Friday, February 17, 2017

Platting Land in Pennsylvania, A State Land State

Since Pennsylvania is a state land state, the land was surveyed using metes and bounds rather than townships and ranges. This type of survey starts at a starting point which is a "bound" or some type of physical feature. Then, the survey gives a direction (such as north, south, east, or west) and the number of degrees (between 0 and 90) and then a distance. This is the "metes" part of the survey which includes a direction and a distance. At the end of that direction and distance, another "bound" is given.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book X, page 414 (close up), "Dorothea Kline & Al to Nicholas Kline.

For instance, let's take the 1781 Lancaster County indenture example I used earlier this week. The description of the land begins as follows: "Beginning at a white oak corner of David Beilor's land by the same south seven degrees and a half west ninety seven perches and a half of a perch to a stone..." In this example, the "white oak" where this land touches David Beilor's land is the first bound and it is also the starting point. From there, the surveyor turned 97.5 degrees south west and traveled 7.5 perches. This is the first "mete" and you would draw this line if you were platting the land. At the end of this distance, you would come across a stone.

Here's another example from the same document: " a stone, thence by the same north seventy degrees west one hundred & fifteen perches to a post thence by George Kline's land..." So, continuing from the stone, you would turn northwest 70 degrees and travel 115 perches to a post and you would be bordering George Kline's land.

But, what's a perch? A perch is just one type of measurement that the surveyors used. Here are several and their equivalents in feet and/or inches from the FamilySearch "Metes and Bounds" Wiki:

  • link: 7.92 inches
  • perch or pole: 16.5 feet (or 1/4 of a chain or 25 links)
  • rod: 16.5 feet
  • chain: 66 feet 4 rods (or 100 links)
  • furlong: 664 feet
After learning about how the survey was measured and written, I decided to try platting a survey for the first time. I was going to use the 1781 indenture I've been referencing, but one of the degree is missing! Perhaps I could eventually figure it out, but I decided to start with something easier.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has surveys available online. From the home page (, click on "land records" in the first column. From there, I scrolled down to "Images of all surveys." I chose several random surveys to plat, but I had my first success with "volume A-17" then "page A-17-105." This survey is for 100 acres of land granted to James Miller in Tyrone Township, Adams County, in 1745. The survey was done in 1809.

Deed Platter screenshot of data entered on genealogy tools
Using genealogy tools, I looked at the image (or you could use a description), chose a starting place, and entered the information. For the Miller survey, I started in the upper left corner and went around the image clockwise. So, my first "metes" was "S 33.5 E" and "79.5." I didn't know what units they used, but the shape comes out the same as long as you are consistent. I chose perches. 

Survey as drawn from data entered on genealogy tools

Although it's at a different angle, you can see that my plat is the same shape as the survey! From this site, you can also add title information along with marker such as the stone and white oak in my example from my 1781 indenture. You can also add the neighbors, such as John Stewart in this example. I believe there are other free, online platting tools, but this is the first one I found and tried successfully.

Using this example to plat a survey helped me to understand these descriptions which at first did not make a lot of sense to me.

Have you platted the land of your ancestors or their neighbors? What are some of the benefits? I'd love to hear! If you've written a post about it, please leave a link. Or you can leave a comment or email me at


  1. Oh Dana, I love this. I have never searched for a deed platter online, assuming there wasn't one. Silly me. I read an article once on how to use a protractor to set the degrees to create a plat. Also, I was at first confused about the term "perches" but now I see it's the same as "poles." In Virginia, "poles" seems to be the preferred term. I've never seen "perches" used in any of my family's deeds.

    1. Wendy, I'm so glad we both learned something new! Also, "poles" was the default on this program, so it might be more common. Let me know if you give platting a try!


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