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Transfer of Land in North Carolina. It's History by "Metes and Bounds"

Land transfers in the State of North Carolina may bring with them metes and bounds and mystery. Be prepared for bits of history written between the lines in old land surveys, and also be ready for a challenge when you decipher them. Interested in definitions?...Metes... "A boundary defined by the measurement of each straight run, specified by a distance between the terminal points, and an orientation or direction. Bounds... "A more general boundary description, such as along a certain watercourse, a stone wall, an adjoining public road way, or an existing building."

 When you first encounter a metes and bounds survey you may find yourself traveling back in time  to the days when your family's "Old General"   having been granted twenty-five thousand acres for his services in the Revolutionary War, strode the land in North Carolina.  That's where bits of history come in.

Land records are excellent sources of family history information. Land ownership and the accompanying records were precious to many of our crop-growing ancestors who tried to keep land in the family, and created valuable records.

Deciphering land records using the metes and bounds method of describing land can be challenging. This was the method of choice here in North Carolina for centuries.

Back in 1777, a bill that explained how, after locating property, a settler wished to claim that land, was written. It required that a description of the location and boundaries of the property be provided by a surveyor. So a surveyor was dispatched into the mountains, hills and valleys or coastal regions to survey and produce two plats of the land. Each contained a scale, description, angles, distances, marks he had made, any water he had crossed, and, total acreage done in the metes and bounds method that had originated in English Common Law. After a short period of time in which any conflicting claim might be found, the settler was given a copy of the land description, with another copy going to the surveyor as a warrant to survey the land.

Now jump forward a couple hundred years. You are involved in a land transfer and you find yourself looking at a metes and bounds survey. You have come face-to-face with a document a treasure-hunter fairly relishes. Having read the above, you probably have surmised that These documents are complex, and oftentimes downright mysterious. With that old-time surveyor, now you follow along with a series of distances and directions until you arrive back at the point of beginning.

The directions may read,                                                    
"Beginning where Standfield's donkey and goat always stand  
at the crest of the southmost knoll. . ." continue "then go north 15º east
with the center of Sprinkle Creek 90 poles,
thence north 100º east 100 poles to a grave stone,
thence South 10º west 130 poles to a pile of rocks with a cross on it,
thence South 100º west 100 poles to the point of beginning,
containing approximately 92.15 acres, more or less."

Margaret Mitchell's Gerald O'Hara tells Scarlet,
"Land . . . 'tis the only thing that lasts . . . ." Land is a tangible artifact that remains of our ancestors where the history of families is written in the transfer of lands.

 

Resource: List of North Carolina Land Grants in the National Archives   

List of North Carolina Land Grants, 1778-1791

M68

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