Government Land Grants

The Land Grant Process. Various royal, colonial, state, and federal governments established the first claims to land in what is now North Carolina. These governments later gave or sold much of this land to individuals. The person who obtained title to the land from government agents received a land grant, also known as a land patent. Obtaining a grant of land from the government was the final step in a process that often resulted in the creation of several documents:

  • Entries or applications
  • Warrants
  • Plats or surveys
  • Grants or patents

Each of these documents may contain the names of family members, neighbors who were sometimes relatives, or clues about the owner's previous residence. They are described in greater detail below.

After being granted a patent, the new owner could sell or transfer his property to others. For information about records created during these subsequent land transactions, see "Subsequent Exchanges of Land" near the end of this section.

Entries or applications. After a person selected a piece of vacant land, he would enter a claim or apply for it by describing its features to a government official or entry-taker. The entry-taker would record the description on loose sheets or into bound volumes, depending on the time period. These descriptions show the name of the person seeking the land, a description of the land, the number of acres, the name of adjacent land owners, and the date the entry was made.

Warrants. If, after three months, the person seeking the land received no opposition to his entry by way of legal caveat, the entry taker would convey a warrant to the assigned surveyor. This warrant was the authorization for the surveyor to complete a plat. Sometimes as many as 10 years could pass between entry and warrant.

Plats or surveys. After receiving the warrant, the surveyor would survey the land and draw a plat map. This map may vary from the land description given in the entry or warrant. The surveyor sent copies of the plat to the land office.

Grants or patents. After officials received the necessary papers and fees, the new land owner was given the grant document that was his patent to the land.