Thursday, July 19, 2007

U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918


Thanks to MEG who blogged about’s new U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918. “This database contains approximately 1,200 U.S. county land ownership atlases from the Library of Congress’ Geography and Maps division, covering the approximate years 1864-1918. Some photos of county officers, land owners, and buildings or homes are also included.” For more information about this database, click here. explains "Land ownership maps are portrayals of land purchased, granted, or inherited. They range in complexity from rough outlines of the boundaries of one tract of land to detailed county atlases showing every landowner at the time of compilation.

This database contains approximately 1,200 U.S. county land ownership atlases from the Library of Congress’ Geography and Maps division, covering the approximate years 1864-1918. Some photos of county officers, land owners, and buildings or homes are also included. Due to the quality of the microfilm on which these maps and photos were originally located, some of the images may not appear very clear."

Why Use County Land Owner Atlases:
"These maps are valuable to genealogists because they often contain the names of landowners, they predate topographic maps, and they show important historical township and county boundaries."

More About Count Land Ownership Atlases:
"While city atlases served a specialized clientele, their rural counterparts, known as county landownership atlases, were a commercial enterprise promoted by subscription campaigns and directed to a wider audience. Based on the pre-Civil War production of wall-sized, single-sheet county landownership maps, atlases showing landownership developed into a popular atlas format starting in the 1860s in the northeastern United States, and expanding into the Midwestern states by the 1870s and 1880s. These commercially published atlases contain cadastral or landownership maps for the individual townships within a county. In addition, they often include county and township histories, personal and family biographies and portraits, and views of important buildings, residences, farms, or prized livestock. "

( quotes Library of Congress. Geography and Maps: An Illustrated Guide & states that some of the above information was taken from Chapter 3: Geographic Tools: Maps, Atlases, and Gazetteers, Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records by Carol Mehr Schiffman; edited by Kory L. Meyerink (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1998).)
These are the states that comprise this collection:

· Arkansas
· California
· Colorado
· Connecticut
· Idaho
· Illinois
· Indiana
· Iowa
· Kansas
· Kentucky
· Maine
· Maryland
· Massachusetts
· Michigan
· Minnesota
· Missouri
· Montana
· Nebraska
· New Hampshire
· New Jersey
· New York
· North Dakota
· Ohio
· Oklahoma
· Oregon
· Pennsylvania
· Rhode Island
· South Dakota
· Texas
· Vermont
· Virginia
· Washington
· West Virginia
· Wisconsin

The first thing Ol' Myrt here noticed was a lack of entries for the state of Utah. But I can certainly work with Iowa, Kansas and Washington where my post US Civil War ancestors lived. But I think for this blog entry I'll go exploring in Minnesota to see what I can discover about my step-father's side of the family.

Grampa’s name was Harold SEVERINSON, his father’s name was Ole SEVERINSON. I’ll have to fire up the laptop, to remember Harold’s grandfather’s name, because it was in that generation that we see the use of patronymics in the names.

I clicked the Minnesota link (above) and then chose the "Kandiyohi 1886" link on the page. I was then offered the first of 45 images a beautiful scanned image of the title page. Since I don’t know how the book is arranged, I clicked the NEXT button and was thrilled to find a “Contents” page. I used Ancestry’s viewer zoom option to find that the township of “Willmar” is on page 43. There is also a “town plat” of Willmar on pages 46-49, and information about a map of the county on pages 14-16. Since some of those numbers are greater than the 45 images listed in the viewer, I am a little apprehensive.

I decided to be brave and type in the numerals 46 to see what happens, since I wish to view pages 46-49. However, asked me to type in a number between 1-45. So I tried 45, only to discover that it is page 84 of the scanned book. OK, so a little guess, and I tried:

  • Scanned image 30 is page 55 of Harrison Township 120 North, Range 33 West of the 5th Principal Meridian.
  • Scanned image 26 is page 49 the plat of Willmar, County Seat of Kandiyohi, but there are only numbers for the plats, and no explanation of the codes. The scale is 300 feet to the inch, however.

OK, I checked scanned image 20, and am now realizing what to do with these plat maps. If you have a document that lists the street address, then you can pinpoint where your ancestor lived within a 1 block area. This helps when your ancestor wasn’t a land owner. Sources for specific street addresses would include:

· US Federal Census Records (those two left-most columns that most people ignore.)
· Death certificate
· Birth certificate
· Society page newspaper article

Assuming that my ancestor might have been a land owner, this is the sort of map I pour over when I find them. Why? Because they do indeed list the surname of the owner, and sometimes a given name or at least an initial or two. (See Image 21, which is the same as page 43 and includes Willmar [Minnesota] Township 119 North, Range 35 west of the 5th Principal Meridian.) I need to study these maps more closely. I have located the location of a Norwegian Lutheran Church, which is likely the one my ancestor attended.

This collection is an excellent method for getting the "lay of the land" even if you don't find his/her name on the map of the place where he once lived.

Any additional suggestions how this county plat & township map collection might be useful?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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