Surveying Evidence Gone Wild!

Old rock wall

Here is an old rock wall used as survey evidence

As time goes by much of the original survey evidence becomes lost. In areas trees are marked (blazed) by surveyors at the time of a survey. Pits and mounds are also used to mark corners of properties. This evidence becomes old and will fade into the wilderness as times goes by. The trees with blazes will gradually fall down and rot. Erosion will gradually flatten the mounds and fill in the pits. Scribed wooden posts will rot at the bottom and fall down. Looking for this old evidence is essential in doing a survey. A wooden post that has rotted off will totally deteriorate but usually the pointed end that is in the ground lasts as it is not exposed to the air. Iron posts that have been placed at pits and mounds may get removed but often times there is still evidence of its location. I have found the original hole still in the clay under the overburden. Sometimes the hole is gone but there is still a rust mark from the years before when the iron was rusting from the elements.

In some areas the people that owned the land when it was surveyed or shortly after cleared their properties. They would cut the trees down and till the ground for farming. As they tilled the ground they would put the rocks along the property lines. These rocks can be found hundreds of years later and are excellent evidence of the location of the property lines. Some farmers would also build a cedar rail fence along the property line. This evidence often times is more important than the distances in a deed or title to a property. In New Brunswick, Canada, the people who settled the land came before the land was surveyed. It was later granted to the residences around their occupancy. This makes the original grants odd shaped and often were not the exact measurements of the original grants. Often times when it was surveyed extra land was given to the occupant to make up for marshy or rocky land. Typically this could be around 10% of the area. To figure out where these property lines are you need to go on the ground and find this old evidence. If there is nothing there then you would need to go to the next property and find something there. Using the evidence that is found the surveyor will figure out where the original property line ought have been.

Tree with barb wire

Here is a tree with old barb wire used as survey evidence.

Owners sometimes keep their property lines opened up. They will trim the branches and keep the property lines so you can see through them. Also, they will re-blaze the trees and paint them. This can help the land owners as they will already know where their property ends. Neighbours will be happy as they know their neighbour is not trespassing. This takes a bit of work on the land owners part but will definitely be worth it down the road. This is part of the reason to look for old evidence on the ground. The owners often times know where they own to. If you ask the owner where they own, they will often say, “over to that rock wall” or “I own right to that tree line” or maybe “My grandfather planted those trees with old Mr. Jones, his neighbour, along the property line.” If a surveyor just looked at the descriptions for each parcel they could find that there is a differences from what is being used (occupation lines) and what is suppose to be there from the descriptions. Here is where it becomes tricky. How old is the occupation? Does it date back to the original survey? If it does, then it should most likely be held as the true original property boundary. If the occupation line is a brand new fence and some recently planted trees then there is no correlation between this line and the original survey line. In this case the occupation line should not be used to determine the location of the property line. ┬áIf the occupation line differs significantly from the title a subdivision could be done to change the property line from where it was suppose to be to this new occupation line.


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