This database is an index to land warrants in Pennsylvania. While it includes no images, it does list the name of the person associated with the warrant, the date, acreage, and location of the land. A land warrant authorized an official survey of a particular tract of land that an individual or other entity wanted to claim or purchase. While it initiated the title process, the warrant did not confer title to the land.
The Land Office of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania traces its beginnings back to 1682. This index was created from records at the Pennsylvania State Archives and indexes the warrants from all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, beginning in 1733, when warrant registers were first kept. Remember that county boundaries can change over time, and a warrant will be associated with the county as it was on the date of the warrant.
Additional Notes on the Pennsylvania Land Warrant Index
The names on the warrants were handwritten based on what had been written on the warrant application—usually just a small scrap of paper. The person filling out the warrant sometimes couldn’t read the writing, resulting in frequent errors in spelling. Many of the warrant applicants were illiterate, so the application was prepared by someone else, often a local justice of the peace. In these cases, the spelling is strictly phonetic. Sometimes when the clerk preparing the warrant couldn’t be sure about the spelling, they would record more than one possible spelling, referring to the alternate spelling as an “alias.” An example of this is Hugh “Morthland, alias Northland,” who warranted 200 acres in Lancaster County on 14 NOV 1743.
Some of the records only give the surnames. These warrants are either recorded as, for example, “Smith & James” In some cases, when the first name of the person is not given, it is replaced with “---” to distinguish the first name from the surname, as in “Smith, --- & --- James.” This is to reduce confusion when a name could be either a surname or a given name, as with the surname “James.” If only one of the given names is known, it is recorded as “Smith, John & --- James.” Two persons with the same surname would be recorded as “Smith, John & James.”
Some company names are indexed under the letter “T” for names that start “The…” The company “The Uniontown Water Company” is indexed under “T” and not “U” in the warrant registers. Some indexing is strange in the warrant registers. For instance, “Devisees of William Wharton (deceased)” of Bedford County is indexed under the letter “D.” The indexing is important because to find the record it is necessary to look under the correct letter as each was only indexed once. This example is only under “D” and not “W.”
Adm’r = Administrator (of an estate)
Ex’r = Executor (of an estate)
Ex = this is used inconsistently in the published Pennsylvania Archives. It sometimes indicated an Executor of an estate. It was sometimes used to indicate “Excess acreage.” That happened when an earlier warrant was surveyed and found to contain too many acres to be allowed under the original land. This was usually 10% of the number of acres in the original warrant. When the excess was over 10%, the applicant was required to take out another warrant for the “excess” land.
Formats for acreage:
100.13 acres, perches
100.125 acres, fractional acres (i.e., 1 1/8, etc.)
10 ps. Perches (1/160 of an acre)
10.10.5 acres, perches, fractional perches
Occasionally, a single warrant was issued for more than one tract of land. In these cases, the warrant registers sometimes just record the number of tracts and sometimes give more than one acreage. The term “Lot” usually refers to a lot within the plan of a town, such as Easton (Northampton County) or Reading (Berks County).
3 FEB 1748–9 “Double dating” was used prior to the change in the calendar in 1752. Before the change, the year began on March 25th (“Lady Day”). The double dating, used between January 1st and March 24th, indicated the old style date followed by the new style date. The date “3 FEB 1748–9” would correspond to 3 FEB 1749 in the new calendar. The way the dates were recorded in the warrant registers is inconsistent as the double dating is not always used.
Some of the dates on the warrants were incorrectly recorded when they were filed. For instance, John McGowen took out a Lancaster County warrant on “29 FEB 1743”; however, 1743 was not a leap year, so that date didn’t exist.
The warrant registers start in 1733. A small number of land records prior to 1733 are recorded in the warrant registers. The land records prior to 1733 are collectively called the “Old Rights” and are not included in this index.
Dates in parentheses (1749) are not the date given in the register and are estimates for a missing warrant date. In some cases, survey dates are given where there was no warrant date. Undated warrants are usually in the register at the end of each letter (the warrant registers for each county are organized by the first letter of the last name, then by warrant date).
“Settlement” indicates that there was no warrant. In the late 1700s settlers who had not obtained a warrant could provide proof that they had settled on the land for a period of time and could then get title to the land without a warrant. This was mostly in western Pennsylvania.
Part of the Depreciation land sales. The lots sold were in Philadelphia and in and near the town of Beaver in Beaver County. [966 records; from “Waste Book” of depreciation land sales, PA State Archives, RG17.334; photographed copy in possession of Ken McCrea]
Notes provided by Ken McCrea.