Trivial Pursuit for Surveyors


  • One Acre of land contains 43,560 square feet and can be described as a square 208.5 feet on a side.
  • Surveyors frequently set up their instrument (called a Theodolite) at some distance from either the property corner or the boundary line. Traverse points where the Theodolite is set up frequently do NOT mark the boundary line.
  • Surveyors are required by state law to take 15 hours of continuing education each year.
  • The Point of Beginning of a deed is no more important than any other corner called for in the description.
  • The surveyor may be acting properly if he follows the deed description in reverse.
  • Acreage listed in a deed is one of the least important elements of the description. This is in accord with a long established surveying principle known as the "Rules of Construction".
Units of Measure (usually found in older descriptions)
  • 1 pole = 16.5 feet
  • 1 chain = 66.0 feet
  • 1 link = 0.66 feet
The relationship: 100 links in a chain, 4 poles in a chain, 80 chains in a mile.

North Orientation

I am frequently asked the question, "If you know where this corner is, why can't you just follow the bearing and distance to replace the missing one over there?"

Visit NOAA site to Calculate Magnetic Declination

The bearings on your map or deed may not be referenced to true north; many older deeds are not (although there are exceptions). Many old deeds were simply referenced to magnetic north at the time of the original survey (magnetic north varies over time); others may be tied to an old recorded plat. In recent years, more surveys are tied to True North by solar observation, calculations from state grid monuments, or Polaris observation. Recent changes in state laws require that any new boundary survey done in North Carolina must be tied to state grid monuments if any exist within 2000 feet of the survey (with some qualifications); as a result, more surveys done in the western counties of North Carolina in recent years are tied to N.C. Grid North.

Thus the answer to the question posed above: "We need to find at least two provable, original corners from any deed or plat in order to determine the basis of its north orientation".

Links to earlier articles:

Corners in a Subdivision           Adverse Possession Part 1

Adverse Possession Part 2      Water Boundaries

Boundary Line Agreements      The Statute of Frauds 

What A Survey Will NOT Do     Easement By Necessity

Intent of the parties                       Color of Title.

Statutory Dedication of Easements.       

Although written for Land Surveyors and professionals in related fields, these articles may provide useful information for landowners.

You can hear live interviews of Kris discussing the challenges faced by surveyors today, and a "mini-seminar" on adverse possession. follow this link to the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (A.C.S.M.) Radio Hour Then scroll down to archives 04-16-2012, and 04-23-2012