Creating a Plat

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Land Records

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Land Records
State-Land States
Survey Systems and Terms
Creating a Plat
Public-Domain States
Homestead Act of 1862
Military Bound Land
Taxes in Land Research
English Law in American Land Research
List of Useful Resources About Land Records
This article originally appeared in "Land Records" by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, FUGA in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Article originally written by Mary McCampbell Bell, CG Emeritus

In order to plat a tract, one must understand the terminology:

  • Metes are the angles of the property—in other words, they tell us how many degrees we must turn in a certain direction, such as North 69° West.
  • Bounds are the boundary lines of the property. They tell us how far we must walk along that North 69° West angle before we either stop or turn in another direction. They are usually measured in poles/rods/perches, which all mean the same thing. Each pole/rod/perch contains 16½ feet.
  • Courses, better known as “calls,” are the compass directions from the beginning point on a boundary line to the end point of the same line (for example, N69°W to where the next call N39°W begins). They are the combined metes and bounds (for example, N69°W 160 poles).
  • In order to find the correct beginning direction on our plat, we must have a constant marker that can always be found. This is our “anchor.” Surveyors use a compass that shows magnetic north, and this is what we use as our “anchor” on our plat. The direction of north is always where we begin. Before placing a plat on a map, we need a geographic anchor on the map such as a road or creek. One of the best anchors are old fence lines. Many date from the original patent.

Platting Guidelines

  • Before beginning to plat, read through the deed or patent and identify all the metes and bounds and descriptive matter.
  • Underline the calls/courses (combination of corners, lines, and directions) and put a number by each one: (1) Beg. at bl/o on Robt Gilliland’s corner and running with his line N69°W 160 poles.
  1. The “corner/point” is where one starts or changes direction: “Beginning at” or “thence N390W.”
  2. The “line” or boundary tells us about the neighbors, waterways, and so forth: “With Thomas McGuire’s line.”
  3. The “directions” are the number of compass degrees and number of poles/perches: “N69°W 160 poles.”
  • Using graph paper, always draw an arrow on the paper pointing towards north before you begin!
  • Write down the scale! USGS 7.5 maps 1/10” = 12 poles (remember fractions can be rounded up or down).
  • Always mark your beginning point on the plat such as “Beg. at...” followed by an arrow to indicate the direction.
  • Always write the calls (such as N69°W 160p) inside the plat and the descriptive matter along a line outside the plat (such as “along Thomas McGuire’s line” or the “post oak”).


1 mile = 80 chains = 320 poles, rods, or perches = 5,280 feet

1 chain = 4 poles, rods, or perches = 66 feet= 100 links

1 pole, rod, or perch = 25 links = 16½ feet.

1 link = 7.92 inches

Platting can be done with a protractor, a circular 360° compass, or a land measure compass divided into the four quadrants of 90° each. Graph paper is used to keep the plat on course. A ruler with the tenth scale is invaluable and is used by surveyors and engineers. The USGS Topographic maps are used for platting because the large scale allows us to see individual houses, barns, cemeteries, roads, and contour lines. They use the scale of 1:24,000. This means that 1 inch on the ruler equals 24,000 feet on the ground. 1/10th of an inch on the ruler equals 12 poles. There are 120 poles to the inch.

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