Having worked w/a thousand or so of these from SC -- they run the gamut in quality. There
is a tendency to be off for what appears to be magnetic declination -- some surveyors
accounted for it, others didn't, so some are in "true north" orientation,
others in "magnetic north".
There also doesn't appear to be any standard on direction of metes -- but it does
appear to be the case that an individual surveyor did tend to do the same thing each
There are caveats -- the most frequent being obstructions. If the surveyor started in one
direction, hit a swamp or etc., they would backtrack and reverse. I have found many plats
that have the metes in both directions on the same plat -- i.e. the left half of the plat
goes south-to-north (clockwise), and the right half goes
south-to-north also (counter-clockwise)! Usually, there is something on the plat that
indicates the surveyor hit a problem.
Orientation is not necessarily the top of the page -- many got entered upside-down
relative to the paper.
Always remember -- you aren't looking at the **original** survey -- you are looking at
the clerk at Charleston's **transcription** of the original survey. The literal
original was kept by the landowner (most frequently) or the surveyor (less frequently).
There are many instances of transcription error -- 6 copied as 8 or 0, 4 and 7 looking
similar, dropping off a number (63 chains being written as 6 chains or 3 chains). Another
frequent error is messing up direction -- writing "SW" instead of "SE"
Most of these are identifiable when you plat it out -- the plat doesn't close, or the
mete line takes off in an illogical direction.
The best approach I've had is to
start with a mete that has a run of them that make sense, or contains a bounding line to
another plat you have already done. Strictly speaking, it doesn't matter where you
start on the metes so long as you step in the same direction -- after all, does it matter
which side you start with on a square? Do you end up somewhere else if you start on the
left side than when you start on the right side? No, you don't. But it does make it
easier to spot the above error sources if you have a section that you know is right
(because it mirrors that of a bounding tract, for example), and can use that as your base