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Lotteries Leave Clues - Part 1

The Georgia Land Lottery provides a unique opportunity for genealogists searching for ancestors in Georgia or who may have passed through Georgia from the eastern seaboard on to the western states of the time.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Karan Pittman
Word Count: 834 (approx.)
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The Georgia Land Lottery provides a unique opportunity for genealogists searching for ancestors in Georgia or who may have passed through Georgia from the eastern seaboard on to the western states of the time, including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Although the word lottery brings up pictures of state sponsored gambling, in the early 1800's, the land lotteries distributed land in the state that originally belonged to the Creek and Cherokee Indians. Almost seventy-five percent of the land in Georgia was originally distributed under the land lottery system. No other state used a lottery system to distribute lands.

Before 1803, land in Georgia was distributed by the headright system. Although originally set up to stop corruption, the headright system made corruption easier. The infamous Yazoo Land Fraud resulted from abuse of this headright system. Georgia Governor John Milledge adopted the lottery system in 1802, with the first lottery occurring in 1805.

The individual lotteries had different regulations, different requirements for drawers, and different sized land lots. The Gold Lottery of 1832 produced the smallest lots at forty acres with the largest lots, measuring 490 acres, being distributed in the 1805 and 1820 land lotteries.

In actuality, seven lotteries were held. People often combine the Land Lottery of 1832 with the Gold Lottery of 1832, but two different drawings are represented.

The first drawing was the 1805 Land Lottery. Creek Indian lands just west of the Oconee River had been ceded to Georgia in 1802. These lands were divided, as was a small strip of land in southeastern Georgia. The counties involved included Baldwin, Wayne, and Wilkinson. Those entitled to one draw included bachelors, 21 years or older with one year of residence in Georgia and citizens of the United States as well as an orphan or family of orphans under twenty years, with the father dead and the mother dead or remarried. People entitled to two draws included a married man with a wife and/or child with one year of residence in Georgia and a citizen of the United States, and a widow with a child under twenty-one years and one year of residence in Georgia.

Some excellent references to research the 1805 Land Lottery include the 1805 Card File in the Georgia Surveyor General Records on microfilm, 1805 Land Lottery by Virginia S. and Ralph V. Wood (1964) and 1805 Georgia Land Lottery: Fortunate Drawers and Grantees by Paul K. Graham (2004.)

Researchers who are looking for ancestors who have come down from Virginia, North and South Carolina need to take a look at this lottery. This lottery is an excellent substitute for the 1800 census of Georgia which was lost except for a few counties. By looking through the lists, you may be able to spot your ancestor. The county of residence and the county drawn will be listed.

The next Georgia lottery occurred in 1807 when additional Creek lands were divided. The two counties which were involved were Baldwin and Wilkinson. Those entitled to one draw included a bachelor, twenty-one or more with three years of residence in Georgia and a citizen of the United States; a widow with a three year residence in Georgia; a spinster, twenty-one or older with a three year residence in Georgia; an orphan under twenty-one with father and mother dead and a three year residence in Georgia; an orphan under twenty-one with father dead, mother living and a three year residence in Georgia; a family of orphans under twenty-one with the father dead, mother living and a three year residence in Georgia. Persons entitled to two draws included a married man with wife and/or child under twenty-one with a three year residence in Georgia and a citizen of the United States and a family of orphans under twenty-one years, father and mother dead with a three year residence in Georgia.

Persons who could not draw in the 1807 census included any fortunate drawer in the 1805 Land Lottery thus once again making this a good substitute for the 1800 Georgia census. A good source of information is The Second or 1807 Land Lottery of Georgia, Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr., (1986.)

An interesting fact about these lotteries is that many of the people who drew the land did not settle it. They sold the lots. This provides another opportunity for genealogists to find information. The counties of Baldwin, Wayne and Wilkinson will have the records for the lots sold, and usually the county of residence for the seller (or grantor) is recorded. Wilkinson may be the most difficult county to research as the courthouse burned in 1852 and 1924, but some land records are available. The county of residence for the drawer, as mentioned earlier, will also be given in the lists of lottery winners. These counties may be checked for records and another clue to your line may be found.

These two lotteries represent an excellent source to use to trace your ancestors. Around 25,000 names are listed through these two lotteries alone. Information about both of these lotteries may be found on the website www.sos.state.ga.us/archives.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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