Land Entries, Land Warrants, Land Surveys, & Land Grants in North Carolina (1777-1800):
In 1777 the legislature of the "new" state of North Carolina passed an act allowing the state to take over the
title to all "vacant" land within its borders. This land had formerly been the property of the King or the Earl of Granville.
In the same year, the legislature also passed an act creating a procedure for selling the land to almost anyone who had the
money to pay the required fees. These "instruments" were called grants, but that does not imply the free gift of land. The
act is found in NC Colonial & State Records vol. 24 p. 24.
The first step in the procedure was for the prospective landowner to find some vacant land. He may choose land
on which he has been living, an adjoining tract, or a tract far removed from his current residence. The next step was to have
the claim recorded in the land office in the county where the land was. There was a small fee to pay for recording the claim.
This is sometimes called "making a land entry" or having the claim entered in the records. A land entry taker was appointed
to each county land office. The land description at this point was purposely vague. The state was interested in getting the
entry in the records and making sure the claimant could pay the required fees. It was understood that the land description
would be clearer once a survey was made.
In 1778, ALL required fees were supposed to be paid when the entry was recorded (entry fees, surveying fees,
& grant fees). But this soon changed, and only entry fees were required when the entry was recorded. Between 1778 and
1781, the person making an entry had to pledge allegiance to the state. This requirement was supposed to keep tories from
claiming land. The person was also required to take the oath of allegience to the State [see paragraph 3 in NC Colonial
& State Records vol. 24 p. 43-44].
Next there was a waiting period. The purpose of the waiting period was to allow time for everyone else to know
the tract had been claimed. Other people could then decide if the claim included land that was already owned by someone other
than the claimant. If such problems arose, there could be a court trial to determine who was really entitled to claim (or
own) the land before additional steps were taken.
If there were no disputes, the entry taker would issue a land warrant. The warrant was form letter addressed
to the county surveyor instructing the surveyor to survey the claim "without delay". The surveyor was paid based on the number
of acres in the survey (which may be slightly different from the number of acres in the land entry). When the survey was finished,
the land warrant and two copies of the survey were sent to the North Carolina Secretary of State. Usually, surveys included
the name of the surveyor and names of chain carriers. Chain carriers may be neighbors or the person whose land is being surveyed;
depending on who was present on that day.
The Secretary was supposed to make sure the State Treasurer had received the state's share of the fees before
he proceeded with a grant. The state charged 50 shillings per hundred acres between 1778 and 1781. Beginning in 1783, the
state fee was raised to 10 pounds per hundred acres. Afterward, the fee varied; lower fees were charged if the land included
a swamp or was mountainous. Still later, the state's fees were changed every few years. Using the land description in the
survey, the Secretary (or one of his clerks) filled out a land grant. The Governor signed the grant. The state seal was attached
to the grant by the Governor's Secretary. One copy of the survey was attached to the grant. The land description was recorded
in the land grant books kept by the Secretary of State. The Secretary kept the second copy of the survey and the land warrant.
The Secretary of State and Governor's Secretary were paid small fees for each grant that was processed. Prior to the Governor
signing a grant, a "last minute" protest could be made. Paperwork survives for petitions dated between 1778 and 1835; such
disputes were settled by a jury trial in the county where the land was located. Many times, we find a petition to the Governor,
but we have difficulty determining the outcome of the trial.
The grant was returned to the grantee. Sometimes this means the grant was returned to the county court house,
and an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper announcing the arrival of grants from the Secretary. The grantee (new
landowner) now had one year in which to have the grant recorded in books kept by the county Register of Deeds. There was a
small fee to pay for this also. There was no effort to force people to record grants in the county books. So today we find
more grants recorded in the Secretary's books than are in the county books.
In 1781 entry offices were closed possibly because the state wanted to change the fee structure, but there was
no agreement on how much to change. Warrants could still be issued, surveys could still be done, & grants could still
be issued (for entries already on the books) PROVIDED the required fees were paid. In 1783, the county entry offices were
reopened, and the grant fee to the state was four times the previous amount (10 pounds vs. 50 shillings per hundred acres).
The books on land entries contain abstracts of the books kept by county land entry takers. PLEASE REMEMBER,
there are many entries which were never turned into grants. So we find many more entries than warrants or grants in every
county. In 1796 clerks of county courts were required to make copies of all entries dated between 1778 and 1796. The clerk
was supposed to keep the original entry books and send the copies to the Secretary of State. Since 1796, some original entry
books have been lost due to court house fires; most of the old originals have now been sent to the state archives. The copies
are also in the archives except in a few cases: Hertford County and Edgecombe County (prior to 1783). Some entry books were
destroyed during the Revolutionary War and weren't available to be copied in 1796. Examples of these are Guilford County and
Randolph County. All surviving entry books dated between 1778 and 1796 have now been published.
The primary sources of land warrants are the Secretary of State's land grant files now in the North Carolina
Archives. The archives has the original paperwork. The archives is busy trying to film all the original paperwork, so you
will probably be directed to the microfilm if it is available. There are 2 indexes to the land grant files. The older index
is a card index found only in the archives. This index isn't perfect, but it is available. The second index is on the MARS
computer system. This index is being compiled by going through the counties in alphebetical order. The computer index includes
most of the files which have been microfilmed; one day it will contain all the grant files. To use either index, you look
in the index for a person's name and then for the "file number" (which some people call a shuck number). The grant shucks
or files are arranged by county and then numerically by shuck number. Within each shuck (or brown envelope) will be the warrant
and survey (if they survive) and, sometimes, other related material. If a shuck is empty, the land description can be learned
by referring to the land grant book and page number mentioned on the cover of each shuck.
The Secretary of State's land grant books are also in the North Carolina archives. All the books are on microfilm.
You will need to find the grant book and page number using the same card or computer index described above. On each card and
in the computer, the grant book and page number are mentioned. The file (or shuck) numbers usually appear in the margins of
pages in the grant book (beside each grant). Mrs. Margaret Hofmann is busy publishing the early state grants.
The Secretary's copies of entry books (produced in 1796) are on the following rolls of film in the NC archives.
THe counties are arranged in alphebetical order on each roll.
S 106.217 Anson Co -Buncombe Co
S 106.218 Burke Co
S 106.219 Cabarrus Co-Craven Co
S 106.220 Cumberland Co-Gates Co (except Cumberland & Franklin)
S 106.221 Glasgow Co-Johnston Co (except Guilford)
S 106.222 Jones Co-Mecklenburg Co
S 106.224 Orange Co-Pitt Co
S 106.226 Randolph Co-Rockingham Co
S 106.227 Sampson Co-Surry Co
S 106.228 Tyrrell Co
S 106.229 Wake Co-Wilkes Co