Virginia Military District Genealogy

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The Virginia Military District was reserved by Virginia to use as payment for the veterans of the American Revolutionary War. The District was 4.2 million acres in what is now the state of Ohio.

Dating from its colonial charter Virginia had historic claims to much of the Northwest Territory, which included Ohio. To overcome the objections of other states to ratifying the Articles of Confederation, Virginia and the other states with claims over western lands had to cede those claims. In return for ceding its claims in 1784, Virginia was granted this area to provide military bounty land grants. The Ohio district was a surplus reserve, in that military land grants were first made in an area southeast of the Ohio River, in what is now Kentucky. The Ohio land was to be used only after the land southeast of the river was exhausted.

Surveys of the District began in the 1780, but it was not opened for settlement until 1794. Virginia soldiers of the Continental line, who served in the Revolutionary War, were eligible to procure a bounty award in the form of land, according to a formula based on rank and time of service. The first step was to secure a proper certificate of actual service and to then acquire a printed warrant from the land office in Virginia specifying the quantity of land. This warrant allowed the person to whom it was given, or their heirs and representatives, to select the specified area from anywhere within the District. After the location was chosen and boundaries surveyed, the owner of the warrant exchanged it for a patent, which was equivalent to a deed in fee simple and passed all title of the government to the holder. Since persons could select their allotment from anywhere within the district, there were frequently competing and overlapping claims.

The land was never divided into regular townships.