ILLINOIS STATE LIBRARY
Location Guide to the General Land Office (GLO) Survey Plats
"The surveyors … shall proceed to divide said territory into townships of 6 miles square, by lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at right angles … As soon as 7 ranges of township and fractional parts of townships, in the direction from south to north, shall have been surveyed, the geographer shall transmit plats thereof to the board of treasury, who shall record the same, with the report in well bound books to be kept for that purpose." —Land Ordinance of 1785
With the Land Ordinance of 1785, the need for an organization to carry out the newly created mandates became vital. A vast amount of land had to be surveyed, maps drawn, records kept, along with a considerable degree of oversight. So in 1812, Congress, with the Act of April 25 (2 Stat. 716), created the General Land Office (GLO). Along with a new organization, a new method of surveying was employed. Previously, land had been surveyed using a system called metes and bounds, in which surveyors start at a fixed point, usually determined by a local natural or artificial monument, and ran lines by compass course and distance. But the Land Ordinance of 1785 mandated that surveyors use the new rectangular system whereby the land was partitioned, based on a series of principal meridians and baselines, into township and range, with 36 sections per township, each 1 square mile. There are only 30 states, known as the Public Land states, surveyed using the rectangular system. The original 13 colonies and their territories (Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia), plus Hawaii and Texas* were surveyed by metes and bounds or other methods.
Plat maps were drawn by the GLO surveyors from their notes taken while surveying in the field. These plats have become very valuable to a wide range of researchers. Initially 3 copies were struck: one for the surveyor general; one for the GLO office in Washington; and one for local land offices. More recently these plats have been committed to microfilm, microfiche, and electronic formats. While this sounds like many copies abound and access is abundant, in actuality these plats can be very hard to find now.
This locator lists all the organizations who own these plats, whether they be originals or copies, the formats they will be found in, the organizations' contact information, price for copying, etc.
Please report any errors or omissions to:
ISL Information Line
Illinois State Library
300 S. Second St.
Springfield, IL 62701
Bureau of Land Management
Division of Cadastral Survey and GLO Records
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153−3121
Owns: copies (microfilm)
Access: must examine on-site
Copy Purchase Prices: $2.75 per 18x24 plat
This office owns the plats for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana,Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Texas (partial).
National Archives and Records Administration
Cartographic and Architectural Branch (NWDNC)
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740−6001
Owns: originals and copies (microfilm)
Access: must examine on-site
Copy Purchase Prices: $25 for paper copies from the original plats; $34 for microfilmrolls
This office owns plats for Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio (partial), Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington.
*Some of Texas was surveyed using the rectangular system. In order to access these plats contact the following: