Wanted: Historic Land Boundary Records
The Public Land Survey Office (PLSO) is looking for collections of survey records that could hold answers to property boundary questions.
Due to the Survey Recording Act of 1973, Washington is possibly the easiest state in the nation to search for land boundary information and maps.
More than 30 years ago the state's land boundary records were stored independently by corporations, private landowners and 39 county courthouses. Searching for key survey records was an arduous task. The State Legislature recognized the need to consolidate and passed a law requiring all new records be filed with the PLSO. For the last 30 years, the survey office staff has received and indexed survey records from around the state.
But the staff also has been collecting pre-1973 "historical" records which can yield critical land boundary reference material. Any collection can help. The donations can be as small as a few folders or documents or as large as a truckload.
Information regarding any property boundary documents can be referred to 360-902-1190 or by e-mail. The PLSO office continues to collect maps and data to improve the accuracy and documentation of this information.
Through the use of computer-generated documents and fast databases, Washington land survey records are among the most easily accessible in the nation. It's important to remember that a thorough and comprehensive search for land boundary records should include the county Auditor, the county Assessor's Office, Public Works departments and title companies.
Survey from 1971 Corrects Survey from 2005
In mid-2005 Don Lovett, Thurston County Surveyor, discovered that a property line for a park he was surveying was 3-to-4 feet off, based on an historic survey document recently donated to the state PLSO.
The survey data showed a critical marker called a "meander corner," which was originally surveyed nearly 35 years ago by John D. Swift, who surveyed much of Thurston County.
In 2004 the family of John Swift donated 40 archive boxes of his survey work to the PLSO. The collection included maps, field notes and indexes. Within 10 months the PLSO office had sorted and indexed the valuable documents, including a map that showed the original location of the meander corner.
"We were able to follow in the footsteps of the surveyor before us," Lovett said. He added that it is not unusual to rely on surveys from the 1850s to determine accurate property boundaries.