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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. The original state land grants, sales, and surveys for West Virginia are located at:
Office of the State Auditor
County Collections Division
Building-1 Room W-212
Charleston, WV 25305
The Archives and History Library has copies of these records. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of these records, including:
- Land grants arranged by counties, 1748-1912 (on 56 Family History Library films beginning with 521685)
- Land sales, 1860-75 (Family History Library films 558437-39)
- Plats and surveys, 1863-89 (Family History Library film 462959)
The office of the state auditor published an index of all identifiable grantees from 1748 to the 1900s in Edgar Barr Sims, Sims Index to Land Grants in West Virginia (Charleston, West Virginia: E.B. Sims, 1952; Family History Library book 975.4 R21w; film 1036828 items 3-4). The grantees are listed alphabetically within the county that issued the grant. The actual grants are on microfilm (see above). This book is online at a subscription website:
Information on boundary disputes and county formation data (including maps) is in Edgar Barr Sims, Making a State: Formation of West Virginia (Charleston, West Virginia: E.B. Sims, 1956; Family History Library book Q 975.4 R2s). 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).
West Virginia Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.