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Virginia Land Patents, Book 17
10 January 1735 - 16 June 1738

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Order item B290
The book is 46 pages, NOT INDEXED, soft cover with a plastic comb binding, and available for $7.98 + $3.99 shipping & handling charge (Add $1.00 S&H for each additional volume ordered).

     Among the most valuable of Virginia records for historians and genealogists are the Land Patent books now housed at the Virginia State Library. Nell Marion Nugent's abstracts, in three volumes, of the first fourteen books have become standard reference works in genealogical libraries throughout this country. While Mrs. Nugent was fortunate in that she was for thirty-three years custodian of these records in the Land Office, therefore having daily access to the original manuscript books, and fortunate in that she had a patroness who paid to have her abstracts set in type, even so, over fifty years elapsed before her work saw complete publication. Her abstracts first appeared serially between 1929 and 1931; Volume I, entitled "Cavaliers and Pioneers", made its appearance in 1934, Volume II in 1977, and Volume III in 1979. Some twenty-eight books remain in manuscript.

     The Archives Division of the State Library has a card index listing the names of all those who received patents, but much more genealogical information of great value remains hidden in the patents themselves. Evidence of adjoining land-owners, escheates, previous ownership, indications of boundaries, deaths, various family relationships, etc., all give details that greatly aid researchers. Of special value in the patents is the remarkable number of instances in which migrations are either spelled out or suggested by acquisition of land in counties different from the patentee's residence.

     As many historians know, and as the abstracts following demonstrate, the headright system of importing new colonists as a basis for granting land in Virginia, though it had not been discontinued entirely, was tailing into disuse by 1732, the year we pick up these instruments with Book 15. Indeed, as early as 1699 the treasury right had been established whereby the payment of five shillings to the auditor for each fifty acres patented served as the equivalent of a headright, a measure that gave rise to large holdings by wealthy families. The abuse of the headright system is depicted in a contemporary account which appears elsewhere in this issue, along with other complaints by the governing authorities relative to the collection of quitrents and tobacco taxes ("Her Majesty's Revenues in Virginia"). Otherwise, the patents tended to remain remarkably stable instruments, both as to form and content. We might expect, of course, that within the limitations of the metes and bounds system, the land descriptions in the later documents would have become more accurate.

     To yield the full measure of their value, patent originals should be consulted. Abstracts are simply that: partial copies. Abstractors hope to have chosen wisely in their deletions, but they will not invariably do so, since they cannot anticipate every problem to which a given patent may be the solution, nor can they possibly conceive the chain or chains of land descriptions for which any given patent is but one link. Land distribution is the ultimate clue, and often the only proof, of many early pedigrees, and during the colonial period the patent may be the essential evidence of the origin of family land holdings.

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