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Cadastral map of village Pielnia, 1852, Austrian Empire.

A cadastre (also spelled cadaster), using a cadastral survey[1] or cadastral map, is a comprehensive register of the metes-and-bounds real property of a country. A cadastre commonly includes details of the ownership, the tenure, the precise location (some include GPS coordinates), the dimensions (and area), the cultivations if rural, and the value of individual parcels of land. Cadastres are used by many nations around the world,[1] some in conjunction with other records, such as a title register.[1]

In most countries, legal systems have developed around the original administrative systems and use the cadastre as a means of defining the dimensions and location of land parcels described in legal documentation. This leads to the use of the cadastre as a fundamental source of data in disputes and lawsuits between landowners.

In the United States, Cadastral Survey within the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for maintaining records of all public lands. Such surveys often required detailed investigation of the history of land use, legal accounts and other documents.


The word "cadastre" came into English by way of French, itself from Late Latin capitastrum, a register of the poll tax, and the Greek κατάστιχον [katastikhon], a list or register, from κατά στίχον [kata stikhon], literally, "down the line", in the sense of "line by line" along the directions and distances between the corners mentioned and marked by monuments in the metes and bounds.

The word forms the adjective cadastral, used in public administration, primarily for ownership and taxation purposes. The terminology used for cadastral divisions may include counties, parishes, ridings, hundreds, sections, lots, blocks and city blocks.

Cadastral surveys

Cadastral surveys are used to document the boundaries of land ownership, by the production of documents, diagrams, sketches, plans (plats in USA), charts, and maps. They were originally used to ensure reliable facts for land valuation and taxation. An example from early England is the Domesday Book. Napoleon established a comprehensive cadastral system for France which is regarded as the fore-runner of most modern versions. Cadastral survey information is often a base element in Geographic/Land Information systems used to assess and manage land and built infrastructure. Such systems are also employed on a variety of other tasks, for example, to track long-term changes over time for geological or ecological studies, where land tenure is a significant part of the scenario.

Cadastral map

A cadastral map is a map showing the boundaries and ownership of land parcels. Some cadastral maps show additional details, such as survey district names, unique identifying numbers for parcels, certificate of title numbers, positions of existing structures, section or lot numbers and their respective areas, adjoining and adjacent street names, selected boundary dimensions and references to prior maps.

Scott, in Seeing Like a State, has argued that all maps, but particularly cadastral maps, are designed to make local situations tangible to an outsider, and in doing so enabling states to collect data on their subjects. He sees the origins of this in Early Modern Europe, where taxation became more complex. Cadastral maps, he argues, are always a great simplification, but they in themselves help change reality.[2]

Digital Cadastral Database

An example of a DCDB file showing properties, road easements and a watercourse

A Digital Cadastral DataBase (DCDB) is a computerized map or 'spatial' location showing property boundaries normally in relation to adjoining and other close properties or parcels of land. Commonly used as a basic layer of data used in map based computer programs that gives an outline of the legal boundary of a property. By using lines to represent an area, features such as rivers and roads can be shown in relation to where a property is.

See also

  • Estate (house)
  • Property
  • Recorder of deeds (register of deeds)
  • Cadastral divisions of Australia
  • Katastralgemeinde - in some German-speaking countries


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Cadastral Template - Field Data C4" (lists nations),, January 2008, webpage: CT-C4: also has term "cadastral survey" and other land records.
  2. J.C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed


  • "Cadastral Template -- Field Data C4 of Content of Cadastral System" (lists nations),, January 2008, webpage: CT-C4.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links