From Kimberly Powell

Gather Your Tools

One of the best ways to study local history in general, and your family in particular, is to create a map of your ancestor’s land and its relationship to the surrounding community. Making a plat from a land description may sound complicated, but it is actually very simple once you learn how.

Land Platting Supplies & Tools

To plat a tract of land in metes and bounds bearings — draw the land on paper the way the surveyor originally did — you only need a few simple tools:

  • Protractor or Surveyor’s Compass – Remember that half-circle protractor that you used in high school trigonometry? This basic tool, found in most office and school supply stores, is an easy-to-obtain tool for land platting on the fly. If you plan to do a lot of land platting, then you may want to purchase a round surveyor’s compass (also known as a land measure compass).
  • Ruler – Again, easily found in office supply stores. You only need to decide if you want to graph in millimeters or inches.
  • Graph Paper – Used primarily to keep your compass aligned perfectly north-south, the size and type of graph paper is really not that important. Patricia Law Hatcher, an expert in land platting, recommends “engineering paper,” with four to five equally-weighted lines per inch. North Carolina Research(North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), edited by Helen Leary, C.G., F.A.S.G., recommends graph paper marked off the same way your ruler is (i.e. 1/10th inch x 1/10th inch to use with a ruler marked in tenths of inches) to aid you in estimating whether the area shown on your plat matches that in the land description.
  • Pencil & Eraser – Wood pencil, or mechanical pencil – it’s your choice. Just make sure it’s sharp!
  • Calculator – Doesn’t need to be fancy. Just simple multiplication and division. Pencil and paper will work too – just takes longer.
  1. Gather Your Tools
  2. Transcribe the Deed (or Make a Photocopy)
  3. Create a Call List
  4. Choose a Scale & Convert Your Measurements
  5. Select a Beginning Point
  6. Chart Your First Line
  7. Complete the Plat
  8. Problem Solving: Missing Lines
  9. Fit the Property to a Map