions of Chapter 56 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes.
Why There Were Problems
Unfortunately, no master patent map was kept as patents were being issued by Virginia or Kentucky. This resulted in numerous court cases due to the "shingling" (overlapping) of survey lines.
As new counties were created in Kentucky, county surveyors were not required to send their entry or survey books (covering the area in the daughter county) to the new county. This means it was easy to assume the land could be patented again...and again.
The Untangling Begins
Using scanned images of the patents issued by Virginia (before 1792) and the earliest Old Kentucky patents issued after 1792 (included on the Kentucky Secretary of State's Land Office website) researchers in several counties have placed these land patents on topographical maps which aids in determining the location of original cabins/homeplaces, forts, mills, roads, cemeteries, watersheds, etc.
Historical context for all 313 patents issued within (or near) the present-day boundaries of Mercer County is provided on spreadsheets included in the "Mercer County Land Patents" book.
These spreadsheets identify which of the 13 quad maps, using both linear and topographical formats, depict each patent. (Larger 24"x 36" maps may be purchased individually or researchers can purchase the entire collection at a discounted price by contacting the James Harrod Trust.)
This project is historically significant because it identifies & maps all of the patents in Mercer County issued between 1779-1841.
As online availability of patent files is limited at this time, other publications have been limited to the Virginia & Old Kentucky Series.
The JHT book covers four patent series: Virginia, Old Kentucky, Kentucky Land Warrants, & County Court Orders.
(Note: The book does not show subsequent conveyances of patented properties filed with the county clerk nor should it be used to alter present-day property lines.)
Mapping & Other Credits
Mapping was done by Jim & Debby Jackson, two GIS specialists who reside in Caldwell, Idaho. The online maps they used for the project were generated (and are maintained) by Mercer Countians Kent & Kim Anness associated with Kentucky's mapping office in Frankfort.
We offer our sincerest appreciation to Donna Jean Webb of Lexington who formatted the "Mercer County Patents" for publication. This project is the latest in her series of books pertaining to Mercer County.
If you have questions about the patenting process or the content of the patent book, please reach out to us. It is our hope that this resource will be used by researchers and historians for generations to come!