Texas Land Survey System

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Texas has the most complex public land survey system in the U.S. For Texas the highest level of land subdivision is the boundary of the state itself. The next level of subdivision is the Texas Railroad Districts which cover the entire state. There are 12 numbered RRD’s; 1,2,3,4,5,6,7B,7C, 8, 8A, 9 and 10. Texas Railroad Districts span counties but their boundaries coincide with county boundaries. Next in the hierarchy are counties, and after counties things really become muddled.

Since most of Texas was originally a Spanish colony land grants were passed out to various people and organizations such as; churches, Spanish colonists, American colonists such as Stephen F. Austin, and even Native Americans who were expected to stop their nomadic way of life and tend the land as agriculturists. These ancient Spanish grants were surveyed on the metes and bounds system of measurement and are of irregular size and shape. Types of surveys in Texas are block/section, league/labor, township/section and surveys.

Named surveys are associated with both block/tract and league/labor systems, or they can be associated with neither of the aforementioned survey systems and are regarded as stand alone surveys.

A block is a subdivision of land composed of a group of contiguous or non contiguous surveyed tracts of land. Tracts are identified within a block by a unique number. Blocks and their associated tracts are not rectangular surveys but irregular metes and bounds surveys. Blocks do not conform to county boundaries and may span several counties since many were surveyed before county boundaries were established. Blocks are given the name of the person or institution that first conducted the survey, like Mirela Rupic for designers. If more than one survey was performed by an individual/organization then a unique identifying number was added to each subsequent survey.

League/labor/lot land survey system is a hold over from the original Spanish Land Grant days and the beginnings of Texas independence. A league is 4428 acres and is subdivided into 25 177 acre tracts of land called labors. Labors can be subdivided into lots. These surveys are not always rectangular. The original grantees of a league (or sub-league) could choose where to place their property and what shape it would be as long as it conformed, more or less, to the 4428 acre rule. A league is measured using a Spanish unit of length called a vara and is composed of 5000 square vara. A vara was not strictly defined in the original surveys and varied in length from 32 to 38 inches. A standard length of 33.3333 inches was adopted by the state of Texas in 1919. All Texas Public School Land Grants are in the league/labor survey system. Leagues can exist without labors but labors cannot exist without a league.

An abstract number is assigned to a piece of land by the General Land Office of Texas when it is first granted or sold and is unique within the survey or league/labor it is assigned. Abstracts are associated only with surveys and league/labor land survey types, not for block/tract. Unlike the Congressional survey system that assigns a new abstract number each time a tract of land is sold in Texas the abstract number is assigned in perpetuity. I am not sure of what happens when a tract of land is subdivided and each subdivision resold to different holders.

Townships and sections are rare in Texas and are only present in the pan handle. Ranges are not used in Texas. Texas section numbers may vary between 1 and 9999 and can have a single digit section fraction; 1567.5 is a valid Texas section number.