Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants

​Under the Virginia land law of 1779, any bona fide settler in Kentucky County (also known as the Kentucky District) prior to January 1, 1778, who had made an improvement and planted a crop of corn was eligible for a 400-acre certificate of settlement for the land he or she had improved. The settler could purchase an additional adjoining 1,000 acres under a preemption warrant. All those who had "marked out" or chosen unappropriated lands and built any house or hut or made improvements prior to January 1, 1778, but who could not prove actual settlement were entitled to a preemption of no more than 1,000 acres. (These warrants were issued for "chop claims" or "lottery cabin improvements.")

Anyone in Kentucky County, Virginia, after January 1, 1778, and before May 1779, when the Virginia Land Law was written, was eligible for a 400-acre preemption warrant for the tract on which he or she had made an improvement.

A Land Commission was appointed to hear testimony from Kentucky County residents and their witnesses. The Commission then decided who qualified for certificates of settlement, 1000-acre preemption warrants and 400-acre preemption warrants. The Commission's journal is contained in the Doomsday Book.

The Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants Database is indexed by warrant number, individual acquiring the certificate and warrant, immediate assignees and tract location; it includes scanned images of commissioners' certificates. Microfilm of the certificates and authorizations for preemption warrants is available at the Land Office, Kentucky History Center, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Filson Club, Sons of the American Revolution Library and the Library of Virginia.

Many of the search results on the Database link to patent files, which may be reviewed and printed in pane format through the Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series Database. Some counties in present-day Virginia and West Virginia are included in this index; please contact the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, for information regarding patents authorized by those preemption warrants.

For additional information regarding certificates of settlement and preemption warrants, please review the frequently asked questions, read the article, "Certificates of Settlement & Preemption Warrants Database," or contact the Land Office at (502) 564-3490 or via email.