Land and property records, combined with tax digests, can be important keys to successful research in Georgia. Surviving colonial and state land grant records of Georgia, including loose, original records not available on microfilm, are in the Georgia Surveyor General Department, Floor 2V, Georgia Department of Archives and History. See also Marion R. Hemperley, The Georgia Surveyor General Department (Atlanta, Ga.: Georgia Surveyor General Department, 1982), and Pat Bryant, Entry of Claims for Georgia Landholders, 1733?1755 (Atlanta, Ga.: State Printing Office, 1975). The latter is a book of titles given to Georgians in 1755 for their lands under the trustees between 1733 and 1755.

The first effective legislation, dated 17 February 1783, concerning land grants after Georgia became a state provided for headrights and bounty-land grants. The law allowed each head of household 200 acres free as his own headright and fifty additional acres for each member of his family and each slave at a cost of from one to four shillings per acre. Grants were limited to 1,000 acres, and the grantee was responsible for paying survey and grant fees. Those who had received grants under colonial jurisdiction were entitled to the lands they occupied when the law went into effect.

The 1783 act also provided for establishing a land court in each county. A land grant applicant would appear before five justices to swear under oath concerning the size of his family and the number of slaves he owned to obtain a warrant of survey. Once the county surveyor completed his layout of the applicant’s land, a copy of the plat of survey was forwarded to the surveyor general, and the original was filed in the county. The applicant was then required to live on the land for a year and cultivate 3 percent of the total acreage. After meeting those requirements, the applicant could apply to the governor’s office for his grant and pay all fees. At that point the grant would be issued and recorded. Headright grants were made in Bryan, Bullock, Burke, Camden, Chatham, Clarke, Columbia, Effingham, Elbert, Emanuel, Franklin, Glascock, Glynn, Greene, Hancock, Hart, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Liberty, Lincoln, Madison, McDuffie, McIntosh, Montgomery, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Richmond, Screven, Taliaferro, Tattnall, Warren, Washington, and Wilkes counties.

Bounty-land grants were made to soldiers who served in the Georgia military, civilian residents of 1781?82, and Georgia citizens who went to other states during the Revolution to continue the war. Most of the surviving Georgia Revolutionary War bounty certificates (except for civilian residents) are abstracted.

A second act of 25 February 1784 created new counties and designated some of the area as bounty lands for Georgia veterans who had served in the Continental Line or Navy. Most of the area that later became Greene County was reserved for bounty-land grants. The Georgia Department of Archives and History and the FHL have microfilm copies of original land grants.

Only Georgia has the distinction of distributing lands by lottery. Lands given to Georgia citizens by lotteries from 1805 to 1833 are in the present western and northern three-quarters of Georgia. Lotteries took place in 1805, 1807, 1820, 1821, 1827, and two in 1832. All Georgia citizens were eligible to qualify for a lottery, although the 1820, 1827, and 1832 lotteries also gave special consideration to war veterans. Published lottery books are excellent sources for pinpointing where a Georgia family lived when a lottery was held.

Where Georgians sold lots won in the lotteries, researchers will find that deeds may be valuable sources of genealogical information. Those deeds should have been recorded in the counties where the land was located, but in some cases references may be found in the counties where the owner resided. Land transaction between private individuals are recorded with the clerk of superior court in the appropriate county.

Most surviving pre-1900 county land records, including deeds and land court minutes, are on microfilm at the Georgia Department of Archives and History and the FHL. Many of the mortgage and county plat books are not included in the FHL’s microfilm collection.”

(Source: Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources ) Clerk of Superior Court [has Court Records from 1801 and Land Records from 1801 ] 325 E. Washington St., Rm. 450, P.O. BOX 1805 (30603), Athens, GA 30601; Phone: (706) 613-3190, Fax: (706) 613-3189


1850 Georgia Militia Districts for Clarke County

  • 216 Athens
  • 217 Georgia Factory
  • 218 Puryear’s
  • 219 Sandy Creek
  • 220 Buck Branch
  • 221 Watkinsville
  • 222 Farmington
  • 223 Scull Shoal
  • 224 Dupree’s [later Dark Corner]
  • 225 Wild Cat
  • 239 High Shoal
  • 240 Buncombe
  • 241 Vinson’s [later Bradberry’s]
  • 261 Salem

1850-1874

The districts were as noted above with the two changes indicated in [ ].

1875

In 1875, Oconee County was created out of Clarke County
and took with it the following districts:

  • 221 Watkinsville
  • 222 Farmington
  • 223 Scull Shoal
  • 224 Dark Corner
  • 225 Wild Cat
  • 239 High Shoal
  • 240 Buncombe
  • 261 Salem

Current GMDs for Clarke and Oconee Counties

  • 216 Athens
  • 217 Georgia Factory
  • 218 Puryear’s
  • 219 Sandy Creek
  • 220 Buck Branch
  • 221 Watkinsville
  • 222 Farmington
  • 223 Scull Shoal
  • 224 Dark Corner
  • 225 Wild Cat
  • 239 High Shoal
  • 240 Buncombe
  • 241 Bradberry’s
  • 261 Salem
  • 1331 Mars Hill
  • 1347 Kinney’s 1)Kinney’s evidently took area from Sandy Creek and Bradberry’s districts
  • 1467 Princeton Factory 2)Princeton Factory was carved out of Georgia Factory, Bradberry’s, and Athens districts
  • 1899 Gaines School 3)Gaines School is a very small district within Puryear’s district.

Terms used in the Township and Range System:

  • Section
    Basic unit of the system, a square tract of line one mile by one mile containing 640 acres.
  • Township
    36 sections ar ranged in a 6 by 6 array, measuring 6 miles by 6 miles. Sections are
    numbered beginning with the northeast-most section, proceeding west to 6, then south
    along the west edge of the township and to the east.
  • Range
    Assigned to a township by measuring east or west of a Principal Meridian
  • Range Lines
    North to south lines which mark township boundaries
  • Township Lines
    East to west lines which mark township boundaries
  • Principal Meridian
    Reference or beginning point for measuring east or west ranges.
  • Base line
    Reference or beginning point for measuring north or south townships.

About Georgia Land Records

Georgia is a state-land state. Most lands were obtained from either the state or from other individuals. Individual lands are found recorded with the clerk of the Superior Court for each county. Most early records have been microfilmed and are available at the FHL and the Georgia Surveyor-General Department in the state archives. State grants were usually given in the form of headrights, bounty-land warrants and lottery drawings. Headright laws allotted each head of household 200
acres free as his own headright and fifty additional acres for each member of his family and each slave at a cost of from one to four shillings per acre. Bounty land grants were made to soldiers who served in the Georgia military, civilian residents of 1781–82, and Georgia citizens who went to other states during the Revolution to continue the war. Lotteries took place in 1805, 1807, 1820, 1821, 1827, and two in 1832. All Georgia citizens were eligible to qualify for a lottery, although the 1820, 1827, and 1832 lotteries also gave special consideration to war veterans. For more information on these sources and others, see:

  • Hemperley, Marion R. The Georgia Surveyor General Department: A History and Inventory of Georgia’s Land Office. Atlanta: Georgia Surveyor General Department, State Printing Office, 1982.
  • Lucas, Silas Emmett, Jr. Index to the Headright and Bounty Grants of Georgia, 1756–1909. Vidalia, GA: Georgia Genealogical Reprints, 1970.
  • Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1997.
  • Davis, Robert S., and Silas E. Lucas. The Georgia Land Lottery Papers, 1805–1914. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1979.

Georgia BLM Office:

Eastern States Office
Bureau of Land Management
7450 Boston Blvd.
Springfield, VA 22153
Tel: (703) 440-1600
FAX: (703) 440-1599

Georgia Land Records Glossary

Bounty Grants

Grants issued to Revolutionary Soldiers or to Citizens (persons who stayed neutral during the Revolution). It cannot be determined from the grant itself, if the person did military service. However, application papers will reflect the status of the grantee (see also Loose Headright and Bounty Documents File).

Certificate

A document that would entitle a person to a bounty grant. If the person was a Revolutionary Soldier, the paper would be signed by the commanding officer of his battalion or regiment, if he was a Citizen, it would be signed by the captain of the Militia District in which he resided. Upon receipt the governor would then confirm the man’s eligibility with a numbered certificate that reflected his status.

Citizen

A person who did not leave the state during the Revolution and could not be convicted of “plundering or distressing the country”; he was entitled to a bounty grant. This would have to be documented by a certificate.

Colonial Grants

Although issued under slightly different principles from those of the Headright System, they are considered a sub-category of the latter ones. Colonial Plats Ca. two thirds were lost during the Revolution.

County

Division for local government. New land cessions were first laid out into original counties” which were then subdivided into newly created counties in a continuous process that lasted until 1924. Lottery grants are always cited by original county, while headright grants could also be issued in “modern” counties.

County Land Records

Records reflecting real estate transactions after the land was granted. Includes deeds, plats, conveyances, indentures.

Deed

A land record on the county level; a legal instrument documenting transfer of title to a parcel of land from one owner to the next.

Fifth Lottery

It was held in 1827 and distributed Lee, Muscogee, Troup, Coweta, and Carroll Counties, bounded by the Chattahoochee. Before they received names these counties were first called 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th section.

First Lottery

It was held in 1805 and distributed the first 5 districts of Baldwin County, the first 5 districts of Wilkinson County, and the whole of Wayne County.

Fortunate Drawer

A person who won a “prize” (land lot) in the lottery. Not always identical with the grantee to that land lot (see Grantee under Lottery System and Reverted Lot).

Fourth Lottery

It was held in 1821 and distributed Dooly, Fayette, Henry, Houston, and Monroe Counties, bounded by the Flint River.

Fractions

Fractional lots were created by district or cession boundaries. They were not thrown into the lottery (with the exception of the Cherokee lotteries), but sold at public auction. An alphanumerical index by county, district and lot number exists, but not a name index of the buyers.

Grant

See Land Grant.

Grant Book

A bound volume that contains recordings of the grants. See also Headright Grant Book and Lottery Grant Book.

Grantee

  1. On the state level the first individual owner of a parcel of land, or the recipient of a grant;
  2. On the county level any subsequent owner of a parcel of land who acquired it by purchase or as a gift or by inheritance.

Grantee under the Lottery System

In most cases the grantee is the person who drew the land lot. However, there are occasions when the lot would be sold at public auctions, e.g., the Reverted Lots or the Fractions. In this case the grantee is identical with the highest bidder.

Grantor

  1. On the state level land was granted only by the King of England in Colonial times and by the State of Georgia after the Revolution. No land in Georgia was ever granted by the Federal Government or by the Native Americans.
  2. On the county level grantor and seller are synonymous.

Headright Grant Books

Their titles consist of letters of the alphabet, ranging from A to M, DDD to ZZZZZ (Z-5), AB through AD. The grants are entered in roughly chronological order, but no systematic arrangement can be recognized. Most volumes have a randomly alphabetized index, i.e., names are only alphabetized by their first letter. WARNING: Some volumes have duplicate pages and there are two distinct volumes both with the title RRRRR or R-5, each beginning with page 1.

Headright Plat Books

Similar to the Headright Grant Books, their titles are made up out of letters. Again, order of entry is roughly chronologial without a systematic arrangement.

Headright System

Land distribution system prevailing roughly east of the Oconee River from 1755 to 1909. The size of the land to be granted depended on the number of “heads” in a household. In many cases settlers selected the tract of land first and then applied for a grant. The surveying system used was the Metes and Bounds System.

Land Court

A panel of judges to whom an applicant would apply for a land grant under the Headright System.

Land Grant

A deed from the government to the first individual owner of a parcel of land. Grants are one of the two major record groups originating from Georgia’s distribution process of its public domain (the other group consists of plats). In many states these records are called “land patents”.

Land Lot System

Surveying system used in connection with the lotteries. Before the lottery could be held any newly-ceded land had to be pre-surveyed, i.e., the land was laid out first into original counties, these were subdivided into numbered land districts and these again into numbered land lots. One exception was the area of original Cherokee County; it was so large that it was first laid out into 4 sections, then these were subdivided into districts and land lots.

Land Patent

See Land Grant.

Land Records

See State Land Records and County Land Records.

Loose Headright and Bounty Documents File

Records that were created during the land granting process, consisting of petitions, warrants, certificates, etc.

Lottery Applications

No written applications had to be submitted by potential drawers, only an oral oath was required to prove eligibility.

Lottery Grant Books

The grants are arranged in the books by original county and land district, but no further order is recognizable. The books’ titles consist out of the same elements, e.g. Wilkinson, District 1. Often grants of more than one district of the same county are bound together in which case the title of the volume might read Muscogee, District 13-14 or Baldwin, District 15, 16, 17. For each district, pagination starts with page 1, however, a comprehensive index at the beginning of each volume covers the grants of all the districts this volume contains with names alphabetized only by their first letter. In addition to these “regular” grant books there are supplements and those for fractions and reverted lots.

Lottery Plat Books

Similar to those of the headright plat books their titles consist of letters. The arrangement is by original county, land district and land lot. However, the original counties are not arranged alphabetically, but chronologically (e.g. Wilkinson County comes before Gwinnett County). To complicate matters, districts from different counties might be bound together in one volume or one district might be divided between two volumes. However, the microfilm catalog cards are arranged in proper alphanumeric order and need to be checked to secure a systematic approach.

Lottery System

Land distributed under this system was first laid out into a rectolinear pattern of land lots identified by a numbering system. The land lots were then given away in a raffle to fortunate applicants. While the Headright System lasted from 1755 to 1909, the lottery system was confined only to a period of 27 years (from 1805 to 1832) during which 7 lotteries (see First Lottery, Second Lottery, …) were held.

Memorials Book

A Colonial record book that revealed the current owner of a tract of land. Every time land changed hands, beginning with the grant, this transaction had to be recorded.

Metes and Bounds System

Surveying system used under the Headright System. The boundary lines of a tract were measured (metes) and described in terms of the adjacent land or geographical features, i.e., a stream, a road, land owned by another person or unknown land. The land was never pre-surveyed as a whole, but piece by piece, as it was granted. In contrast to the metes and bounds system is the Land Lot System.

Militia District

A division within a county. All men between 16 and 60 (age varied) residing within its lines were automatically enrolled in a company for military purposes under a captain.

Petition

A written application for a grant under the Headright System and also for a Bounty Grant.

Plat

  1. On the state level a survey or little map of the granted parcel, usually drawn a few years prior to the issuance of the corresponding grant.
  2. On the county level a survey accompanying a deed.

Plat Book

A record that contains recordings of the plats, both at state and at county level. See also Headright Plat Book and Lottery Plat Book.

Refugee

A man whose house had been ransacked by the British and who fled from the  state and who would then join the Militia Regiments of South Carolina and North Carolina. He was entitled to a bounty grant.

Reverted Lot

A land lot not claimed by its fortunate drawer; the deadline within which grants could be taken up was extended several times by law, but finally the lot would revert to the state and would then be sold to the highest bidder, in whose name the grant would be issued. There is no index to the names of these highest bidders.

Revolutionary Soldier

Under the Headright System a revolutionary soldier was entitled to a Bounty Grant, provided he could prove his military status by a certificate. Under the Lottery System he had more draws than ordinary citizens and the letters “R.S.” or “Rev. Sol.” would appear on the grant behind his name.

Second Lottery

It was held in 1807 and distributed District 6-20 of Baldwin County and Districts 6-28 of Wilkinson County bounded by the Ocmulgee River.

Sixth Lottery

It was held in 1832 and distributed the area of original Cherokee County. It consisted of 2 portions: the Gold Lottery (gold districts included 40-acre land lots) and the Land Lottery (“land” districts included 160-acre lots).

State Land Records

Records created during the distributing process of Georgia’s public domain, such as Grants (including Colonial grants), Plats, surveyor’s District Plats, Loose Headright and Bounty Papers, Memorials, maps, etc.

Surveyor General Department

Second oldest state agency; only Governor’s Office is older. Agency was in charge of surveying the public domain, before it could be distributed, and of keeping proper records on the state level. The office was consolidated with that of the Secretary of State in 1861 and is today a part of the Georgia Archives. Its surveying function expired in 1909, when the existing law of granting land was repealed. However, its record keeping or archival function is still very much alive.

Third Lottery

It was held in 1820 and distributed Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Rabun, and Walton Counties in the northeast and Appling, Early, and Irwin Counties in the south.

Warrant

A headright land record; an order from the land court to the county surveyor to lay out a tract of land for an applicant.

References   [ + ]

1.Kinney’s evidently took area from Sandy Creek and Bradberry’s districts
2.Princeton Factory was carved out of Georgia Factory, Bradberry’s, and Athens districts
3.Gaines School is a very small district within Puryear’s district.