1623-1696 - Virginia Land Patents & Grants from Cavaliers and Pioneers

Virginia Land Patents and Grants

Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants

The following items were abstracted from Volumes I and II of Cavaliers and Pioneers¹. All logical spellings of the surname were checked, but the names have been presented here alphabetized by given name (not spelling of the surname). In most instances, only the individual named Reeves and the person claiming land for his or her transportation was included in these abstracts. A researcher interested in a particular individual should still consult the abstract for that grant to determine the names of other individuals included in the same headright list. Often the full lists provide clues to other individuals transported to the same plantation or settlement as well as to pre-existing connections among those entering the colony.

With these caveats, however, these lists should document the identities of most seventeenth-century Reeves immigrants to the Virginia colony. Volume I of Cavaliers and Pioneers covers the years 1623-1666; Volume II covers 1666-1696.

Reeves Listings

  • Reeve, Ann, I: 561: Transported by Anthony Mathewes, who claimed 1300 acres in Isle of Wight County on 10 July 1666….
  • Reeve, Anne, II: 43: Transported by Capt. Lawrence Baker, who on 24 April 1667 claimed 2050 acres in Surry County joining James Keddick and Richard Drew, including land previously granted to Thomas Stamp….
  • Reeven, Andrew, II: 208: Transported by Thomas Butt and Thomas Milner, who on 20 April 1680 claimed 3000 acres in Lower Norfolk County upon a branch of the southern branch of Elizabeth River and called by the name of Sturchcomb…..
  • Reeves, Charles, I: 264: Transported by Augustine Warner, who claimed 2,500 acres of land on old Cheescake town on S. side of Peanketank River, beginning at marked tree of the Indians Land, on 26 October 1652….
  • Reeve, Dennis, I: 34: Transported by Capt. Thomas Willowbye (Willoughby), who on 19 November 1635 claimed 300 acres in Elizabeth River County….
  • Reeves, Edward, I: 205: Transported by Richard Smith, who claimed 500 acres in Northampton County on 24 March 1650
  • Reeves, Edward, I: 216: Transported by Richard Smith, who claimed 500 acres in Northampton County on 24 March 1651. NOTE: This seems to be a duplicate of the previous entry.
  • Reeves, Edward, I: 435: Transported by John Cannida, who claimed 200 acres on the south side of Totoskey Creek in Rappahannock County on 18 March 1663/4 adjoining land of James Samford and opposite plantation of George Haselocke… NOTE: This later became southern Richmond Co., VA. Cannida also claimed John Gouldinge, Ann Blandon, and William Griffin as headrights.
  • Reeves, Edward, I: 444: Transported by William Peirce (Perce), who claimed 4054 in Farnham Parish, Rappahannock Co., VA, on 1 June 1663, mentioning Herring Creek and George Bryers Creek…. NOTE: Peirce is claiming the same headrights as Cannida (Edward Reeves, John Gouldinge, Ann Blandon, but apparently not William Griffin) did, but this deed is earlier than Cannida’s…It may suggest an instance of fraud in which the same headrights were used by different individuals to claim land.
  • Reeve, Edward, II: 54: Transported by William Owens and James Evans, who on 10 December 1668 claimed 334 acres in New Kent County on the northern side of Black Creek near lands of Rebecca Harman, William Stone, Mattadequne Creek, and William Pulham….
  • Rives, Edward, II: 91: Transported by Capt. Josias Pickes, who on 7 April 1671 claimed 3500 acres in New Kent County on the north side of the Mattaponi River adjoining a level neare the Moratticoe Indians….
  • Reeves, Edmund, I: 347: Transported with John Gouldinge by Major Thomas Goodrich, who claimed 600 acres on the south side of the Rappahannock River near miles end of patent taken up by Bartholomew Hoskins and running parallel to land of John Gillett, 10 June 1657….
  • Reeves, Edmud., II: 254: Transported by Mr. Richard Williamson, who on 16 April 1683 claimed 307 acres in Charles City County on the south side of the James River in Wayonoake Parish at the Otter Dams….
  • Reeves, Edmd., II: 359: Transported by Joshua Storey, who on 28 April 1691 claimed 7440 acres in New Kent County on the north side of Mattaponi River above the forke where the great run comes into Morocosick Creek….
  • Revis, Elizabeth, II: 361: Transported by Gilbert Elam, SR., Gilbert Elam, Jr., and Edward Ward, who on 28 April 1691 claimed 2015 acres in Henrico County, Varina Parish….
  • Reeve, Fr., I: 33: Transported by William Stafford, who on 12 November 1635 claimed 300 acres in Kethes Creek joining Edward Hall, Edward Grimes, and William Ravenett…
  • Reeves, Francis, II: 378: On 29 April 1692, Mr. Giles Webb claimed 344 acres in Varina Parish, Henrico Co., VA, on the middle run between Colson’s and the Deep Bottom, joining Mr. Francis Reeves, Henry Trent, and Mr. Pleasants….
  • Reeves, George, II: 62: Transported by Edward Simpson, who on 24 April 1669 claimed 84 acres in New Kent County on the north side of the Mattaponi River joining Robert Pollard, Popetico Creek, and Simpson’s own land….
  • Reeves, George, II: 310: On 20 April 1687, Mr. Oswald Cary patented 460 acres in Middlesex County upon Pianketank River, joining Timber Neck Land, now belonging to Ralph Wormeley, Esquire, and Mr. George Reeves, Thomas Hixon, Mr. Augustine Cant, and Andrew Williams, including 250 acres granted to Capt. William Brocas on 2 February 1653….
  • Reeves, George, II: 325: Transported by John Sandford, who on 23 April 1688 claimed 1517 acres in Lower Norfolk County near Curratuck…
  • Reeve, George, plantation of, II: 208: On 26 April 1680, Ralph Wormeley, Esquire, patented 740 acres in Middlesex County, commonly called Timber Neck Land, near the plantation of Thomas Lee and adjoining the plantation of Mr. George Reeve, by the head lines of Nincocke or Rosegill, by the old field where Mr. Maximillian Pettus now lives…
  • Reeves, Gome, II: 151: Transported by George Gill, who on 21 September 1674 claimed 3000 acres in New Kent County, on the south side of Tatapotomoys Creek, joining Mr. John Page, Doctor Phillips, John Davis, and a branch of the Chickahominy River
  • Reeves, He., II: 37: On 17 March 1672/3, Hen. Reeves patented 150 acres in Nansemond County, at the head of Chuckatuck Creek, adjoining Richard Lewis, John Howell, & his own land for the transportation of three persons…
  • Reeves., Ja., II: 219: Transported by Charles Turner, who on 23 April 1681 claimed 2400 acres in New Kent County on the south side of the York River in the freshes, joining Dr. William Phillipps’s land on the south side of Tottopotomoyes Creek, on Mr. George Gill’s land and the Chickahominy and White Oake Quarter Swamps….
  • Reeves, John, I: 38: Transported along with Symon Mondye, by Robert West, who claimed 100 acres in Elizabeth City County on 4 May 1636.
  • Reeve, John, I: 79: Transported by John Dennett, who claimed 400 acres on Charles River County on 15 January 1637 joining John Burland and Utey’s Creek, near Chiskiake and Martin’s Hundred….
  • Reeves, John, I: 139: Transported by John Ewens, Jr., who claimed 460 acres in Charles City County, 10 November 1642….
  • Reaves, John, I: 201: Transported by Lawrence Peters, who claimed 900 acres in Nansemond County on 25 October 1650…
  • Reeves, John, I: 268: Transported by Robert West, who claimed 700 acres in Charles City County on Bayley’s Creek…
  • Reeve, John, I: 528: Transported by John Prosser, who on 8 October 1665 claimed 4892 acres in the freshes of the Rappahannock above Nanzatico next to the land of Mr. John Paine on the south side of the river….
  • Reeve, Jno., II: 21: Transported by Thomas Wisdome, who on 10 April 1667 claimed 127 acres in Gloucester County on the north side of Thomas Deacon’s Mill Swamp, joining Thomas Miller and Mr. Thomas Vicar’s line…
  • Reeves, John, II: 40: Transported by Major John Smith, who on 1 April 1665 claimed 500 acres in Gloucester County beginning nigh the head of Tanks Poropotanke Creek to an old field, parallel with Purton Divident, to Totopotomoyes Swamp, along Mr. Peter Knight’s land… NOTE that Peter Knight also owned land in Northumberland County.
  • Reeve, Jno., II: 103: Transported by Daniel Jennifer and wife Anne, formerly Anne Toft, who claimed 11,3000 acres in Northampton County, alias Accomack County, on Stokeley’s Branch and Bundick’s Branch, including various smaller patents issued between 1662 and 1668
  • Reeves, Jno., II: 118: Transported by Nathaniel Bradford, who on 9 October 1667 claimed 2800 acres at Watchapreag near Matchpungo Neck, beginning at Mr. Kendall at Matchapungo Creek, joining Richard Kellam, Edward Revell, and Jonah Jackson and the fresh water branch of Nicowomson…. NOTE that this seems to be Accomack and Northampton Counties….
  • Reeves, Jno., II: 148: Transported by Samuell Taylor, who on 9 April 1674 claimed 700 acres in Accomack County on Gingoetege Creek joining land formerly Wallo’s, Col. John Stringer, and William Blake… NOTE that all eight individuals claimed by Taylor had previously been claimed by Nathaniel Bradford….
  • Reeve, Jno., II: 149: Transported by Lt. Col. John Smith, Mr. John Buckner, Mr. Phill. Lightfoot, Mr. Tho. Royston, and Mr. John Lewis, who claimed 10,050 acres in New Kent County on Mattaponi River, joining Thomas Hall, John Pigg, Hernden, and Bagby….
  • Reeve, Jno., II: 204: Transported by Lt. Col. John West, who on 25 November 1679 claimed 2500 acres in Accomack County between Crooked Creek and Pocomoak River….
  • Reeve, Jno., II: 205: Transported by Francis Bridle, who on 21 January 1679 claimed 422 acres in Isle of Wight County at the head of the western branch of the Nansemond River….
  • Reeves, Jno., II: 332: Transported by Arthur Egerton, who on 20 April 1689 claimed 150 acres in Lower Norfolk County at the beginning of Cyprus Branch….
  • Reeves, Jon., I: 134: Transported by Capt. Samuell Matthews, who claimed 3,000 acres on 20 August 1642, on the Warwick River, joining Christopher Boyce….
  • Reeves, Jon., I: 137: Transported by Thomas Loveing, who claimed 700 acres in James City County, Martin’s Hundred, on 10 October 1642…
  • Reeves, Jonas, II: 315: Transported by John Nash, who on 21 October 1687 claimed 400 acres at Summerton in the Upper Parish of Nansemond joining Richard Green, on Bryery Branch and Summerton Swamp….
  • Reeves, Jone, I: 153: Transported by Edward Murfrey and John Vaughan, who claimed 1200 acres upon the southward side of Potomack River, on the easternmost side of Cedar Island Creek…
  • Reeves, Leonard, I: 99: Transported by Capt. Christopher Wormeley, who claimed 1420 acres in Charles River County, 27 January 1758, bound north upon said river, with Wormeley’s Creek on the east with land of Nicholas Clarke and joining land formerly belonging to Mr. Lionell Roulston… Wormeley also transported one Henry Hyves…. NOTE: The land Wormeley claimed seems to have been in York County.
  • Reeves, Mr., II: 224: On 28 September 1681, John Dangerfield claimed 680 acres in Rappahannock County on the south side of the river, beginning at Cooper’s Point, extending to Mr. Reeves, Pickner’s Corner, joining Mr. Benjamin Goodrich, Mr. Robert Tomlin, Mr. Anthony North, downe Gilson’s Creek… While the identity of this individual is not clear, there may be some link — based on the individuals involved — with Edward or Edmund Reeves and Thomas Reeves.
  • Reeves, Mr., II: 267: On 20 September 1683, Mr. John Dangerfield was claimed 680 acres in Rappahannock County on the south side of Rappahannock River, joining Cooper’s Point, Mr. Reeves, Tucker’s Creek, Mr. Benjamin Goodrich, and Mr. Robert Thomlin, Mr. Anthony North, Gilson’s Creek, formerly granted Mr. Bartholomew Hoskins… While the identity of this individual is not clear, there may be some link — based on the individuals involved — with Edward or Edmund Reeves and Thomas Reeves.
  • Reeve, Richard, I: 7: Transported by Capt. William Epes, who on 3 February 1626 claimed 450 acres on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay “nere unto the plantation of Accomacke”…. Reeve (or Reene) had apparently arrived with John Robbins in the Returne in 1625….
  • Reeves, Richard, II: 297: Transported by John Wallis, who on 27 April 1686 claimed 250 acres in the Upper Parish of Nansemond County….
  • Reeves, Robert, I: 34: Transported by William Woolritch, who on 17 June 1635 claimed 400 acres in Elizabeth City County joining Capt. Christopher Calthorpe, Samuel Bennett, Robert Thresher, Phettiplace & Cloyse… (Robert Reeves’s name appears twice, which also corresponds to his claim for 400 acres, so there may have been two Roberts transported at this time…)
  • Reve (or Rene), Robert, I: 280: Transported by Mr. James Tooke, who on 14 September 1653 claimed 178 acres in Isle of Wight County near Thomas Pritchard’s land…
  • Reaves, Robert, I: 326: Transported by Capt. Thomas Davis of Walters Creek, who claimed 300 acres in Warwicke County on 20 January 1655….
  • Reeves, Roger, I: 419: Transported by Mr. Alexander Fleming, who on 9 December 1662 claimed 650 acres on the north side of the Rappahannock River at Yarrett’s Marsh, joining Coleman’s Thickett, near Silvester Thetcher’s Creek….
  • Reves, Roger, I: 521: Transported by James Browne, who on 28 September 1664 claimed 346 acres in Rappahannock County….
  • Reaves, Thomas, I: 92: He was transported as a servant of John Ireland, Sr., whose son Matthew Ireland claimed 300 acres in Charles River County on 23 May 1638 on the basis of his being heir of his father John Ireland, SR., who had transported five Ireland family members and Thomas Reaves, their servant, into the colony….
  • Reere, Thomas, I: 166: Thomas Reere or Reeve was transported by John King and Lawrence Ward, who claimed 500 acres in Isle of Wight County on 19 April 1648 on a branch of Pagan Bay Creek called the Freechat, beginning at Turkey Hill….
  • Reevs, Thomas, I: 25: Transported by John Upton, who on 7 July 1635 claimed 1650 acres at Warresquioacke Creek about 3 miles up from Pagan Point Creek… [NOTE: This seems to be Isle of Wight County.]
  • Reves, Thomas, I: 184: Transported by Lewis Burwell, Gent., who on 12 June 1648 claimed 2,350 acres on the north side of York River, up Rosewell Creek, near Bacon Point, joining lands of George Menefy, Esquire, and William Smoot….
  • Reeves, Thomas, I: 500: Transported by Lt. Col. Thomas Goodrich, who on 18 September 1663 claimed 600 acres on the south side of the Rappahannock River along Hoskins’ Creek, parallel to land of John Gillett, supplementing land previously claimed by Clement Thrush…. [NOTE that the terminology of this document is difficult to understand, but it appears that 100 acres of the 600 acres had been claimed for the transportation of John Golding and Thomas Reeves on 10 June 1657...]
  • Reeve, Thomas, I: 69: Transported by Lt. John Upton, who on 25 August 1637 claimed 1650 acres in Isle of Wight County about three miles up from Pagan Point Creek... NOTE: See prior record, on 7 July 1635; Upton is apparently refiling the patent...
  • Rives, Thomas, I: 502: On 18 February 1663, Thomas Rives patented 300 acres in Gloucester County, Fenton’s Creek and south side of Mattaponi River, joining Araciaco Swamp and lands of Edward Simpson, Leonard Chamberline, Ashwell Batten. The land had originally been granted to Abraham Moone on 1 November 1654 and “assigned to sd. Rives.”
  • Reeves., Tho., II: 43: Transported by Mr. William Downeing, who on 28 April 1668 claimed 1570 acres in Northumberland County on the north side of Great Wiccocomico River, joining Henry Bradley, Mr. Wiley, and a branch into Chetanck Creek…. NOTE: From the terminology of the patent, which included 700 acres granted Downeing on 24 June 1664, Reeves had been transported between that date and 28 April 1668 – that is, 50 acres of the second tract was claimed for Reeves’s transportation.
  • Reeve, Thomas, II: 259: Transported by William Hunt, who on 16 April 1683 claimed 675 acres in James City County at head of Aroroper Swamp, near the Oaken Swamp, Ridge Field, Pease Hills….
  • Reaves (or Reanes), Thomas, II: 276: Transported by James Peters, who on 20 April 1684 claimed 750 acres in the Upper Parish of Nansemond County near the Cross Swamp….
  • Reeves, William, I: 288: Transported by Littleton Scarbrough, who on 10 May 1652 claimed land on Curratuck and Occahannock Creeks for transportation of twenty people….
  • Reeves, William, I: 324: Transported by John Adiston, who on 22 November 1655 claimed 300 acres on head of Parrotts Creek upon Rappahannock River….
  • Reeves, William, I: 405: Transported by John Williams, who on 3 November 1660 claimed 500 acres in Northampton County at Anancock for transportation of ten persons….
  • Rives, William, I: 448: Transported by Robert Kemp, who on 25 February 1663/4 claimed 200 acres in Lancaster County at head of Parratt’s Creek for transportation of four persons
  • Reve (or Rene), William, I: 459: Transported by Mr. Richard Merriman, who on 7 April 1664 claimed 1000 acres upon the northern side of Lancaster County upon the head of Morratico Creek….
  • Reeves, William, II: 96: On 6 February 1670, Mr. John Risley claimed 12 acres in Yorke County joining Lt. Col. William Barber, Robert Jones, Walter Wood, near the head of Black Swamp, for transportation of William Reeves….
  • Reeves, William, II: 264: Transported by George Loveday, who on 29 May 1683 claimed 100 acres in Surry County on the branches of Upper Chippoakes Creek joining Mr. Busbie for transportation of William Reeves and Francis Spencer
  • Reeve (or Reem), William, II: 71: Transported by Richard Awborne, who on 18 October 1669 claimed 605 acres in Surry County, Lawne’s Creek Parish, joining land of Blow, Robert Laine, Mrs. Bynns...
  • Reeves, [-----], land of, II: 276: On 20 April 1684, Mr. Benjamin Goodrich claimed 930 acres on the south side of the Rappahannock River near 1350 acres taken up by Bartholomew Hoskins, beginning on Hoskins’ Creek, parallel to John Gillett, granted Lt. Col. Thomas Goodrich on 18 September 1663, and joining Tickner’s Creek, land of Reeves, including land granted to Clement Thrush. Note that this is the same tract referenced above for “Mr. Reeves.” While the identity of this individual is not clear, there may be some link, based on the individuals involved, with Edward or Edmund Reeves and Thomas Reeves.

¹Originally published in three volumes covering the period before 1732, Cavaliers and Pioneers was the work of the late Nell Marion Nugent. Nugent transcribed all known land patents filed during this period. This important resource chronicled the size and location of Virginia land grants issued prior to 1732. Because land grants were issued on the basis of the number of headrights (that is, the number of individuals for whose transportation into the colony the grantee was responsible), these records also preserved the names of those individuals who entered the colony during the seventeenth-century whose transportation provided the basis for subsequent land claims.

The Virginia colony began with the Jamestown settlement in 1607. The first two decades if its existence were disastrous. In an effort to market the colony by making it more attractive to newcomers, Sir Edwin Sandys implemented the headright system, whereby an individual was entitled to fifty acres of land for each person he or she transported into the colony. An individual could thus claim fifty acres for his own passage as well as for each other individual – spouse, child, or servant – he brought to the colony. As tobacco became the dominant cash crop during Virginia’s second decade, the ability to acquire land equaled the possibility for wealth and social advancement. Headrights thus played an important role in the colony’s development. Because of their economic importance, the government and its citizens had a vested interest in documenting these individuals. This led to the generation of the documents transcribed by Nugent.

Edmund Morgan, in his classic work American Slavery, American Freedom, analyzes the headright lists in great detail. The majority of those individuals transported into Virginia during the seventeenth-century came as indentured servants. Depending on the nature of that indenture, a person might be expected to work up to about seven years, although indentures could be longer if there were extenuating circumstances or if difficulties arose after the individual entered the colony. Indentured women who became pregnant might find their indentures extended because of the expense and inconvenience that their pregnancy cost their master; men who ran away or participated in some form of illegal activity could also find the length of their indentures increased as a part of their punishment.

Although there was an economic incentive to document the individuals transported into the colony, there was room for error. Sometimes names were recorded incorrectly. Individuals could also buy and sell transportation rights, so there is no absolute guarantee that the individual claiming land for the transportation of a particular person was actually the person who originally brought that person into the colony. And because of the possibility for land acquisition that headrights promised, some individuals fraudulently attempted to sell or transfer headright names after claiming land for that person’s transportation. The high mortality rate of seventeenth-century Virginia also means that many thousands of those who entered the colony in the seventeenth-century, especially before 1660, died young, often while still servants, without marrying and leaving offspring. Those who did survive to marry often left small families.

In a general way, then, these headright lists provide a guide to thousands of immigrants to seventeenth century Virginia. But they must be used with care, for there are many caveats. Among them are the following:
  • Occasionally lists have been torn, faded, or otherwise damaged. Invariably, some names have been lost. Many individuals proved their headrights in the local county courts. When county court order books survive, these often have lists of headrights that either duplicate those found in the patent books or, occasionally, supply the names of individuals not found in the patent books.
  • These lists generally do not include individuals who were transported to the colony prior to 1623, when Virginia became a royal colony and the Virginia Company of London ceased to control local affairs. Undoubtedly, then, there were individuals with the Reeves surname who entered the colony prior to 1623. The records of the Virginia Company of London, many of which were edited and published by Susan Myra Kingsbury, may provide clues to individuals who entered the colony during the company period, as might unpublished records in manuscript collections (especially the Ferrer Papers at Magdalene College, Cambridge University). The Powhatan Uprising of 1622, however, killed many of the colony’s residents. Afterwards, a census (or “Muster”) of surviving residents of the colony was taken between 20 January and 7 February 1624/5. This document has been carefully transcribed and published in Adventurers of Purse and Person in Virginia, 1607-1624/5, which documents all known individuals living in the colony at the time of the muster. No individual with the Reeves surname (or any variant spelling) was enumerated in Virginia at the time of the muster, suggesting that any persons with the Reeves surname who entered the colony prior to 7 February 1624/5 had either died there without leaving surviving offspring or had returned to England prior to that time.
  • An individual could claim 50 acres of land each time he or she entered the colony. A person who made multiple trips or who funded multiple trips for others could thus claim land multiple times. This means that the same individual can appear more than once on these lists in a legal and legitimate way.
  • As mentioned, some individuals claimed land fraudulently using headrights previously used by others. This can often be detected by the usage of the same group of individuals to claim land in multiple patents. When a name appears more than once on these lists without being accompanied by the same group of individuals each time, this is usually either a different individual or it indicates that that person made multiple trips into the colony.
  • Headrights can occasionally provide clues to a person’s origins. Those who have studied headright lists carefully in conjunction with other records have argued that often individuals appearing on the same lists often travelled together from England and in some instances were recruited from the same county, the same village, or the same group of villages. Instances also have been discovered in which individuals recruited laborers from their home area or consistently used the same factor to provide servants at different times. And because not every person on the headright lists was a servant, the lists sometimes provide clues to family relationships of the person claiming the land as well as to relationships among individuals being brought into the colony. While detailed research into the headright lists can be meticulous and labor intensive, it can also sometimes produce valuable insights about the personal background and events that brought individuals to the Chesapeake.
  • Because headrights were sometimes sold or otherwise transferred, the headright lists do not always guarantee that the individual being transported entered the colony in the county mentioned in the patent or ultimately worked for the individual who claimed them as headrights. And once they arrived in the colony, servants could be traded, sold, or bequeathed for the remaining period of their indenture. But in most instances research suggests that individuals were brought to the counties where land was claimed for their transportation. If an individual lived to the end of her or his indenture, then he or she often appears in the legal records of that county or an adjoining one afterwards.
  • In most instances, servants came to the colony with no property. In the “boom” years of Virginia, many servants were able to acquire land after becoming free and to work their way up the social and economic ladder in the colony. By the 1660s and 1670s, opportunities were narrowing, and this change helped fuel the servant uprising in Virginia known as Bacon’s Rebellion. In the years after Bacon’s Rebellion, African slavery began to replace indentured servitude as the colony’s main labor system, and the number of servants entering the colony steadily declined after the 1670s. In terms of studying former servants, however, this means that many of the individuals on these lists, even if they survived their indentures, did not acquire property in the colony; for those who did, it might take many years before an individual saved enough money to purchase property. Many former servants thus became renters and often do not figure prominently in property and estate records, at least for many years after becoming free. Often, however, they will appear in the county court orders as witnesses or litigants, frequently as defendants in debt cases or, sometimes, in criminal ones.
  • Often it could take several years for an individual to acquire enough headrights to obtain a patent for a substantial acreage of land. Rather than to claim a single tract of fifty acres, most individuals preferred to obtain larger, more viable tracts. An individual might acquire headrights over several years, transporting family, friends, and servants in small numbers and purchasing headrights from others. Thus, the date of a land patent is not necessarily the date when an individual entered the colony. It should be regarded, instead, as the date by which an individual is known to have been in the colony. In most instances, the actual transportation will have occurred months or even years in the past; at the same time, however, the quicker an individual could acquire property, the quicker he might advance financially. Thus, there was an incentive to use headrights to claim land as quickly as possible. In most instances, then, the headrights records indicate a fairly recent arrival into the colony.