West Virginia Land and Property
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In 1744 Virginia encouraged the settlement of western Virginia by offering land speculators 1,000 acres for each family they brought to settle the frontier. These speculators organized land companies, such as the Greenbriar Company and the Loyal Land Company of Virginia. These companies surveyed the land and sold the surveys to individuals who obtained title by patent from the Secretary of the Colony or, after 1779, from the Virginia Land Office. By 1754 over 2 1/2 million acres had been granted to land companies.
The first warrants for military bounty land in present-day West Virginia were issued in 1782 through the Virginia Land Office. Many soldiers sold their warrants to speculators who resold the land to others (see West Virginia Military Records).
After West Virginia became a state, the state government took possession of all unowned land and continued issuing grants. By a legislative order in 1951 the State Auditor's office was to locate and take custody of all of the original state land grants, sales, and surveys for West Virginia. These records were collected and were transferred to the state archives.
The West Virginia Archives and History Library has custody of these records. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of these records, including:
- 1748-1912 Land grants arranged by counties FHL film 521685, first of 56 films.
- 1860-1875 Land salesFHL film 558437–558440.
- 1863-1889 Plats and surveys FHL film 462959
- Sims index to land grants in West Virginia at Ancestry.com ($)
The office of the state auditor published an index of all identifiable grantees from 1748 to the 1900s in:
Sims, Edgar Barr. Sims Index to Land Grants in West Virginia. Charleston, West Virginia: E.B. Sims, 1952. FHL book 975.4 R21w, film 1036828 items 3-4 At many libraries (WorldCat) The grantees are listed alphabetically within the county that issued the grant. The actual grants are on microfilm (see above). Digital version at Google Books and at Ancestry.com($)
Information on boundary disputes and county formation data (including maps) is in:
Sims, Edgar Barr. Making a State: Formation of West Virginia. Charleston, West Virginia: E.B. Sims, 1956. FHL book Q 975.4 R2s WorldCat 1851901 This includes a supplement to the Sims Index (see above).
Transfers of Land between Individuals
Land transactions after the original patent was issued have been recorded in county deed books (often titled land books). You can obtain copies by contacting the appropriate clerk's office—usually the clerk of the circuit court.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the pre-1900 records for most counties. From Kanawha County for example, the library has 200 microfilms of lease records (1865-1906), release books (1866-1909), trust deeds (1855-1910), deeds (1790-1946), and homesteads (1874-1944).