In Part 1 of How To Read Metes And Bounds we set the stage and covered the basics of Quadrant Compass Notation and how they basically look in legal descriptions. Generally most metes and bounds legal descriptions today in most states, this is pretty straight forward using quadrants and degrees.

But, in REALLY old deeds (and even in some not so old deeds) in the New England states all bets are off as you will see directions and distances measured in quaint but aggravating local terms like “50 rods from the corner of Johnsons Barn to the middle of Martha’s Creek where the Birch grove begins”. I’m not kidding. Look at this.

Maine Legal Description

Maine Legal Description

From the cellar where the house ONCE stood? Really?? So basically in order to get a bearing and get started in finding out the property lines, we have to find where a house USED to be. Wow. Oh it gets better. Look at this.

Maine Legal Description Metes and Bounds

Crazier Maine Legal

And this is part of a large piece of land that makes up a ski resort in Maine. With that much money on the line you’d think they would want to re-survey and bring the legals up to date. Anyway. I digress.

The majority of your metes and bounds legal descriptions will stick to common standard and use a quadrant notation system for direction. Put that together with distances and you have a basic metes and bounds description that looks like this.


Now, you can see, this starts off giving the starting reference using the Public Land Surveying System, so you would have to have a copy of the survey or some form of it on hand to start, but here is a translation of the above.

The 8.549 acre lot of land we are talking about is in Section 32, Block 26, of the T&P Railway Company Surveys that were done in Mitchell County, Texas. This legal description by the way is from a search and post I did about the Cell Towers of Doom! Anyway, the description of boundaries that make up this land are as follows:

If you go to the NE quarter of the Section 32, and then go to the SW quarter of that NE quarter, then go to the NE corner of that SW quarter for your starting point, then you can start to look for the actual starting point of the land in question. From there go South 77 degrees, 00 minutes, and 05 seconds West and then you will be at the NE Corner of the land in question. You consequently will be on the North line of the SW quarter of the NE quarter of Section 32. Now you can get started.

Now, go South 13 degrees E 580 feet. Once there you will find some concrete around an iron pipe post. This is the SE corner of the property. Now the actual SE corner of the property is South 75 degrees West about a ½ a foot from the center of that post.

Now, go South 76 degrees, West 640 feet to a brass cap about 1 ¼ in diameter set in some concrete. This is the SW corner of the property.

Now, go North 13 degrees W 582 feet to another 1 ¼ brass cap in some more concrete. This the NW corner of the land. It is also back in the north line of the SW quarter of the NE quarter of Section 32.

Now, go straight back to the beginning from there by going North 77 degrees E along that North line of Section 32. Everything in the middle adds up to 8.549 acres of land, give or take a few feet.

That may still seem like a bunch of confusion to you at this point. So here are some pictures to help out.

Here is the Section 32.

Section 32 Cell Tower Search

Section 32

And here is the NE ¼ of Section 32.

NE Quarter Section 32

NE Quarter Section 32

And the SW ¼ of the NE ¼ of Section 32.

SW Quarter of NE Quarter

SW Quarter of NE Quarter

And here is the point of beginning S 77 degrees W of the NE corner of the SW ¼ of the NE ¼ of Sec 32.

POB S 77 Degress W

POB S 77 Degress W

From that point of beginning, if we follow the metes and bounds we end up with the property in question.

Property Cell Tower Search


So, if you understand that, then your next question would be, “How did you measure the distances to end up with that?” There are several expensive CAD programs you can use to figure this out, but really, the “measure distance” feature in Google Maps is totally fine for general distances. We aren’t surveyors. We are abstractors. And this helps me tremendously in figuring out what the heck is what.

Google Prop Measurement

Google Prop Measurement

All you have to do is pull up the map of the property on Google and right click. You will see a popup. Choose Measure Distance. Left click on the starting point and left click on the end point. Then you can drag one of those little white dots around to judge the distance. The only catch is, you have to measure one distance (or call as it is known) at a time. Otherwise it adds them up as you can see from the picture above. But as you are measuring it tells you the distance like so.

Google Measure Distance Option

Google Measure Distance Option

Now here is a test to see if you were paying attention. All sections in the survey are tilted to the West by 13 degrees, 2 minutes, and 55 seconds. How do I know that? Put your answer in the comments section, and I’ll tell you if you were correct.

There is some more advanced stuff concerning legal descriptions and metes and bounds, like curves. But for now those are the basics and can get you started.

Happy searching!