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Government Professional

Surveyor and Conveyancer

I have an old tin sign in my collection that states "Surveyor and Conveyancer".  I have assumed all along that the term "Conveyancer" meant that the business handled land transaction closings in some way.  The sign is likely to be from the 1800s and was acquired at an auction here in Pennsylvania.  What I am hoping is that someone here may know whether there was a time when conveying real property was not strictly the domain of attorneys.  My 1970 vintage education always made a point to say that a surveyor's role was to delineate a property and provide a written description for a deed of conveyance.  There is no legal reason I know that a lawyer is required to draw up a deed and have it executed and recorded, but it's always been that way as long as I know.  Was there a time when surveyors provided that service?  Thanks,

Ron Blauch


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  • Land Surveyor


    From the early 1600's through the early 1900's Surveyors were highly respected in their American communities (they still are today in England, where members of Parliament often consult with members of the Royal Society of Surveyors on Westminster Square). Surveyors were considered the experts on land, not only regarding boundaries, but also land quantity, land quality (hilly, flat, swampy, fertile, dry, wet, rocky, wooded, grassy, etc., etc.  As a result, they \were readily accepted as the most qualified persons to pick locations for and layout towns, railroads, farms with the proper combination of pasture, crop, and forest land, etc., etc.

    Conveyancing was considered one of the areas they were expert in, and the general public trusted surveyors rather than lawyers to write a deed that would properly convey land.

    Surveyors were also Justices of Peace, Civil Engineers, Real Estate Agents, Auctioneers of Land, etc. Some early colonial surveyors ads even advertised their ability as gardeners, landscapers,etc,

    Many surveyors were given the name of Esquire because their service to the community in writing deeds and other legal documents, as well as settling boundary disputes. They were well respected and in those days Esquire was a term of respect.  I have a great great grandfather and great great Uncle who were both surveyors in the early 1800's; both of their gravestones have "Esq." after their name.

    I actively practiced surveying since 1960, and many attorneys would ask me to write the land description portion of deeds.

    I am going to  create an Album named :Surveyors and Conveyancers with some old ads that bear out what I have written in this can find it in my Albums.

    David C. Garcelon

    • Government Professional

      That surely confirms what I had suspected.  Thank you for the reply.  It would be best in my opinion if surveyors still provided that service.  I've seen way too many deeds with poor descriptions and missing or erroneous courses.  Maybe they were not the fault of an attorney, but hopefully a surveyor would ensure the accuracy of the final printed document.  

    • Land Surveyor


      In Massachusetts the Land Court has two sections, the Survey Dept. and the Title Department, which seems to me to emphasize the fact that Surveyors are experts on the location of title and Attorneys are expert on the ownership of title. Considering that, Surveyors should write the land descriptions in a deed and Attorneys should write all the legal buzzwords that assure ownership of title. My own personal feelings are that every land description in a deed should also refer to a plan of the property being described, if there is one.

      To me, the separation between location of title and ownership of title is clear and distinct, and both should be covered in any transfer of land.

      Have you looked at my Photo Album named "Surveyors and Conveyancers? I think you will find it interesting!

      David C. Garcelon

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