Plat books are atlases that show land ownership for rural areas. Plat books do not indicate property ownership in towns and cities BUT if a town or city has expanded into formerly rural areas older plat books can be used to trace historic ownership. Plat books usually show one township (approximately 36 square miles) per page and focus on rural property ownership. Sections, roads, railroads, urban extent, township maps, county maps, and an index to property owners are usually included. Nineteenth-century county plat books, sometimes called “county histories,” often include family biographies, portraits, and illustrations of homes and prized livestock. Contemporary commercial plat book publishers tend to specialize in producing plat books for specific geographic regions.
A set of current plat books for Illinois counties published by the Rockford Map Company is located behind the circulation desk in the Map Library. They may be borrowed, with appropriate ID, for two hours. Less recent plat books for Illinois counties published by the Rockford Map Company are located in the Main Stacks (STX) where normal borrowing rules apply.
The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections Library holds nineteenth-century county histories and atlases that often include plat maps.
Photocopy reproductions and microfiche reproductions of mid-to-late nineteenth-century land ownership wall maps held by the Library of Congress, many of which are now available for viewing at the Library of Congress website, are also available for consultation in the Map Library. To access the scanned maps at the Library of Congress, search the Library of Congress online catalog using this search string, “Real property [state name] [county name] Maps” or browse the Library of Congress’s Geography and Map Division collection of county landownership maps.
Finding Plat Books and Landownership Maps in the UIUC Library
When searching for Illinois county plat books or land ownership maps in the Library’s catalog, the subject heading is very specific: Real property [US State] [County Name] Maps. As an example plat books for Champaign County can by found by doing a subject browse search for: Real property Illinois Champaign County Maps.
The Map Library has microfiche copies of mid-to-late nineteenth-century county land ownership wall maps held by the Library of Congress for all states except Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, West Virginia (possibly included in Virginia), and Wyoming. Please note that if you are searching for counties in these states, use the subject search “Real property [state name] Maps.”
The Funk ACES Library has compiled a list of landownership atlases and plat books, organized by county, held by the UIUC Library.
Books on Landownership Mapping
Land Ownership Maps : A Checklist of Nineteenth Century United States County Maps in the Library of Congress by Richard W. Stephenson (1967)
State, Provincial, and County Atlases and County Landownership Maps of the United States and Canada in the Newberry Library : A Provisional Checklist by Roger S. Baskes, Marian Shaw, and Patrick A. Morris (2001)
Dividing the Land : Early American Beginnings of our Private Property Mosaic by Edward T. Price (1995)