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Overheard in GenForum: Military Scrip Patent
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

January 27, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I have a relative who got his land through a military scrip patent. I'm trying to figure out how to find out where he got it. His youngest son was born in England in 1870 and he purchased the property in 1891 - too late for the Civil War, so I can't guess as to where he got it. Could someone have paid him with military scrip? He was a carpenter. I'm thoroughly confused, so any help would be appreciated. -- Donna

A: As you are discovering, land records can lead to other questions. Very often they can also lead to many answers. The release of dower can help to distinguish between two men of the same name, and can also let you know the given name of the wife. And the method of obtaining the land, as in your case, can often lead you to other records.

When working with land records, it is important to read and understand all that the land records can tell you. They tell you who purchased the land. They tell you who sold the land. They also tell you how much the land cost. And in some cases they can tell you how the land was obtained, when not just purchased with money.

When working with land records, it is important to read and understand all that the land records can tell you.

Bounty Land Warrants

Bounty warrants offered the fledgling Continental government a way of compensating its soldiers for loyalty and service. They had seen some of the individuals states offer such a program and decided to use it, for the first time, as compensation for service in the Revolutionary War. Bounty warrants were authorized by congressional act.

The first such act was that of 16 September 1776. This offered land to those who enlisted in the Continental Army. The parcels ranged in size from one hundred to five hundred acres of land and were dependent on the final rank achieved by the soldier.

One of the most active states in offering such bounties was Virginia, which would not only issue bounty warrants for lands found between the Green, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers (in what is now Kentucky) but also in the part of Ohio that would become the Virginia Military Tract.

Bounty Warrant Acts would issue additional acreage for service in the War of 1812 and then again in response to threats from Mexico in 1847. There would be a number of other Acts that would be passed that would affect the distribution of and restrictions on these bounty warrants.

Military Scrip

The first instance of military scrip can be traced back to an Act passed on 30 May 1830. It was a result of a shortage of lands to fulfill the Revolutionary bounty warrants that were issued under the Virginia Military Tract. Congress made it possible for these warrants to be exchanged for a military scrip. This scrip could then be redeemed for land in other areas, originally just in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

A subsequent Act on 2 March 1833 removed the location restriction in regards to these Revolutionary bounty warrants. Any public land office was authorized to accept this military scrip, though there were still certain restrictions in regard to what types of land the scrip could be applied to and when.

While there were other types of scrip issued during the 1800s, it is pertinent to note that in regard to military bounty land scrip, these were only issued in exchange for involvement in the military prior to 1855 and not all scrips offered during this time were considered military.

Connecting Your Ancestor to the Scrip

The last Act that affected the military scrip appears to have been passed in 1852. This is still almost forty years prior to your ancestor's use of a scrip to purchase the land in question.

Your message did not indicate where the land he purchased was located. You will want to go back and thoroughly reread the land deed in question. In the past when land was given for bounty warrant, I have found that there were precise details as to why the individual was entitled to that land, right down to the company in which the soldier was enlisted.

There are any number of ways, though, in which your ancestor could have come into ownership of that military scrip. The most probable is that he purchased the scrip from a veteran or the heir of a veteran. There are many cases where it was the heirs of the veteran who redeemed the bounty lands and this was especially true under the scrip acts and the bounty land acts of 1852 and 1855.

There are records of applications for the military bounty land scrip. They are divided according to the appropriate act, of which there were five:

  • Acts of 30 May 1830 and 13 July 1832 (these are combined)
  • Act of 2 March 1833
  • Act of 3 March 1835
  • Act of 31 August 1852

These records are found at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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