Pete and I are looking at land titles--deeds--and using them to reconstruct on modern maps who owned what land. We look at patents (original conveyances from Lord Baltimore or the State of Maryland) and deeds, and the descriptions of the land and neighboring lands provided by the surveyors. A brief description of one such tract appeared in the blog about the courthouse and jail lot the other day. These documents often require a great deal of patience to decipher--translate is not too strong a word--and then patience to record and draft so that we can compile a series of plats--drawings of each tract--and piece them together. And then, of course, we examine how the land is further subdivided and, ocassionally, reconsolidated.
Below is an example of a plat provided by a surveyor along with a table of courses. Most early deeds did not include a drawing or convenient table of courses; the descriptions, or metes and bounds, were written out. While less convenient, the written descriptions often mention roads, stream banks, dams, neighboring tracts, and bits of the parcel's history of ownership, so they are well worth reading. Each course, or line bounding a property is described in terms of distance and bearing. Distances were generally in perches in the 17th and 18th centuries, and often in the 19th and early 20th centuries as well. A perch is equal to 16.5 ft. It was a convenient measure, just like yards are today; e.g., one can say 10 perches or 165 feet, 100 perches or 1,650 ft. I think you get the picture.
Thomas Stone's patent called Plenty, dated October 1, 1784.
Surveyors of the 17th century often used a mariner's compass, giving bearings like North Northwest or East Southeast, but more typically measured bearings in the 18th century and later relative to north or south. For example, northeast would be N45 degreesE. Minutes (e.g., S32d 10'W) rarely were used before the 20th century in Maryland.Table of courses for the Plenty patent. It includes metes and bounds for the original tracts and for the entire resurvey that combined tracts and otherwise vacant lands.
In future posts we will illustrate some of the plats that we have reconstructed and their relationships to other parcels.