While there are several ways to identify a parcel of land, one is through its metes and bounds property description. Other methods include describing it through the government survey system, using township, range and section, or by using a parcel number on a subdivision plat.
With the metes and bounds system, the property description begins with a monument, either natural or man-made, and then describes each segment of the boundary using a direction and distance. Monuments might include trees, streams, roads, piles of rocks or stakes a surveyor sets. The beginning point could be an actual monument and the description might begin at a designated distance and direction from the monument. When professionals survey properties, they often set stakes at each turn of the property description.
The United States adopted the government survey system in 1875. It divides the land into 6-mile square townships. The system further divides each township into 36 1-square-mile sections. It describes each township using a base-line that runs east and west and a principal meridian that runs north and south. Parcel descriptions often break each 360-acre section into smaller sections using quarters or sixteenths of the section.
When property owners want to divide a parcel into several smaller parcels, they sometimes use subdivision plats. These maps show the boundaries of each resulting parcel. With this approach, the parcel description is the lot number of the subdivision name.