Records of Survey

Basis for Records

In the American free enterprise system the private sector, represented by licensed land surveyors and certain civil engineers, has the responsibility for locating, describing and measuring parcels of private land. The government’s role in this process is limited as far as private lands are concerned. The government’s primary role is in the ownership and management of publicly owned lands such as National Forests, State Parks, and county and city properties. Other than ownership and management of those lands, at the federal level, the United States Geological Survey maintains the system of township, ranges, and sections that are often used to describe properties but the location and description of each private parcel remain the responsibility of the private sector. 

California Records

In California, the state government’s role is primarily restricted to the description of lands adjoining waterways and bodies of water such as swamp and overflow lands which are also used by civil engineers and surveyors in locating and describing private parcels. At the local level, municipalities and counties are responsible for controlling the use of private lands. However, changes in parcel configurations such as subdivision maps, parcel maps, lot line adjustments, etc are prepared by the private sector for submission to local agencies for approval.


One method of locating, describing and measuring private parcels is the record of the survey. A record of survey is prepared by a licensed land surveyor or civil engineer authorized to practice land surveying using the most current technology and supplemented by the research of records on prior surveys and property transfers. The record of survey, whether in a municipality or the unincorporated area, is submitted to the Napa County Surveyor for review. Under the Professional Land Surveyors Act (California Business and Professions Code 8700 et sequentes), the review by the County Surveyor is limited in its scope and covers the mathematical accuracy and technical sufficiency of the submitted record of survey. 

Completing the review does not express the concurrence of the County Surveyor in the determinations made in the survey. If the County Surveyor chooses, he or she may attach notes expressing the County Surveyor’s opinions regarding the record of survey, or the methods or procedures utilized or employed in the performance of the survey. It most instances any differences of opinion between the surveyor and the County reviewer are worked out prior to recordation without notes being attached.

Judgements on Parcels

A Record of Survey is one professional’s opinion of the boundaries and size of a specific private parcel of land. The fact that the survey has been filed with the County Recorder does not mean that the information contained in the survey is definitive. Disputes over parcel location, description and size are resolved in the one branch of government where private issues are settled, courts of law. A person wearing a black robe makes the final determination of the characteristics of any given parcel of real property including boundary disputes and easement questions unless the parties involved can agree in writing.

More Information

Should you have any questions please contact Napa County Assessor John Tuteur at 707-253-4459 or email John.