Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: The Government Land Survey II

Last week’s blog covered the concepts of meridians and base lines plus how a deed will designate townships formed by intersecting lines that run north/south and east/west six miles apart. Generally, the small map at the top right below was explained. The township highlighted is T2S, R3W or township 2 south in range 3 west.

Let’s remember the Montana deed that is our example:
The northeast quarter of the northwest quarter (NE ¼, NW 1/4) the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter (NW ¼, NE ¼) of Section eighteen (18), Township nineteen (19) north of range seven (7) west containing eighty (80) acres more or less, according to the United States Government Survey thereof.
                 Lewis and Clark County, MT, October 24, 1919, Mettler to J.B. Long and Co.

In the deed, the eighty acres purchased is in Section 18 of T19N, R7W (township 19 north in range 7 west). A township is six miles square so it is divided into 36 one-mile by one-mile sections, numbered as you see in the middle grid below. Section one is in the north east corner. Section 18 is at the western end of row 3.
Diagram showing the breakout of a township grid subdivided into township and range which is divided into sections.

Source: www.nationalatlas.gov

Each section has 640 acres. In legal descriptions in deeds, the section is halved both north/south and east/west into "quarters" or 160 acres. Someone could buy a whole or half section, but often purchased smaller amounts where the "quarters" were important to understanding where the land was located. Let’s look at the first sentence of the Montana deed: The northeast quarter of the northwest quarter (NE ¼, NW 1/4) the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter (NW ¼, NE ¼) of Section eighteen (18). The buyer purchased the two light green squares. On my graph, the areas are not looking very square, and I don't seem to be able to correct them.




When reading the description, pay attention to the second half first. For example, “the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter” is easy to locate, if you go to the northwest quarter of the section and find the northeast area which contains 40 acres. (160 acres divided by 4 = 40 acres.) This buyer also purchases the NW ¼ , NE 1/4 so locate the Northeast quarter and then the Northwest quarter of it, another 40 acre piece abutting the first parcel for a total of 80 acres as the deed states.

It is always easier for me to use a diagram so I draw a box and divide it into quarters, labeling one SE, SW, NE, and NW. The parcels can take many configurations as you see on the third, leftmost map above.

Note 1. For a long article explaining the Public Land Survey System, go to www.nationalatlas.gov/articles/boundaries/a_plss.html

Note 2. As I was finishing this blog post, my September 2012 Family Tree Magazine (U.S) arrived. Beginning on page 42, Chris Staats has a good article titled, Doing the Deeds. It is primarily information about why to search land records; what kinds of family mysteries it can solve. Unfortunately, in a glossary box on page 45, there is a big TYPO in the last definition, Rectangular Survey System. Townships have 36 square miles (6 x 6). (See Diagram above.)
Staats is from Ohio which has one of the most complicated Survey Systems with many meridians and base lines. Maybe townships there have different dimensions.
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

No comments:

Post a Comment