A Patent, often referred to as a "First Title Deed", is a certificate issued by Federal, State and foreign governments transferring land to an individual. In effect the government acted as the seller in a land transaction.

To secure a Patent a person had to either pay cash for the land or furnish proof of why the land should be granted (given) to them. The federal and state governments have sold or given away a lot of land over the years. The US Government has from the Colonial Period to the early 20th Century issued over 5 million federal land grants and patents and the original 13 colonies, Texas and Hawaii issued several thousands more.

The giving of the right to land was called a Grant. A grant did not transfer ownership to an individual piece of property. Rather a grant could be used in exchange for a patent. Normally a grant entailed requirements that had to be met before a patent was issued. For example: A grant for a homestead could not be exchanged for a patent until the person had lived on, and improved the land, for a period of 5 years. Grants were also used by governments conferring the right to sell land to an individual, a company, or an agent, allowing them to retain a portion of the profits while not owning the land.

You will often find the terms Patent and Grant used interchangeably. But they are not actually the same thing. A Grant conferred a right and a Patent is a piece of paper that is in essence a deed.

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