Creating a Plat Map from a Metes and Bounds Land Description: A New Jersey Example.
Part 1 demonstrates the preparatory work involved prior to the actual drawing of the plat map.
LAND. It was the opportunity to own land that led many of our ancestors to cross the ocean to America and, in some cases, traverse the continent. Since land was of vital importance to our ancestors, it should be equally important to genealogists wanting to form a more complete picture of their ancestors’ lives.
Even with the large numbers of original documents now online, deeds for New Jersey are not yet among them. So, I traveled to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah last fall where I spent three days reading microfilm and creating digital copies of deeds involving my Carson family and their associates who lived near Trenton, the state capitol of New Jersey.
One of the deeds I examined was an 1847 Sheriff’s Deed of two parcels confiscated by Mercer County Sheriff John Hammell to satisfy a judgment returned by the State Supreme Court of New Jersey against Aaron Eldridge in favor of Daniel Carson. The lands were formerly owned and occupied by Abraham Rogers, deceased.
I transcribed this deed using my word processing software. Recall that a transcription
is “an exact copy”.  To fully analyze a record, we must spend some time with it. For me, the process of converting handwritten records into documents in my word processor facilitates both my understanding of the record and later recall of that record. Transcribing a record also allows me to search my digital files and retrieve the transcribed text for later use in research reports and the like.
The complete metes and bounds description of this land from this deed is as follows:
“…Beginning at a stone standing in the middle of the road leading from Cross Keys to the Assunpink Bridge being a corner to George Newell’s lot thence along the middle of the road according to the bearing of the compass in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty two South twenty degrees East twenty nine chains and eighty three links to the corner of John H Hutchinsons land thence along his line South fifty four degrees and a half west ten chains and ten links to a stone corner to the Heirs of Amos Rogers deceased thence along their line North forty seven degrees and three quarters West twenty one chains to a stone in a pond thence north seventy three degrees West nine chains and forty one links to a stone thence north thirty six degrees and a half West eight chains and thirteen links to a stone thence north fourteen degrees and a quarter West four chains and forty one links to Augustus Gordons line in the middle of the road leading from Assunpink Bridge to nottingham Square thence along said line and road north seventy three ^ degrees and three quarters East twenty three chains and ninety seven links to the corner of the aforesaid George Newell’s lot thence along his line South twenty degrees East two chains and two links thence north seventy three degrees and three quarters East five chains to the Beginning containing seventy acres be the same more or less…”
The key to working with survey descriptions like the above is to separate out the calls into corners and lines. Patricia Law Hatcher describes one such method in her book entitled “Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records” (Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2003) : 140-142 that I have successfully used, and will show here today. A line will include both a direction and a distance and a corner is where two survey lines meet, usually delineated by a naturally occurring landmark, such as a stone or a tree. A metes and bounds survey normally will start with a corner and subsequent calls will alternate between lines and corners.
Take the first part of this survey as an example:
|…Beginning at a stone standing in the middle of the road leading from Cross Keys to the Assunpink Bridge being a corner to George Newell’s lot|
Includes direction and distance
|thence along the middle of the road according to the bearing of the compass in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty two South twenty degrees East twenty nine chains and eighty three links…|
Working through the calls in the deed, and following Hatcher’s method of visually notating the corners and lines with different symbols, my extracted information looks like this in part:
The ultimate goal of this exercise is to get a complete description of the land. You don’t want to miss a call and end up with an incorrect plat map. Using Hatcher’s method will minimize the chances of that happening. My deed transcription and later extract of the land description can be further distilled into the essential elements for the actual platting: the boundary line calls.
Now that I have a complete description of the boundaries of the land purchased by Daniel Carson, I can begin to actually map, or plat, the land. I will demonstrate that process in my next post using a freely available online tool.
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Skillbuilding: Transcribing Source Material”, OnBoard 2 (January 1996): 8; Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/skbld961.html : accessed 16 Jul 2015).
 See image of a Gunter’s surveying chain and description at Wikipedia, “Gunter’s chain,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gunter%27s_chain&oldid=652072667 : accessed 16 Jul 2015).