Geologic history – A brief look below the land’s surface and at the forces that created it.

Ravensworth plantation (24,112 acres, 37.7 square miles) was carved into smaller and smaller parcels through several generations of ownership due to inheritance, sale and subdivision. The story of the land traces this step-by-step dissolving of Ravensworth into progressively smaller pieces from 1685 to the late 19th century. Ravensworth was itself parcelled out of the vast 5.2 million acre Northern Neck Grant.

Partitioning Ravensworth

Mapping, Numbering and Visualizing parcels

Outline image of Parcel 1.0, Ravensworth landgrant

Parcel 1.0 (Ravensworth landgrant)

Parcel Numbering System.

The steadily increasing number of parcels made it necessary to develop a system to identify each parcel and know its relationship in time and to other parcels. A decimal system is used to identify each new parcel divided from its larger parent. Parcel 1.0 is the original landgrant. The first partition of Ravensworth created two smaller equal sized parcels: Parcel 1.1, north half, and Parcel 1.2, south half. Each next division of a parcel adds another decimal point in naming the parcels created from it, e.g.: 1.1.1, 1.1.2; then 1.1.1.1, 1.1.1.2; and so on.

Parcels are named in the date order created, for example, by a deed. When several are created in the same document, lot numbers, if stated, determine naming sequence. Inevitably adjacent parcels began to be combined. In this case, the lowest (earliest) parcel number is used as the root in numbering successor parcels.

Decoding a parcel name: The second digit indicates whether it is in the north or south half of Ravensworth, which evolved along different paths. The number of decimal points indicates its partition level – how many generations removed from the original landgrant. The last digit tells its sequence in the division of its parent.

Mapping Parcels


Working with deeds and their metes and bounds (compass direction and distance of boundary lines), parcels are mapped and placed (georeferenced) in their correct geographic location. A KML file is produced to visualize the parcel online in a Google My Places map.

Parcel boundaries are close but not precisely accurate. This is due to such factors as the absence of exact reference points and sometimes imprecise or incomplete descriptions in deeds. A deed may state a boundary line as “following the meanders” of a stream or 19th century road rather than give a compass direction and measured distance. Also, being an amateur, not a GIS professional, affects the precision of my results. A boundary may be a few dozen to several hundred feet off.

If a location that interests you appears well inside a parcel boundary, it’s probably safe to conclude it is located in that parcel. If it is close to a boundary or in a small parcel, its actual location may be in an adjacent parcel.

Visualizing Parcels – Today’s view (in Google Maps)


Google Maps is a powerful tool to view parcels in their real world locations. Map view shows location relative to today’s roads, streets and communities. Satellite and Earth views provide dramatic perspectives to examine in detail what is on the ground today.


This outline of the boundaries of Willliam Fitzhugh’s 1685 landgrant, Ravensworth Plantation, shows the area included within and what is on the ground today.View Ravensworth Landgrant in a larger map