The Different Types of Land Transactions

And Other Terminology Found in These Records

compiled by Kathy Niedergeses


North Carolina Military Land Grants - The only military land grant in Tennessee issued for military service in the Revolutionary War.  At first these were issued only in the established North Carolina Military Reservation in upper middle Tennessee.  Grants were not given outright, rather warrants were issued for varying amounts of land, depending on what position a person served in the military.  Very few of these veterans actually claimed the land. The majority of these veterans "assigned" or sold their land warrants to other individuals, who then went through the process of obtaining a grant for himself; or to land speculators, who filed for a grant, then sold the land to settlers at a higher price. 


Tennessee General Land Grants - No grants were issued by Tennessee between 1896 and 1806. Grants made from 1807 to the 1820's were for land in the North Carolina Military Reservation and the former Congressional Reservation.  These were the earliest grants made by the state of Tennessee and were entered on basis of the remaining outstanding North Carolina military warrants and the entries from John Armstrong’s land office. 


Purchase Land Grant - 1806 was the first year a person could claim this type of land grant.  They were issued by the state of Tennessee to perfect titles to vacant land and included all kinds of purchase grants after 1806.  Most of the land grants were either pre-emption or occupant grants.  The fee paid for these grants depended on what area of Tennessee they were issued in, ranging from $.01 to $.125 per acre, not to exceed 5,000 acres per grant. 


Preemptions - The settlers who had taken up residence on Indian land prior to a certain date were eligible for these rights allowing them to claim a portion of the land on which they resided.


Occupant Land Grant - They allowed settlers who had "squatted" at least three years and made improvements on a tract of  vacant and unappropriated public land, to file a claim for between 100-300 acres based on their intention to reside on and improve the land.  These improvements could be a building or a fence, etc. erected on the land.  Besides the usual process of an entry and survey before a grant could be issued, this type of grant also required sworn affidavits by people who knew the person applying and would vouch that he had lived and made improvements on the property.


Land Entry - A claim for land.  An entry document containing an entry number was issued by the Entry Taker, after a person located his land and paid the required fees, if any.  This document usually gave the location (including the rocks, trees, creeks or other people's property it bordered), along with the acreage, range and section. This document was then taken to the surveyor.  [Note: It was required that a small fee be paid to the entry taker, surveyor, and even the chain carrier.]


Land Survey - The official Surveyor or Deputy Surveyor measured the tract of land using the metes and bounds method.  The document issued by the Surveyor was the official survey document showing the boundaries, including the acreage, etc. and contained the survey number and the entry number.  It also included a plat (sketch) of the property showing the shape of the tract and the length of each side using poles as the measurement.  [Note: The time between the entry and survey before an actual grant was issued was usually several months, thus allowing time for anyone to dispute the claim.]


Assignee, Assee., Asnee., etc. - The person to whom the right or interest is transferred. Warrants and Certificates, were commonly assigned to others. Entries and Surveys were occasionally assigned prior to the official granting of the land grant.


Trust Deed - A trust deed is basically the same as a mortgage.  A person deeds land or personal property (mules, horses, wagons, etc.) to a person called a trustee.  This trustee pays the bills a person owes or loans him money, using the items deeded to him as collateral.  A certain date is set for when the person must pay the money back to the trustee, otherwise the property and other items will be sold with the trustee keeping the money.


Warranty Deed - A simple transaction where one person transfers the ownership of property to another person for a certain amount of money either paid at the time the deed is made or spread over several payments. 


Deed of Gift - A person deeds land or personal property (jewelry, furniture, animals, slaves, etc.)  to another person

out of their love and affection, with no fee being paid to the person who is deeding the property.  This is usually from a parent to one of their children or another close relative.


Title Bond - This type of deed is similar to a warranty deed, where one person deeds property to another person with payments spread over a period of time.  So far, we have not found anyone that knows what this type of deed really is, but it evidently was also a bond holding the person to their word.  The person selling the land states "if I shall make or cause to be made a deed in fee simple to said tract of land upon the payment of said note due April 1st 1867, this obligation to be void, otherwise to be and remain in full force and effect this the day and date first above written."  We are not sure what this part means.  The date listed in this part of the title bond is the first date a payment is due.  Our best guess is that it means if the person purchasing the property pays the total bill at the time the first payment is due, then he is released from the bond and a warranty deed will be made.


Chain Carrier, C. C., or S. C. C -  Surveyor's assistants that handled the measuring chain. Often the chain carrier was a relative of the claimant or a neighbor. The law required that the chain carrier take an oath to the honesty of his work, therefore the chain carrier should have been of legal age. The term "Chain Bearer" is also used.  The chain was usually made of wrought iron links and was sixty-six feet in length.  The 1806 law required to be used, a chain of two perches of sixteen and one-half feet each or a total length of thirty three feet.


Locator, L., Lo., Loc. - The person that located the boundaries for entries.  Many times the locator was the person who owned the land, but sometimes was not.


Congressional Reservation - This included part of the area in southern Middle Tennessee and all of West Tennessee, which was set aside by the U. S. Congress for the use of the Indian tribes. The area  that included a small tip of Lawrence County was included in the Treaty of 1806 with the Chickasaw and the Cherokee.  The rest of Lawrence County was included in the Treaty of 1816 with the Chickasaw and the Cherokee.


Congressional Line - The northern and eastern boundary lines of the Congressional Reservation. From 1806 to 1818 this limited the westward expansion of Tennessee. During the years 1809‑11, U. S. Army soldiers from Fort Hampton on the Elk River burned the homes and farms of early settlers that were believed to have settled on Indian land west of Congressional Line.


Metes and Bounds - A survey system were surveyed tracts are not linked to base line surveys as in a township, but rather to neighbors tracts.  These measurements created irregular shaped tracts of land using roads, trees, rocks, meanders of waterways, etc. as the boundaries or limits of a piece of land. Metes means the limit of a surveyed tract, while bounds means the boundaries of the neighbors tract that limit the original tract.


Meanders - Natural bends in a river etc. The meanders were not always surveyed, thereby causing irregularities in the computation of the acreage of a given tract.


Pole - A survey measurement of one fourth chain or sixteen and one half feet.


Rod - A unit of linear measure for the purpose of measuring land equaling sixteen and one half feet in length.  The measuring device for a rod has twenty-five links.  A rod, a poll & a perch are all the same length. Of the three, pole is the most common term in old Tennessee.


Surveyor's Districts - Defined areas established by the State of Tennessee in the year of 1806 for the purposes of dividing the State into districts to establish a system of section and range lines meant to bring some order to Tennessee's older "metes and bounds" system.  Established in 1806, Districts 1, 2, & 3 were in Middle Tennessee, while Districts 4, 5, & 6, and the District south of the French Broad and the Holston were in East Tennessee.  In 1818, the Chickasaws sold their rights to their land in what is now West Tennessee.  Then Districts 7 & 8, in south west Middle Tennessee, and Districts 9 through 13 in West Tennessee were formed in 1819. Also the Hiwassee District in East Tennessee was formed in 1819. The Mountain District was formed in 1827 from parts of other, then recently closed, District Land Offices. The area covered by this district was generally the Cumberland Plateau. Finally, the Ocoee District of southeast East Tennessee was formed in 1836, from the last of the Cherokee's Tennessee land. This Surveyor's Districts system ultimately fell into disuse by 1850, and in 1903 the final Land Office was closed.  Each district was laid out in squares, the squares running east to west were called Ranges and the squares running south to north were sections. 


Lawrence County Surveyor's District - Lawrence County was comprised of the 7th District and the 8th District.  The 7th Surveyor's district ran from the Tennessee/Alabama line northward to a short piece above Ethridge.  The 8th Surveyor's District ran from this point northward to the Maury County line. [Note: Surveyor's districts are not the same as civil districts.] Ranges and sections were laid out in squares - ranges running east to west and sections south to north.  Lawrence County's ranges started with range 3 at the Lawrence/Giles County line and ran east to include ranges 4, 5, 6, and a small part of 7, ending at the Lawrence/Wayne County line.  The sections in the 7th Surveyor's District started with section 1 at the Alabama/Tennessee line and ran north going through section 5, with section 5 being very small.  Then the 8th Surveyor's District began starting all over with section 1 and section 2 north of this to the Maury County line.


Also see the source guide Early North Carolina/Tennessee Land Grants @ the Tennessee State Library and Archives which is now available online.



1.  Whitney, Henry D., The Land Laws of Tennessee, 1891; J. M. Deardroff & Sons, Chattanooga, TN.

2.  Moore,Wayne C., Ph.D., "Introduction," in Tennessee Land Grants, by Barbara, Byron and Samuel Sistler, c1998;
    Byron Sistler & Associates, Nashville, TN.

3. Bamman, Gale Williams,  "This Land Is Our Land! Tennessee's Disputes With North Carolina," Genealogical Journal,
    Vol. 24, Number 3, 1996; Salt Lake City, UT.

4.  Smoot, Fred, "Tennessee Early Surveyor's Districts And District Boundary Documentation 1806-1836," 1996-1997;  Originally published in the Middle Journal of Genealogy and History,
    Volume X, Number 3, Winter 1996-1997.

5.  Smoot, Fred, "Land Terminology," Common Words In Middle
    Tennessee Land Documents
, Fred Smoot, Dog Trot Xpress, Sausalito, California; Original version appeared in             Warren County Genealogical Association Bulletin, Summer 1995.  Revised Version, c1996.