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Local and Family History Research

A guide for beginners in searching local or family history using government and association sources.


Sanborn Insurance Maps
Milner Library subscribes to a database of detailed, historic Sanborn Insurance maps dating from 1867 up to 1970. These maps were made for fire insurance purposes and show outlines of building structures, indicating all porches, wall materials (brick, wood, stone, iron) and the location of windows and the number of stories. Not all neighborhoods are covered by Sanborn maps. Images can be enlarged to view detail.

Plat Maps

Plat maps show land ownership for rural areas making them valuable when researching places and individuals. The oldest plat maps in Milner Librar for McLean County are in the atlas titled, McLean County Combined Indexed Atlases, 1856-1914. Two copies are available on the main floor in the Reference Collection and in the Oversize Area on floor 4 with the call number, G1408.M59 M35 2006

Milner maintains current subscriptions to plat maps for Illinois counties. These are located on floor 4 in files near the map cases. Most of these date from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Example from Lee County, Illinois.

Plat or survey maps may also be searched online via the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of of Land Management (BLM) General Land Office Records site.

Land Records

Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales The database contains information about nearly 550,000 land sales from the 54,740 square miles of the public domain sold within Illinois. Each purchase entry includes the purchaser's name, purchase date, number of acres, price per acre, numeric code indicating the county in which the land is located, legal description (township, section, range), volume and page numbers of original entry, and variously, the sale type, and the purchaser's sex and residence. More information