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Many Americans owned at least some land just before the twentieth century, generating individual land records a powerful resource for genealogists. Therefore, virtually every researcher, whether a expert professional or weekend enthusiast, has required land records to document the existence, association, or movement of an individual or ancestral family. Deeds, legal records for transferring land or property from one individual to another, are the most used of the land records, and can provide a reliable method of tracing ancestors when no other record could be identified. Deeds are usually reasonably simple to discover and often provide a variety of information and facts.
Most surviving pre-1900 county land records, including deeds and land court minutes, are on microfilm at the Georgia Department of Archives and History and the FHL.
Some of the most important records for Georgia are the tax digests, and the property and land records. The Georgia Archives has surviving state and colonial records of land grants. Many of them are original documents that have not been microfilmed. However, most of the surveys (plats) from before 1776 no longer exists. Neither do some of the last colonial land grants.
On February 17, 1783 a law was passed providing bounty-land and headright grants in Georgia. Each head of household was given 200 acres of land for free and could pay 1 to 4 shillings for each set of 50 additional acres, one of which could be purchased for each slave or other family member. However, each grant has a 1,000-acre limit. Grant and survey fees had to be paid by each grantee. Anyone who already occupied land at that time as a result of colonial grants from before Georgia gained statehood was allowed to keep their land.
The act that passed in 1783 also called for each county to have its own land court. However, most of the county land court records are no longer extant, except for those from Wilkes County. In order to obtain a warrant of a survey for a land grant, the applicant had to swear to five justices under oath that he was stating his family size and number of slaves accurately. After the applicant's land was surveyed by the county surveyor, the surveyor general's office was set a copy of the survey plat. The county kept the original document. Each applicant had to agree to cultivate at least 3% of their total land acreage and live on the land for a minimum of one year. Once the requirements were met, the applicant could pay the fees and apply for a grant. The grant would then be issued to the applicant and recorded. Counties where headright grants were awarded were: 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, Wilkes
Soldiers who served in Georgia's military were given bounty-land grants. From 1781 to 1782 come civilians were also given grants, along with those from Georgia who continued the war in other states, who were known as "refugees." Abstracts exist for most Georgia bounty certificates from the Revolutionary War. However, civilian certificates have not been abstracted.
On February 25, 1784 another bounty land act was passed and land was given out in other counties. Those grants were given to veterans of the Navy and the Continental Line. Bounty-land grants from that act were mainly given out in what became Greene County later on.
Unlike other states, Georgia distributed bounty-land using a lottery system. The lands in the northern and western three-quarters of the present-day state were distributed using that system from 1805 to 1833. Lotteries were held in the following years: 1805, 1807, 1820, 1821, 1827, 1833
Two lotteries were held in 1832 as well. Every citizen of the state could participate in the lotteries. However, special consideration was given to veterans during the lotteries of 1820, 1827, and 1832. There are several published lottery books, which may help resources pinpoint the location of ancestors at the time when the lottery was held.
Deeds from times when lottery lots were resold can also be useful sources of information. Each county recorded those deeds for lands within that county. Each county's superior court clerk recorded land transactions that were conducted between individuals privately.
Most land records from before 1900 that still exist today are at the FHL and at the Georgia Archives on microfilm. That may include land court records, as well as deeds. However, most of the individual courthouse plat books for each county have not been placed on microfilm.