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Finding Cartographic Resources Online: Insurance/LandOwnership

A guide to finding cartographic resources online.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

The fire insurance maps were mainly designed to help fire insurance agents determine the degree of damage to a property and show accurate information to help them determine risks and establish premiums. The maps included street names, property boundaries and lot lines, and house and block numbers. Today, the maps are an invaluable guide to inner-city history, land use, and historic preservation.

Digital Sanborn Maps
The Digital Sanborn database provides coverage for the entire country with black and white maps scanned from microfilm. Coverage in some urban areas begins in the 1870s and continues up to 1950. This is a Cornell-only database.
More current Sanborn maps for New York state are available on microfilm. Very current maps for Manhattan and Brooklyn are available in paper in the Map Collection.

Sanborn Maps of Florida
Many state libraries and university map collections are scanning and making available online their own Sanborn Maps. These preserve the original colors and sometimes are georeferenced. This is a very impressive example of collaborative scanning from Florida.

Local Interactive Mapping

TCIMAP-Ithaca City and Tompkins County

TCIMAP enables the public to: access, query, locate and analyze a variety of tabular and spatial resources within the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County.Tompkins County utilizes ESRI's ArcIMS technology to provide the public with the most current data available.

Land Ownership

A popular category with genealogists and local historians. These maps, which are presented either as large wall maps or as atlases, show property lines and the names of owners. Most date from the mid to late 19th century. Formerly available generally only on microfilm or fiche, many have now been scanned by Ancestry. Many local historical societies, state libraries and academic libraries have also scanned them, so they can be difficult to locate.

Ancestry Maps
Far and away the most comprehensive collection, although very difficult to navigate. This is Cornell only.

Bill Hecht's local history site
Many of the land ownership atlases have been scanned by local groups such as historical societies. This is an example of a site maintained by a private individual with an interest in local history. The metadata is a little shaky--there's no way to pick out the landownership maps from the mass of images other than by trial and error, but the results are worth it.