Earth Partnership for Schools



Public Library, Historical Society, title company.


Research the land use and ownership history of your school site using old plat maps or title abstracts. State, county or city historical societies may also have old maps or photos of the area. The following resources may be available locally at your public library, historical society or local title companies. All of the listed resources are available at the Wisconsin State Historical Society at 816 State St., Madison, Wisconsin, 53703. Although this list is tailored for Wisconsin, many parallel resources exist in other states.

  • General Land Office Tract Books (Series 1673)
    These books record sale of land by the Federal Government to the first purchasers. The records include names of purchasers, amount of land purchased, legal description of property, price paid and date of purchase.
  • Wisconsin Land Economic Inventory (Series 1956, 1958, 1959)
    This was a joint project of the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture which extended from 1929 into the 1940's. The inventory surveyed the current and potential use of land throughout the state. Among the results of this survey are three sets of detailed maps.
  • Wisconsin Archeological Atlas
    This atlas is a compilation of notes on Native American archeological and historical sites in the state. It is not a complete inventory of Native American sites but shows features such as village and camps, mound groups, burial sites, gardens, quarries and battlefields.
  • Plat Maps and Atlases
    These are usually restricted to one county and show names of rural landowners and boundaries of individual properties. Plat maps and atlases of the nineteenth century often include illustrations of individual farmsteads and business premises, maps or cities and villages, and locations of schools and cemeteries. Twentieth century versions are generally much simpler.
  • Sandborn Insurance Maps
    Sandborn maps are extremely detailed and large-scale maps of cities and villages ranging in date from the 1800's to the 1970's. These maps show the exact size and placement every building on each block and its use. Most cities were mapped several times at five to ten year intervals.
  • "The Native Vegetation of Wisconsin at the Time of the Ordinal Land Survey"
    This map by Robert W. Finley (D GX902 F51) shows the pre-settlement vegetation of Wisconsin based on information in the Surveyor's Notes (Series 701).