Georgia Land Records
This entry was originally written by the Johni Cerny and Robert S. Davis for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Georgia is a State-Land State.
Land and property records, combined with tax digests, can be important keys to successful research in Georgia. Surviving colonial and state land grant records of Georgia, including loose, original records not available on microfilm, are in the Georgia Archives. See also Farris Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying and Law (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1991); Marion R. Hemperley, The Georgia Surveyor General Department (Atlanta: Georgia Surveyor General Department, 1982); and Pat Bryant, Entry of Claims for Georgia Landholders, 1733–1755 (Atlanta: State Printing Office, 1975). The latter is a book of titles given to Georgians in 1755 for their lands under the trustees between 1733 and 1755.
Three quarters of the pre-1776 surveys (plats) and the last few of the colonial grants have not survived. The most complete record of colonial Georgia land grants between 1758 and 1776 is Mary B. Warren’s multi-volume Georgia Land Owners’ Memorials, 1758–1776 (Danielsville, Ga.: Heritage Papers, 1988). The most extensive information on colonial Georgia land grantees is in Mary B. Warren, Georgia Governor and Council Journals (Athens, Ga.: Georgia Heritage Papers, 1900).
The first effective legislation, dated 17 February 1783, concerning land grants after Georgia became a state provided for headrights and bounty-land grants. The law allowed each head of household 200 acres free as his own headright and fifty additional acres for each member of his family and each slave at a cost of one to four shillings per acre. Grants were limited to 1,000 acres, and the grantee was responsible for paying survey and grant fees. Those who had received grants under colonial jurisdiction were entitled to the lands they occupied when the law went into effect.
The 1783 act also provided for establishing a land court in each county; however, except for Wilkes County, almost none of the county land court minutes survive. A land grant applicant would appear before five justices to swear under oath concerning the size of his family and the number of slaves he owned to obtain a warrant of survey. Once the county surveyor completed his layout of the applicant’s land, a copy of the plat of survey was forwarded to the surveyor general, and the original was filed in the county. The applicant was then required to live on the land for a year and cultivate three percent of the total acreage. After meeting those requirements, the applicant could apply to the governor’s office for his grant and pay all fees. At that point the grant would be issued and recorded. Headright grants were made in Bryan, Bullock, Burke, Camden, Chatham, Clarke, Columbia, Effingham, Elbert, Emanuel, Franklin, Glascock, Glynn, Greene, Hancock, Hart, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Liberty, Lincoln, Madison, McDuffie, McIntosh, Montgomery, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Richmond, Screven, Taliaferro, Tattnall, Warren, Washington, and Wilkes counties.
Bounty-land grants were made to soldiers who served in the Georgia military, civilian residents of 1781 and 1782, and Georgia citizens who went to other states during the Revolution to continue the war (“refugees”). Most of the surviving Georgia Revolutionary War bounty certificates (except for civilian residents) are abstracted (see Hemperley, Military Certificates under Military Records).
A second act of 25 February 1784 created new counties and designated some of the area as bounty lands for Georgia veterans who had served in the Continental Line or Navy. Most of the area that later became Greene County was reserved for bounty-land grants. See Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr., Index to the Headright and Bounty Grants of Georgia, 1756–1909 (Vidalia, Ga.: Georgia Genealogical Reprints, 1970). The Georgia Archives and the FHL have microfilm copies of original land grants and plats.
Georgia has the unique distinction of distributing lands by lottery. Lands given to Georgia citizens by lotteries from 1805 to 1833 are in the present western and northern three-quarters of Georgia. Lotteries took place in 1805, 1807, 1820, 1821, 1827, 1833, and two in 1832. All Georgia citizens were eligible to qualify for a lottery, although the 1820, 1827, and 1832 lotteries also gave special consideration to war veterans. Published lottery books are excellent sources for pinpointing where a Georgia family lived when a lottery was held. For more information on the Georgia land lotteries, consult the following works:
- Davis, Robert. The 1833 Land Lottery of Georgia and Other Missing Names of Winners in the Georgia Land Lotteries. Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1991.
- Davis, Robert S., and Silas E. Lucas. The Georgia Land Lottery Papers, 1805–1914. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1979.
- Houstun, Martha Lou. Reprint of Official Register of the Land Lottery of Georgia, 1827. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967.
- Lucas, Silas E. The 1807 Land Lottery of Georgia. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1973.
- ———. The 1821 Land Lottery of Georgia. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1986.
- ———. The 1832 Gold Lottery of Georgia: Containing a List of the Fortunate Drawers in Said Lottery. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1986.
- Smith, James F. The Cherokee Land Lottery..., 1838. Reprint. Vidalia, Ga.: Georgia Genealogical Reprints, 1968.
- Wood, Virginia S. and Ralph V. Wood. 1805 Land Lottery of Georgia. Cambridge, Mass.: Greenwood Press, 1964. Contains the names of all registrants; the other lottery lists give only the names of winners.
In cases where Georgians sold lots won in the lotteries, researchers will find that deeds may be valuable sources of genealogical information. Those deeds should have been recorded in the counties where the land was located. Land transactions between private individuals are recorded with the clerk of superior court in the appropriate county.
Most surviving pre-1900 county land records, including deeds and land court minutes, are on microfilm at the Georgia Archives and the FHL. Many of the mortgage and county plat books in the individual courthouse have never been microfilmed.
Ancestry.com has the following collections about Georgia Land Records: