The act of the General Assembly passed on June 22, 1779, which established the Virginia Land Office, also provided for the awarding of bounty lands for specified Revolutionary War military service. The purpose of the bounty land system was to encourage longer military service. In order to qualify for bounty land, a soldier or sailor had to serve at least three (3) years continuously in the State or Continental Line or State Navy. Militia service did not count. The process of obtaining bounty lands was lengthy, and, in many cases, land speculators acquired the right to the land from the veteran or his heirs.
Servicemen submitted various documents such as affidavits of commanding officers and fellow soldiers and discharge papers in order to substantiate their service record. The Governor's Office reviewed and approved or disapproved the applications. The accumulated papers used to verify service are called "Bounty Warrants" if the claim was approved and "Rejected Claims" if the claim was disapproved. If a soldier or sailor died while in service, his heirs were required to submit documentation verifying their status as legal heirs in addition to proof of the veteran's military service.
When a claim was proved, the Governor's Office issued a military certificate to the register of the Land Office (see Land Office Military Certificates) authorizing him to issue a warrant specifying the amount of land to be received and directing the land to be surveyed. The amount of land awarded was based on the rank of the soldier and the amount of time served. Virginia retained no records of the next two steps in the process, which was to have the land surveyed based on the warrant, followed by the issuance of a grant. The first warrant was issued in 1783 and the last in 1876 as heirs of warrantees continued to seek lands for additional service.
Records related to Federal bounty land are held by either the National Archives or repositories in the respective states where the land lay.
All Virginia bounty land was in the present-day states of Kentucky and Ohio and records of surveys and grants are held by the:
Kentucky Land Office
Secretary of State's Office
Frankfort, KY 40601
Ohio Historical Society
Research Services Department
1982 Velma Avenue
Columbus, OH 43211
The Revolutionary War Bounty Warrants are part of: Records of the Executive Branch. Office of the Governor (Record Group 3) and are also listed on page 49, of A Guide to State Records in the Archives Branch.
The originals consist of individual documents including affidavits, assignments, certificates, certificates of discharge, discharge papers, letters, memos, petitions, power of attorney, receipts, reports, and vouchers.
Also available on microfilm: Revolutionary War Bounty Warrants. Reels 1-29.
Kentucky Land Office Revolutionary War Warrants.
This is a fully searchable database that can be searched by name or military certificate number. Images of the warrants are available online. The site also contains information about the Kentucky Land Office and the land patenting process.
Bockstruck, Lloyd Dewitt. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants: Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1996.
Brown, Margie G. Genealogical Abstracts, Revolutionary War Veterans, Scrip Act 1852. Lovettsville, Va.: Willow Bend Books, 1997.
Brumbaugh, Gaius Marcus. Revolutionary War Records, Volume 1: Virginia Army and Navy Forces, with Bounty Land Warrants for Virginia Military District of Ohio. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1967.
Burgess, Louis Alexander. Virginia Soldiers of 1776. Spartanburg, S.C.: The Reprint Co., 1973.
Hopkins, William Lindsay. Virginia Revolutionary War Land Grant Claims, 1783-1850 (Rejected). Richmond: 1988.
Smith, Clifford Neal. Federal Land Series: A Calendar of Archival Materials on the Land Patents Issued by the United States Government, with Subject, Tract, and Name Indexes. 5 vols. Chicago: American Library Association, 1972-1986.
Weisiger, Minor T. Using Virginia Revolutionary War Records. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1999. This is a comprehensive overview of both published and archival materials.
Wilson, Samuel Mackay. Virginia Land Bounty Warrants. Baltimore: Southern Book Co., 1953.