Interpreting Legal Descriptions


We sometimes get asked why its so hard to determine the location of property lines on the ground.  There is only one correct solution to the location of boundaries, but sometimes finding that solution is very difficult or even impossible.  The description in the deed is of course extremely important, but is not the only evidence necessary for a correct solution.  Evidence on the ground, other historical documents such as adjoining deeds and old survey maps are also important clues.  The testimony of the property owner, neighbors and previous owners can also help find the correct location.  At times, none of these things can clear up all the uncertainties and the parties on each side of the boundary line must come to an agreement of where the line will be.  It is then the job of the Professional Surveyor to memorialize that agreed upon location with permanent survey markers, a recorded survey map and new legal descriptions which can be retraced should the markers be lost.  Here’s an extreme example of a real property description on record in Hartford, Connecticut, which would be a real challenge to locate on the ground today.

Commencing at a heap of stones about a stone’s throw from a certain small clump of alders, near a brook running down off from a rather high part of the ridge, thence by a straight line to a certain marked white birch tree about two or three times as far from a jog in the fence going around said ledge and the “Great Swamp” so called, then in a line of said lot in part and in part by another piece of fence which joins onto said line, and by an extension of the general run of said fence to a heap of stones near a surface rock, thence aforesaid to the “Horn” so called and passing around the same aforesaid, as far as possible, to the “Great Bend” so called, and from thence to a squarish sort of jog in another fence so on to a marked black oak tree with stones around it and thence by another straight line in about a contrary direction and somewhere about parallel with the line around by the “Great Swamp” to a stake and stone mounds not far off from an old Indian trail, thence by another straight line on a course diagonally parallel, or nearly so, with “Fox Hollow” run, so called, to a certain marked yellow oak tree on the off side of a knoll with flat stones laid against it, thence after turning around in another direction and by a sloping straight line to a certain heap of stones which is by pacing just 18 rods more from the stump of the big hemlock tree where Philo Blake killed the bear, thence to the corner begun at by two straight lines of about equal length which are to be run in by some skilled and competent surveyor so as to include the area and acreage as herein set forth.

Obviously all the references in this deed have either disappeared today or are so vague as to be impossible to identify with certainty.  In this example, the only way to survey this parcel is by looking for evidence of possession on the ground.  We would also look for ancient evidence of fences, and possibly even the rock mounds mentioned.  Thankfully, few property boundary surveys are this complicated.  

If you need help with your property, contact Harmsen today.  Our professionals would be happy to assist you with any of your land use needs.