History Of the Public Land survey Office
Due to the long history of land transfers tied to the monumentation placed by the U.S. General Land Office (GLO), the surveyor of today must try to relocate the original corner positions as closely as possible.
Since this process is totally dependent on the records of the GLO and all subsequent surveyors, it is necessary to ensure that those records are available. This is a major undertaking. In Washington State, the GLO established nearly 250,000 corner positions. This activity created a large volume of records which are in constant use today. To supplement this public record, in 1973, the legislature passed the Survey Recording Act (SRA). Since then, the SRA has caused an additional 250,000 records to be added to the public research material available for the surveyor. The PLSO has copies of these record groups in its repository.
Records lost and in danger
However, the records from surveys done since the GLO but prior to 1973 are unlikely to be in an accessible public file. Some are in various forms of archival-type storage at museums, historical societies, universities, state and federal archives, government offices, etc. Typically, these record groups are indexed by proper name, whereas the surveyor needs to access the material by legal description. Research of these records is difficult, time-consuming and subject to error. Many other records are stored in basements, garages, attics or backrooms by private companies, retired surveyors or by relatives of the now deceased surveyor. As storage needs or ownerships change, the security of these historical records is jeopardized. There are incidents where relatives, not realizing the usefulness of the material in their possession, have thrown away valuable survey records.
PLSO as a survey repository
The PLSO is authorized to collect and preserve information obtained from surveys locating and establishing land monuments and boundaries. If you are aware of records that might be thrown away, or are inadequately indexed for the survey researcher, please notify this office.