The Tiny Language of Land Descriptions

March 8th, 2018 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

LECTURE: Reading and Writing Section, Township, and Range Land Descriptions

DAY & TIME: Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 4:00 p.m.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided the catalyst for creation of the U.S. Public Land Survey (USPLS) and enabled surveying and settlement of lands through the creation of the “township and range” rectangular survey system.

Land descriptions described in terms of “section, township, and range,” can be found in deeds, probate documents, court cases, and property tax records. Although a land description may look like just a bunch of letters and numbers (SE ¼ , S: 22, T: 28N, R: 10E, 4th PM), it is really a tiny language.

Using a fully animated presentation, this session will show you how to:

  • Read and understand a written description and sketch what it looks like
  • Write a description based on an image, such as a plat map
  • Apply this skill to further your own research

Determining the proximity of two land owners by platting land deeds can further your knowledge of an ancestor’s neighborhood and provide clues regarding spouses, parents, and their families.

Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG®, CGLSM, is an author, researcher, volunteer, and speaker at the local, state, and national levels and is the author of Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story. She worked sixteen years as a reference specialist in St. Louis County Library’s History and Genealogy Department and has taught classes at IGHR, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. Land records have been her special interest for thirty years.