Legal Land Descriptions in Indiscriminate Metes and Bounds

For further discussion of Land Records in the United States, see Land and Tax Records by William Thorndale inThe Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (1984) edited by Arlene Eakle a nd Johni Cerny, Ancestry, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT.

In Public-domain States, land is surveyed in the Federal Township and Range System, not in Metes and Bounds.

NOTE: This section and the associated maps were revised on 10/21/95 with the advice of Birdie Monk Holsclaw. I'm now wondering what planet my brain was on when I drew the first graphics! My sincere apologies to all who made the attempt to understand the strange and useless items. Hopefully, the errors have been corrected. Many thanks to Birdie!

In the Southern United States in the State-Land states, land is surveyed in the indiscriminate metes and bounds system. This survey system uses natural land features, such as trees and streams, as well as neighboring land owners, along with distances to describe plots of land. An example of a deed which uses the metes and bounds land description is shown below with the land description emphasized.

In indiscriminate metes and bounds, distance is measured in 16 1/2 foot lengths which are interchangabley known as poles, rods, or perches. Note that 320 poles = 1 mile. The directions are measured in degrees as compass bearings, beginning with the first direction listed and moving toward the second direction. Thus "north 50 east" in the deed below means 50 degrees east of north and "south 30 west " means 30 degrees west of south.

Frequently, the description of the tract does not define a closed figure. There may be slight gaps or crossings where the end and the beginning to do not meet exactly.

Constructing a Map

Thorndale's chapter in the The Source suggests using the U.S. Geological Survey's 1:24,000 topographic maps as basis for finding the current location of the land described in deeds. On this size of map, Thorndale suggests that 30-40 acre tracts are large enough to not get lost.

Be forewarned that finding the exact location may require you to plot several tracts to create a larger contiguous section which can be identified from river courses or other features. I've been working with the land owned by Rice Beadles in Mercer County, Kentucky and found that it can be a large undertaking. For an extensive exa mple of such a project, consult Some Original Land Grant Surveys along Green River in Lincoln and Casey Counties, Kentucky (1972) by James F. Suthe rland.

Computer Programs to draw plat maps of tracts.

Mercer County, Kentucky Deed Book 7, p .417 [Ref. 4]

Map of the corresponding plot of land

This indenture made this thirteenth day of February one thousand eighteen hundred and ten between Rice BEADLES of Lincoln County, Kentucky of the one part and John CRAIN of the other part witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of two [Ref. 1] hundred pounds lawful money of Kentucky to him in hand paid by the said John Crain, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and thereof doth release acquit and discharge said John Crain, his heirs executors and administrators, the said Rice Beadles [Ref. 2] hath granted bargained and sold alianced & confirmed by these presents doth grant bargain sell and confirm unto the said John Craine and his heirs and assigns forever a certain parcel or tract of land containing one hundred [Ref. 3] and forty acres and thirty-six poles of land situate lying and being in Mercer County on the Doctors Fork and bounded as follows to wit:

Beginning at the mouth of a branch at an ash stump thence up the creek south 20 poles to 2 beach, thence east 41 poles to a small walnut in Arnett's line, thence north 50 east 80 poles to a linn hickory dogwood in said line, thence north 38 poles to an ash, thence west 296 poles with Potts's line till it intersects with Tolly's line, thence south 30 west 80 poles to a whiteoak and sugar, thence east 223 poles to beginning
and all the estate right and title and interest of the said Rice Beadles of in and to the said premises to have and to hold the said 140 acres and 136 poles of land unto the said John Craine his heirs and assigns forever and the said Rice Beadles himself his heirs executors administrators and assigns doth hereby warrant and defend the said land....

Testators: Banister Blagrave, David Crain, Jacob Crow

Signed by Rice Beadles


[1] The original says "tow" not "two.
[2] In the original, this "Beadles" is hard to read.
[3] In the original, at this point, says "thousand" instead of "hundred".
[4] This deed was transcribed from a microfilm of the original deed book. The microfilm is available through LDS (Mormon) Family History Centers.

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Last update: Thursday, 16-Nov-1995 23:45:01 CST