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CHAIN! The weakest link (in the chain)

CHAIN! The weakest link (in the chain)

by: Deward “Karl” Bowles,

Texas RPLS no. 4966

  Certain magazines (trade magazines) have purported to represent the current interests of our profession by exposing Land Surveyors to new technologies and philosophies regarding our industry.  These magazines have been around for decades in many cases.


   These so called trade magazines have treated us for years and years now to articles where the authors (pundits) of these articles chide us insisting that Land Surveying is dead.  The pundits warn us that we must reinvent ourselves as somebody or something else than what we are.  They tell us we must act as an arbitrator, offer legal advice, planning advice, GIS services, etc., etc., anything but be the Land Surveyors we are.  These pundits tell us that the professional service of Land Surveying simply has no future with the new technology that is here or coming!  If you just keep buying the newest technology and start doing anything but actually practicing Land Surveying everything will be OK and our future will be secure.

   Besides, these pundits tell us, we don’t really know how to Land Survey anyway and it has never really been a profession to begin with.  We don’t know the law like they (the pundits) do and if we did there would never be a difference of opinion, that their opinion is always right about anything and everything when it comes to Land Surveying theory and practice.  The pundits tell us that our Professional Societies represent interests counter to those of the neo professional Land Surveyor.  The pundits tell us the historic manuals of practice spelling out how Land Surveys should be performed should be ignored. That there are no original Land Surveys only “first surveyors.” These pundits tell us that anything found anywhere near the record boundary corner should be held as marking the boundary corner to eliminate “pin cushions.” 

   These pundits berate other Land Surveyors for surveying the adjoining properties to the property we are trying to survey the boundaries of, chastise us for researching the chain of title of real properties to resolve deed ambiguities and claim fences are much better evidence of the “true” boundary regardless of what other evidence there may be to the contrary.  They extol the virtues of “serving” their clients by solving “problems” for them that don’t exist which they create with their own brand of Land Surveying theory and practice.

   These trade magazine pundits go on to misread, misunderstand or misinterpret case law where they themselves are located at yet insist that the law colloquial to their location should apply to any and all Land Surveyors no matter where they may be located.  They tell us to adjudicate the boundaries of property in conflict without disclosing any of the conflicting evidence to our clients or anyone else for that matter.

   Land Surveyors have become so brainwashed reading this rhetoric from these trade magazine pundits over the years that they have lost sight of what a Land Surveyor actually does and has done in the past.

   Well I am here to assure you the profession of Land Surveying will die if we don’t get back to some fundamentals and start teaching aspiring Land Surveyors how to actually Land Survey.

   Fences are rarely the best evidence of a the original property boundary no matter what you may have heard from these trade magazine pundits.  Further case law establishing how a Land Survey should be performed in the particular area the land is located at you are surveying in is the only guide you should be using to perform those surveys.  For example not reporting conflicting evidence or ignoring evidence of the original boundary on a Land Survey is a violation of State Law in some jurisdictions. 

   These trade magazine pundits tell us that Land Surveyors don't really need to be licensed and insinuate Land Surveying was never a profession to begin with. Land Surveyors are licensed to protect the Public and that is the only reason we are licensed.  While there is nothing wrong with offering products and services that don't have anything to do with Land Surveying, Land Surveying is a unique profession.  Unlike engineers, doctors or lawyers, Land Surveyors are not advocates for their clients.  Land Surveyors have a greater duty to the general public than they do to any one of their particular clients.  Our purpose is too stabilized and perpetuate Real Property boundaries both in the Public Record and on the ground. We are here to prevent litigation over Real Property boundaries and inform the Public about what they have Record Title to. 

   There are at least two sides to every boundary that we survey and therefore Land Surveyors can’t allow their opinion of a boundary location to be influenced by the wishes or beliefs of some particular client that is paying their fee.  We must survey each and every boundary the same way we would if we were surveying it for the other side.  If we depart from this code of conduct then that is when we cease being Land Surveyors and become something else.

   Don’t let these trade magazine pundits with a degree in hot air destroy the oldest and grandest profession of them all.  Go forth and Land Survey and do it according to the Law in your location and in the Land Surveying traditions practiced by your predecessors at the location you are surveying.  That will save the profession of Land Surveying and not listening to some hot air artist who does not have the first clue what Land Surveyors really do.

Come Ahead!


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  • Land Surveyor
    Lucas like several other of these trade magazine pundits has been totally trashing specific Land Surveyors, the Societies that represent them and Land Surveying as a profession for years now yet they have been shown repeatedly over time to have been either completely wrong, mistaken or never comprehended the matters they wrote "opinions" on in the first place. As a matter of fact they are damaging this profession just like this behavior has damaged our society in general. They have been able to do this by preying on the ignorant and fostering hate and fear. Why keep listening to these hot air artists? Lucas is one of many in our profession whose "opinions" we can do without. If you missed the point of this article then I urge you to go back and read it and read the information in the links provided in it.
  • Land Surveyor

    RE:  "In Mr. Lucas's editorial "Courthouse Research…How Much Is Enough?" [May 2003] he states, "I believe that there are circumstances where a surveyor can do a professionally competent boundary survey from a deed faxed to him by a real estate agent…." Really? Sounds like a good way to lose your license."

    That's definitely a way to lose one's PLS license in Wisconsin and most other States, but not in Illinois for some reason.

  • Land Surveyor
    I profess to be a professional land surveyor, not a professional title examiner or an attorney who writes title opinions. Mr. Hixson's article suggests that we must be all three. Either that or he doesn't understand junior and senior rights. Even title companies rarely go back in the chain more the 30 years. I've heard some old crusty title examiners claim that even though 30 years is the minimum, they will always go back at least 50 years. This wouldn't be good enough to
    resolve boundary issues to Mr. Hixson's liking. Just because the latest deed on an adjoiner was recorded in 1984 and the deed for the subject property was recorded in 1994, doesn't mean that the adjoiner has a senior interest in the land. In addition, calls for adjoiners in deeds do not always spell out senior rights either. One must track the chain back to the common grantor, which could be the original patentee, before junior/senior rights can be established. And what surveyor in his right mind wants to be writing opinions on rights into property in the first place? We are not trained in the law or licensed to do so. This is way beyond any standard of care and reaches into areas of incompetence. Unless he is also a practicing attorney, advising clients on their rights in property is malpractice......
    Jeffery N. Lucas, PLS
    Birmingham, Alabama

    See more at: http://archives.profsurv.com/magazine/article.aspx?i=972#sthash.kiq...
  • Land Surveyor
    In May 2003, surveyor Jeffrey H. Lucas flippantly questions requiring to trace title back to George Washington or the passengers on the Mayflower. His solution is to rely on a title officer or realtor with a fax message. Don't go back 50 or even 75 years and uncover the original deed with calls for a monument or a reference to a map by a deceased surveyor.

    My limited experience in owning two homes in 50 years indicates the title company errs along with the rest of us. I examined the deed to a house I had lived in for several years before I was licensed. The prior owners had deeded their neighbor twenty-five and three-eighth inches to allow a garage to be built. The next deed shortened the word inches to two tick marks and the next deed changed it to one tick mark, or feet. Yes, the line moved into my living room. However the title company was not liable because they did not insure boundary lines.

    Many title companies go back to Square One which shows deeds made before the U.S.A. issued patent, sometimes belatedly at the urgent request of grandchildren who were attempting to probate the original homesteaders' estate.

    [Lucas's] attitude expressed in May certainly does not give credit to the parties who determined in Court record (Vol. 556 Atlantic 2nd Edition, page 1144) what was accepted practice in 1989. An interesting footnote is that two parts of New Jersey government dating back to the Duke of York presently exist merely to clear up title conflicts uncovered by current day resurveys or title searches. One meets in Perth Amboy periodically for East New Jersey, and the other in Camden for West New Jersey. Would a U.S. court claim jurisdiction over a dispute along the line between the two Jerseys divided along a north-south line by the Duke in the 17th century?

    Richard T. Sterling
    Hoquiam, Washington

  • Land Surveyor
    Courthouse Research
    In Mr. Lucas's editorial "Courthouse Research…How Much Is Enough?" [May 2003] he states, "I believe that there are circumstances where a surveyor can do a professionally competent boundary survey from a deed faxed to him by a real estate agent…." Really? Sounds like a good way to lose your license.

    The professional surveyor chains the title as far back as necessary to find the appropriate first-cut deeds. Always. It has to do with junior-senior rights and the analysis of intent, not "the King of England," or "the Mayflower," or finding archaic deeds, as Mr. Lucas suggests.

    Professional surveyors know what to look for in terms of deeds. (Lawyers and title officers, for the most part, don't have a clue.) If a surveyor is not willing to spend an hour or two at the title company to get the complete story, then maybe he should stick to technical surveying.

    By the way, forget the courthouse. Most of their records are grantee-grantor indexed, and that takes forever. Good title companies have at least 100 years' worth of records in what they call "arbitrary lot books." They're indexed by property. Think: "GIS system before its time."
    Doug Morin, LS

    Los Osos, California

  • Land Surveyor

    http://archives.profsurv.com/magazine/article.aspx?i=1086 As a matter of fact, some of these hot air artists have been engaged in telling calumnies for years and years now and are nothing more than traducers.  Our profession is being raped by these mendacious "pundits" and it seems only a symptom of the ills that plague our larger society.


  • Land Surveyor

    http://archives.profsurv.com/magazine/article.aspx?i=972 The trashfests that some of these hot air artists have engaged in goes back more than a decade....

  • GEO Ambassador

    Over 1000 views of this well written and well thought out article Karl, in less than a week.  If others were to disagree, I would think there would be more rebuttles.  I can can say is "Right On!"  Keepem comin!

  • Land Surveyor


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I read your post twice and visited all the articles you cited. I must say I share your opinion on many of the cited articles, but what we seem to share the most is the bigger picture:  "Certain magazines (trade magazines) have purported to represent the current interests of our profession...".  What seems more likely to me is that certain trade magazines represent the current interests of their advertisers, mainly surveying equipment manufacturers and software developers.

    Isn't that putting the cart in front of the horse?  Technology, in my opinion, does not drive a profession, professionals do, by doing what they do every day where they live and using the normal standard of care and following the laws for a particular state, or other jurisdictional authority that may have been assigned power of regulation, at a particular time.

    One size does not fit all - never did.  Many broad concepts have been tossed around by trade magazine pundits, also some more finite and case-specific details, which is fine with me, but the "read this and you will be a better land surveyor", or "this is how it should be done" mentality is something that I can, for the most part, live without.

    I can't help but notice that in perusing any surveying related trade magazine, that it is composed, in the main, 70% or more, of paid advertisements, and 20% of what some paid "authority figure" in the industry or profession has to say on a particular topic, and maybe 10% of something from their readers.  This is why these magazines are free.  Imagine how thin and expensive they would be if they were 100% reader supported?  

    Then became Land Surveyors United - nearly 100% of something from members of a community of Land Surveyors, no paid "authority figures", and where are all the paid advertisements?  Membership is free, so, how can this be?  

    Karl, It's because of people like you and me, and members from everywhere that a surveyor could be.  We, the professionals of the world provide the horsepower that it takes to drive a profession and industry forward.

    Anyone can say that Land Surveyors are in a miserable profession that has no future.  Any Land Surveyor can tell you how far from the truth that is.

    Are things coming to a head?

    Come Ahead!

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