Virginia land laws had been in operation since the first "official" surveyor arrive to this colony in the early 1620s. These laws had undergone a number of revisions, but were pretty much finalized in 1748 when some modifications were made. It was under these "Virginia land laws" (regulations) that the settlement of the western lands took place.
Certain steps we necessary in order to secure a title, or patent, to a tract of vacant land. Unless these steps were taken the claimant would eventually find himself dispossessed of his holdings. These were the steps:
1) a definite tract of land needed to be selected [assumed to be vacant]
2) some marks showing the intended boundaries needed to be established
designating natural objects: such as springs, forks of streams, points of hills, cliffs, or piles of
stones (or) the setting up of stakes, marking of trees, or planting stones
3) some improvement needed to be made to show signs of occupation
4) a report of intention needed to be made to the county surveyor, and an entry of the same made in his
5) the entry and quit-rent fees had to be paid by someone
6) the surveyor needed to make a survey of the land and record the survey with a plat
7) the surveyor's report needed to be filed with the secretary for the colony
8) the report needed to lie two years to see whether a conflicting claim would be made
9) the petition for the grant needed to be considered by the Governor and Council in executive session
and a order made for the patent to be issued
10) the complete description in duplicate was then recorded in a patent book and a copy was
delivered to the person named in the grant
Every tract of land (large or small) was a grant from the King, but the these rules where changed in 1776!
A very good discussion of these laws can be found in Kegley's Virginia Frontier, published by The Southwest Virginia Historical Society, 1938.