Tuesday Tools, Bureau of Land Management Surveys

Better late than never, I am exploring the Survey portion of the BLM site. To access the surveys, go to the Bureau’s home page and click search surveys from the green menu bar. You can enlarge any of my screen shots for a better view, just click on them.

sur 1

I am searching in territory I know a lot about, T23N R10W in Wexford County, Michigan. That is Colfax Township, where many of Papa’s ancestor’s settled. I left the county blank, the township and range are enough to identify the land. I selected all survey types and all surveyors. The only meridian used in Michigan surveys is the “Michigan – Toledo Strip“. The meridian is actually called Meridian Road when it runs between Saginaw and Gratiot Counties.

sur 2

Clicking on the survey type brings you to a screen with more survey detail. I clicked on the top link, original survey. Several tabs show information about the survey and plat, but I wanted to see the map, so I clicked on the tab “Plat Image”. There are several ways to view the plats, I used the ExpressView browser plugin. You may wish to use another method, depending on the browser you use and your preferences. Directions at the bottom of the page give information on ExpressView plugin.

sur 3

I checked the original survey marked N, S, E, W and the one called Sub divisional and could not find any differences.

I am disappointed, since I wanted to check the survey notes, but they have not been loaded yet. I will be checking back frequently. Judge Peterson’s history of the county says that and early settler, Perry Hannah “…found the woods do dark, even with the leaves off the trees, that he had to make constant use of his compass to maintain his direction…”1. This was in 1854, nearly 15 years after the survey was approved, and longer after it was made. The book also said, “…In places, all ground growth seemed choked out by an evergreen vine growing multiple, tentacle-like vines three to six feet in length. A species of ground hemlock, it was appropriately referred to by the settlers as “shin-tangle….”2

Understand the conditions in the area where our ancestors lived adds information which may explain why they made certain decisions. The thickness and density of the woods explains the prevalence of lumber camps in the area in the early days.

In reviewing the surveys in lines three and four of the results I noticed the addition of the coordinates of the section corners and section lines. Also this text was written across the map:

Surface rolling soil sandy 2nd and good 2nd rate timber lumber Sugar, Beach, Elm, Lynn, Hemlock, Ironwood, Maple
In the southeast part of the town is some good White Pine and a few Red Oaks

Last, I look at the survey marked “Dependent resurvey”, and “sub divisional”. There appears to be no difference, the re-survey confirmed the correctness of the original survey.


  1. Peterson, Judge William R. The View From Courthouse Hill. Philadelphia, PA: Dorrance, 1972. 9. Print.
  2. Peterson, Judge William R. The View From Courthouse Hill. Philadelphia, PA: Dorrance, 1972. 9-10. Print.

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