Tompkins Surveying and Mapping
Your Professional Land Surveyor


A Different System

Georgia's land system is much different than any other state in the country. While it is very similar to the other 13 Colonial states in that it is a metes and bounds state, it is also one of the first to attempt a form of land grants based on squared-off pieces of land. The two systems used in Georgia were the 'Headright' land systems and the land lottery system.

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headrights land system

Georgia's Headright land system is based on the reign of King George II granting land to his loyal subjects in Georgia prior to the Revolutionary War. When Gen. James Oglethorpe arrived in Georgia in 1733, Georgia was a colony run by trustees under a charter granted by King George II on June 9, 1732. Any land transferred from colony ownership to private ownership was initially done from London by the Trustees of Georgia. Grants ranged in size from a maximum of 500 acres for those who traveled to Georgia at their own expense to 50 acres for those who traveled at the expense of the colony. In 1741 the system was reorganized with colony officials directly responsible for land grants. The system resulted generally in squared-off parcels with matching boundaries to adjacent tracts. These tracts used natural monuments most of the time. (i.e.-rivers, creeks, ridges, etc.)

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land lottery system

These systems was first implemented in 1805. There were five basic sizes one could win in the lottery system:

  • 40-acre tracts (also called 'gold tracts')
  • 80-acre Tracts
  • 160-acre Tracts
  • 202.5-acre Tracts
  • 490-acre Tracts

Land sizes were based on the fertility of the soil and how much perspective gain one family could get from owning it. 

Above, a lottery barrel that was used to draw names from. Located in the New Echota Museum. Nearly all of the lands granted were owned by the Cherokee or the Creek.

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yazoo land fraud

The largest land fraud case ever recorded in American history was the land division of Georgia. In 1795, a corrupt Legislature secretly negotiated a land sale for the land in the west, what is now Alabama and Mississippi. The public erupted in protest, killing one legislator and cursing anyone who had connections with this deal. The deal was later rescinded and the land re-acquired by Georgia. But not without trouble. Some of the land had already been allocated. Years of lawsuits finally settled the cases in favor of the landowners. Nothing was ever surveyed and there were huge discrepancies of title for years.