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Overheard in GenForum: Land Grant Question
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.

April 20, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: What were the requirements to receive a land grant for Revolutionary War service? My ancestor, Henry F. FLOYD, received a pension, and it was obvious from his application he was very poor. In fact, he lived on the land of another person rent free in exchange for repairs done to the property. What would have kept him from receiving a grant? -- Dan

A: Just because an ancestor fought in the American Revolution did not guarantee that he received a bounty land warrant. There are also some considerations that need to be kept in mind about bounty land for that time period.

Bounty land was a way for a newly-formed and money-poor government to be able to pay back the many soldiers who helped in establishing their freedom. However, not every soldier was jumping at the chance to take the new government up on such a deal.

Bounty land was offered as a payment by the government to pay for military service.

Where Did They Get the Land?

At the time that the colonies were ratifying the Constitution that would create the United States of America, a stipulation was applied. During the ratification process many of the colonies also had to agree to turn over land that they claimed west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The colonies agreed to this stipulation because the government said it would use the monies generated from the sale of these lands to finance the operations of the government. The colonies were more than happy to agree to this because they also were experiencing the crunch of funds from the war.

Bounty Land Warrants

Once the United States government had this land in their possession they then began to disperse it through bounty land warrants, among other methods. Bounty land was offered in place of monetary payment.

In the beginning, the acts passed by the Continental Congress awarded acreage based on rank. Therefore a private may have been eligible for 100 acres, whereas a general may have been able to get 500 acres.

Bounty land was not just given by the federal government. Many of the states also gave bounty land. Lands given by Virginia rate among the highest for the states. Many of the bounties they gave were originally to lands now found in the state of Kentucky.

Who Was Eligible

When the first bounty land warrants were issued, the soldier had to prove a certain length of time in the service of the country. This length of time would shorten as future acts were passed. Through the change by Congressional acts, eventually more land would be bounty land than they had land to give out.

An act in 1830 allowed for certain warrants to be converted to scrip. The soldier could then take this scrip to another land office in any public land area. By 1836 over a million and a half acres would be redeemed this way.

Why Wouldn't They Redeem?

Even though our ancestor may have received a bounty land warrant, it does not guarantee that he up and moved his family. We tend to forget that the land being dispersed through these warrants was in the frontier. The soldier had to pack up his family and move from "civilization" to a life-threatening, dangerous wilderness.

Some of the bounty land warrants were not used by the soldiers. Instead the soldier would assign, through sale, his warrant. He would remain where he and his family had already built a life.

In Conclusion

Your ancestor may either have not been eligible for the bounty land or may have assigned it to another individual for some set price. Not all of the soldiers received bounty land for their service.

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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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