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The Old Compass and Bearing Equivalent Table for Plotting Old Virginia Land Boundaries
by Eve Gregory

Linear Measurements Used in Virginia
in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Surveying Compass Bearings Used in Virginia
in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
  • 1 chain = 66 feet
  • 1 two-pole Chain = 33 feet
  • 1 link = 1/100 of a 66 foot chain
  • 1 perch = 1 pole, but also 1 square pole
  • 1 pole = 16.5 feet
  • 1 prime = 1/10th of a pole
  • 1 rod = 16.5 feet
  • 1 rood = 1 rod, but also 40 square rods

How to Plot Boundaries
This compass shows the major directions given in the Bearing Equivalent Table. Further divisions in the table lie between the major points and are not marked on this compass. By looking at the compass, one can see that one line beginning at the perimeter and passing through the center to the opposite side can be described by two different bearings. These two different bearings tell the two directions in which the line points. The line NE, for example, is the same line as SW, but it points in the opposite direction. Since boundary descriptions can run either clockwise or counterclockwise, it is quite possible to find, in descriptions of adjoining tracts, two descriptions of the same line which agree exactly or in which the line bearings are exactly reversed.


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