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House History: A Guide to Uncovering the Stories of Local Buildings and Properties

Maps and Atlases

T. M. Fowler. Point Marion, Pennsylvania. 1902. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Find the property on historic maps to see how the land was used over time. These maps may reveal many details depending on their purpose such as:

  • farm line and land ownership maps that identify boundaries and property owners;
  • fire insurance maps that label building materials (wood, brick, stone, etc.);
  • railroad maps that exhibit transportation development;
  • or panoramas that show the expansion of a city.

Maps enable you to observe the evolution of a property, as well as visualize the community. You may be able to observe ease of access, or lack thereof, to resources (i.e. water, lumber, transportation, merchants). You can also gain perspectives about the nearness of neighbors, schools, churches, hospitals, and cemeteries. All of these factors impacted daily life for past residents and may also help you to identify where to search for further records.


Library of Congress Digital Collections

The Library of Congress Geography and Map Division has made many of their historic maps and archival items available through online Digital Collections. Enter and explore each collection of town, county, and state maps by using the search box on the upper-right.

You can also explore the complete list of Digital Collections to find even more and see the latest additions.

Other Digital Collections

These historical map collections are available online and may be searched by state, county, or town.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are restricted and only available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Library of Congress Research Guides

Library of Congress subject specialists have created research guides that provide background and resources for further study. Below are selected highlights, you can also examine the complete list of Geography & Maps Division research guides for even more information.