Abstract A recent report of the National Research Council Committee on Integrated Land Data Mapping identified the modernization of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) as a high priority requirement for the development of a national multipurpose cadastre. This recommendation could have profound implications especially for the development of rural cadastres in the 30 PLSS states. The report identifies federal initiatives that need to be taken to achieve this modernization of the PLSS, and it also comments upon the complementary roles of state and local governments in this modernization process. This paper examines the task of and progress toward creating modern, multipurpose land record systems to serve rural areas within the 30 PLSS states. The task of building such systems is viewed within a developmental frame of reference and in relation to the status and nature of other basic, spatial land data sets to which parcel data files need to be linked. Note is taken of the special difficulties faced by smaller units in creating the pre-conditions for development of a data base and cadastral infrastructure for areas of low parcel density.