Most land granted to settlers of colonial Virginia was granted by the king. At the outset, up until its charter ended in 1624, the Virginia Company had rights to settle. After that, the king governed Virginia in a system not unlike feudalism.
The important system for Eastern Shore genealogists to understand about this period is the system of "headrights." This was a system of granting land (via patents) to settlers who brought people into Virginia (usually, this means paid their way). An individual received 50 acres for each person he or she brought in. This individual was the grantee, and he or she had to pay quitrents each year (a tax). Also, to retain the land, the individual had to plant it and build on it. This system was initiated by the Governor, George Yeardley, in 1627, and continued to the 18th century.
Cavaliers and Pioneers, by Nell Marion Nugent (see our bibliography), lists information from the patent documents. The listings indicate what land was patented, to whom, and for bringing in which persons!
Of course, our familiar two volumes of Virginia's Eastern Shore, by Ralph Whitelaw (see our bibliography),
use land records to trace ownership and transfer of ownership on the Shore.
Ghote Dr. David Scott has spent many hours, probably adding to years of his life, in the Northampton County Courthouse poring over deeds and other records. He has mapped and analyzed several areas of the County, and shares his wealth of knowledge with us at ghotes conference. (The next one will be in September of 2005. Stay tuned.)
Updated February 10, 2004 (wls) Page
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