In describing property boundaries, many older deeds make reference to trees, unnamed ridges, adjoining property owners, large rocks and similar ambiguous landmarks. These deeds commonly describe property boundries by using compass directions and the distances between markers. Mark Lowe contributed the following response to my KyGen-L list query as to how to interpret a deed entry such as "N 65 E 240 poles":
N 65 E mean the direction from this point is 65 degrees East of true North. N 80 W 10p means the direction from this point is 80 degrees West of true North and the distance is 10 poles. Here are two excellent books with details about Land Platting. If you want to learn how to plat, I suggest the Leary book. Hone, E. Wade , Land & Property Research in the United States, (Ancestry, Inc:Salt Lake City,1997). Leary, Helen F.M., editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd Edition, Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society 1997. I regularly plat and locate old deeds. Making a tract map can help a genealogist or local historian identify a community, including neighbors, ferries, mills, cemeteries, long-ago houses, and many other landmarks. Although we might not tackle the platting of a whole community, it is likely we might plat a tract of ancestor's land and include his surrounding neighbors. In fact, it might be necessary to plat a community in order to determine where an ancestor's land might be located or from where he might have migrated. By locating the land of an ancestor, we might gain an understanding of their lives and be able to become more involved with their community activities. Land is described in the terms of the "metes" and "bounds" of the tract. Metes are the natural or man-made features of the land that serves at the point along the boundary lines (a white oak, Jackson's corner, Washington Road, a stake) and the boundary lines which connects these point or metes are the bounds. Metes and bounds are generally given in courses (compass direction) and distance (length of lines between point) as well as by the landmarks or metes. With the aid of a few inexpensive tools, researchers can make their own plats of land tracts as described in deeds, wills, court records or land grants. Acre 43560 square feet 160 square rods Chain 66 feet, 22 yards 100 links Furlong 660 feet, 220 yards 10 chains Link 7.92 inches 25 links=1 rod Mile 5280 feet 80 chains, 320 rods Pole 5.5 yards = 16.5 feet = 1 perch = 1 rod = 25 links You can establish a scale to meet your specific needs,but we will platting our tract to match the USGS 1-24000 scale. These USGS maps are also referred to a 7-1/2 minute maps. Most of the deeds we see use poles. Begin Tract Map 1. Always draw an arrow pointing North on your map before you begin. 2. Write the scale on your map (1 inch = 121 poles). IMPORTANT - ALWAYS draw a 1 inch line on your map so that you don't completely lose your scale if the map is photocopied or photographed at a resolution different from the original drawing 3. Always mark your beginning point on the plat as o Beg. at ... 4. Draw an arrow in the direction you will be going 5. Write the calls (compass direction) inside the plat and descriptive information outside the plat. Deed 1 - Andrew Bell Tract This grant is in Henderson County, Kentucky. It was recorded 17 November 1813 in Grants South of Green River, Vol 13, page 226. The property is located in present day Hopkins County, Kentucky. Beginning at a white oak: Thence due west 120 poles to a red oak and an elm Thence due north 160 poles to two white oaks in a flat Thence north 80 degrees East, 300 poles to a poplar and white oak Thence due south 200 poles to a poplar and white oak. Thence South 65 degrees west 160 poles to two beeches on the banks of a lagoon. Thence north 60 poles to the beginning. Step 1: Copy each Direction, Distance, and Description of Corner to a table or notepad. Step 2: Divide the Distance in poles by 121 to determine the scale in inches. (to match the USGS topo map scale) Step 3: Plat the tract as follows. Mark the beginning point for the first boundary line. Allow enough room for the tract to develop as it is drawn. The course from The Beginning (Point O) is W 120 poles. Since we are using grid paper, align your ruler with Point O and the East-West grid (going across - N/S is up/down) and draw a line the scale distance along the ruler. (120 Poles / 121 [to calculate scale] = .99 inch) Using the new endpoint we will go N 160 poles. Draw this line the correct distance. Now we have a compass direction which is compound. Placing your protractor with the point in the center mark, face the rounded top (90 degrees) toward the East or right. From the endpoint, look N to the top of the protractor and then 80 degrees to the East or down the right side almost to the center. Place a mark on your paper at the 80 degree mark. Using the endpoint and the mark, draw your line the correct distance for 300 poles. (2.479 inches or ~2.5 inches) Erase the mark after drawing this line. Continue by drawing S 200 poles. Now again using our protractor, center the endpoint and point the top to the left or West. Look S to the lower end of the protractor and then come up to the West 65 degrees and place a tick mark. Again using the tick mark and endpoint, draw a line the correct distance for 160 poles. Finish by drawing a line N 60 poles to connect to the Beginning. We fit the property to the map by comparing creeks, neighbors, roads, shape of property, etc. It does require some practice and skill, but it very helpful in research.