One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked at the Archives is: “Do you have a copy of my property survey?”
The short answer is no, and here’s why.
Land surveys are documents that establish the boundaries of a property. Surveys document boundaries when new parcels of land are being developed, and also identify and confirm already established land boundaries. They also show any dwellings, buildings or improvements located on properties.
A recordable document is a document that the recording authority (in this case, the County Clerk) is authorized to record, usually by state statute. In Texas, property surveys are not recordable documents, so they are not typically maintained at the county level. Travis County will only have a copy of a survey if it was recorded as an exhibit to another document (which is rare).
So where can you find your survey? You have a few different options to try.
What about plats?
Plats are maps drawn to scale that show the divisions of a piece of land. Plat maps typically show the dimensions of a property before improvements are made and cover more than one lot or parcel of land. City, town or village plats show subdivisions into blocks with streets and alleys. Subdivision plats are recorded when a landowner or municipality divides land into smaller parcels. These are recorded and kept by the Travis County Clerk.
Travis County Clerk, Recording Division
5501 Airport Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751
*As of March 24th, the Travis County Clerk has closed all office lobbies in an effort to minimize face-to-face interaction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All Divisions will conduct business via efile, mail, telephone or email during regular business hours.
Did you know that Travis County had a County Surveyor for many years?
Surveying is the process of mapping and measuring land to define and mark property boundaries. The office of County Surveyor has existed since the Republic of Texas days and has been provided for by the Texas Constitution since 1845. Travis County had an elected County Surveyor from 1840-2001. His responsibilities included surveying open land and recording and examining field notes of surveys made in the county. Copies of the surveys, plats, sketches and field notes were then sent to the Texas General Land Office. For this reason, most – but not all – of the information in the Travis County Surveyor’s records can also be found at the Land Office. However, the Travis County survey records continue to hold research value due to unique information that was not transmitted.
Open land refers to land that was obtained by grant or patent from a sovereign entity – in Travis County’s case, the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas. As open land in Texas began to disappear, the importance of the office decreased, and it was left vacant in many counties. The Travis County Surveyor’s office was abolished in 2001.
The earliest records of the Travis County Surveyor actually predate Travis County’s establishment in 1840. These records, which date from 1838-1839, are recorded as Bastrop County records – Travis County was created from land that was originally part of Bastrop County. Other early surveyor records include properties within the Travis Land District (territory that encompassed much of Central Texas), and land that became part of counties created from Travis County’s original boundaries.
While the most recent County Surveyor records date from 1999, the bulk of the records are from the 1800s and early 1900s. The books include surveys, plats, field notes, land warrants and scrips; index books are organized alphabetically by grantee name. Because the office County Surveyor has been abolished, the County Clerk is the custodian of these records. All of the books have been digitized and can be viewed on the Portal to Texas History: