Land Tenure, Boundary Surveys, and Cadastral Systems: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Land Tenure, Boundary Surveys, and Cadastral Systems

1st Edition

By George M. Cole, Donald A. Wilson

CRC Press

195 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781498731652
pub: 2016-08-01
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315369990
pub: 2016-08-05
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Land is important to all aspects of human life and has a key role in the economic well-being of society therefore, land tenure, land ownership, and real property law is a critical part of any developed nation. Together, the processes of how land parcels are held; how they are defined, measured, and described to allow economic transactions; how they are marked to allow their use and defense; and how they are legally protected have allowed for the orderly possession and use of land. In doing so, these processes have also provided the basis for the advanced economy of most developed nations. Very often, these processes—land tenure, boundary surveying, and cadastral systems—are considered separately. They are very much interrelated, and none of these processes may be completely understood without an understanding of the others.

Land Tenure, Boundary Surveys, and Cadastral Systems provides an introduction to land tenure, cadastral systems, and boundary surveying, including an understanding of the interrelationship of these areas and their role in land tenure and real property law. This is especially true considering the advent of georeferenced cadastral maps reflecting the location of land parcels relative to many other components of the physical and legal infrastructure. Although intended as a basic text for college-level surveying courses, this book should also be of significant value to cadastral mappers, real property attorneys, land title professionals, and others involved with land transactions.


"The book is an important contribution to the many professions that use, manage or regulate land, and it reminds us that we each may be quite good at our very small part, but that we should occasionally stop to take in and appreciate the grander views to understand what we are all working towards."

—Brian Nelson Burford, Licensed Land Surveyor in New Hampshire and

New Hampshire State Archivist, USA

"Wilson and Cole provide valuable insight into aspects of property rights that have received scant attention from previous surveying texts. The segment covering private restrictions, regulation and zoning was particularly relevant."

—Kristopher M. Kline, 2Point, Incorporated, Alexander, North Carolina, USA

"… a useful study guide for surveying interns and reference tool for licensed professionals."

—Wendy Lathrop, Cadastral Consulting, LLC, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, USA

"Don Wilson and George Cole are two of the most respected professional surveyors in New England and across the United States. Their new book Land Tenure, Boundary Surveys and Cadastral Systems is a tremendous addition to the limited list of dependable, well-researched resources available to surveyors and others who need to understand land tenure and surveying basics in order to more effectively perform their work."

—Gary R. Kent, The Schneider Corporation, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

"The authors bring an impressive 100 years of combined personal experience to bear on a topic that remains central to our understanding of the U.S. property system and how it has evolved over time. The book will be of interest to professionals, scholars and teachers whose work focuses on the spatial and legal aspects of property systems. I know that students will appreciate the succinctness of this book - many other books on land tenure and cadastral systems are well over 500 pages long!"

— Grenville Barnes, University of Florida, USA

"Land Tenure, Boundary Surveys, and Cadastral Systems by Donald A. Wilson and George M. Cole fills a serious abyss in the subject of land surveying. A review of the work’s contents definitely does not relegate the volume solely to an academic environment, but is a needed reference for surveyors, title researchers, and the legal profession."

—Herbert W. Stoughton, Private consulting geodetic engineer, Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA

"…a good primary text for land information courses or land survey overview courses. It would also be useful as a secondary text for land survey courses."

—Surveying and Land Information Sciences, May 2017

Table of Contents


Land Tenure


Land Tenure and its Development

Modes of Interest and Tenure in Land

Conveyance of Interests in Land

Transfer of Interests in Land without Agreement of Owner

Land Tenure in Contemporary Society

Legal Restrictions on Land Ownership and Use

Restriction of Public Nuisances

Land Use Zoning

Subdivision Regulations

Private Deed Restrictions

Land Development and Use Regulations

Compensation for Land Use Restrictions

Land Tenure in the United States

Origins of U.S. Land Law

English Common Law

Roman Law

Spanish Law

French Law

Russian Law

Dutch Law

Aboriginal Law

Tribal Law

Origins of Land Tenure in the Original Colonies

Origins of Land Tenure in Public Domain Lands

Subdivision of Land in the United States

Subdivision of Original Grants in the United States

Informal (Private) Subdivisions

Formal (Recorded) Subdivisions

U.S. Public Land Survey

Development of the U.S. Public Land Survey

The Subdivision Process

Measurement Standards


Field Notes and Plats

Other Rectangular Cadastral Systems in the United States

The 13 Original Colonies





Significance of Original Cadastral Surveys

Land Descriptions

Types of Boundaries

Purposes of Descriptions

Types of Descriptions

Writing Descriptions

Description Plats

Land Boundary Surveying

History of Boundary Surveying

Land Boundary Delineation

General Procedures

Evaluation of Evidence in Retracement Surveys

Retracement of Public Land Surveys

Water Boundary Delineation

Origin and Evolution of Water Boundary Law

Boundaries of Tidal Public Trust Waters

Boundaries of Non-Tidal Public Trust Waters

Boundaries Related to Non-Public Trust Waters

Interpretation of Land Descriptions

Cadastral Systems


History of Cadastral Systems

Juridical Cadastres

Land Registration Systems

Land Records Recordation Systems

Fiscal Cadastres

The Evolving Cadastral System in the United States

Integration of Digital Indices and Geographic Information Systems

Improved Public Access

Future Directions

Impact on the Role of Land Surveying

About the Authors

George M. Cole is a professional surveyor and engineer with over 50 years of experience as a land surveyor. Beginning his career conducting hydrographic surveys of the Chukchi Sea as a commissioned officer of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, he has had a wide variety of assignments including participation in the nation’s first satellite geodesy program, as the State Cadastral Surveyor for Florida, and as President of a surveying and mapping firm with projects in both the United States and Latin America. Recently, he has concentrated on surveying education with service as a visiting professor at the University of Puerto Rico (which was the inspiration for this book) and currently as an adjunct professor at both the University of Puerto Rico and Florida State University. He has made significant contributions to professional literature and is the author of several textbooks and numerous technical papers. He also has frequently testified on surveying matters before local, state, and federal courts, including before a special master of the U.S. Supreme Court. Cole holds a bachelor of science degree from Tulane University as well as master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in from Florida State University.

Donald A. Wilson, president of Land & Boundary Consultants, has been in practice for over 50 years, consulting to groups throughout the United States and Canada. He is both a licensed land surveyor and professional forester, having conducted more than 500 programs on a variety of topics, including description interpretation, boundary evidence, law, title problems, and forensic procedures. Mr. Wilson has more than 200 technical publications in several areas, and has been involved with over 50 books, which include titles on Maine history and several books on fishing. Besides being co-author of Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location and Boundary Control and Legal Principles, he is author of Deed Descriptions I Have Known….But Could Have Done Without, Easements and Reversions, Interpreting Land Records and Forensic Procedures for Boundary and Title Investigation. His latest title is Easements Relating to Land Surveying and Title Examination. Don is an instructor for Vector Learning’s on-line professional courses and a regular presenter in the University of New Hampshire’s Professional Development Program.  He is part owner of and lead instructor in Surveyors Educational Seminars and a regular seminar coordinator for the University of New Hampshire. In his professional practice, Don has testified numerous times, in a variety of courts, on boundary and title matters.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Remote Sensing & Geographic Information Systems