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Using Missouri Plat Maps to Find Your Ancestors

chariton-mo-1876page_46-detailThe Missouri History Museum does great things, has a great website, and offers an excellent newsletter. Check them out here.  But of everything it offers, the map resources are my favorite. So, as promised, below are my step-by-step instructions for finding the land of your ancestors. It isn’t much, because it is SO EASY.

First, organize your research. The plat maps are for 1875-1930. Consequently, you should determine the last name of any relations you think may have lived in Missouri during that time frame. Do you know in what county in Missouri each of them lived? Jot that down beside their name. Knowing the township provides even more information. Your research sheet might look like this. I use my family as an example.

Name County Township Timeframe/Notes
Thomas Morris[s] Chariton Rothville? Died between 1870-1880
Peter P. Morris[s] Chariton Salt Creek b1832-1916
William S. Ely Ralls Salt River? b1805-1877
Harmon Utterback Ralls Perry? b1812-1888 brother to Rebecca wife of above
Schulyer Ison Bates Summit Arrived after 1860-1883
Gabriel Ison Bates Summit Left after 1884

Second, go to the plat map search page found here.  It looks like this.missouri-digital-library

Now you have a choice. You can search by typing in the last name only of your ancestor and find the county of residence. The search box is at the top of the site. (See arrow #1) If the surname is unusual, this option may be best. Let’s try it with Utterback. I put the name into the search and this came up.utterback-search

Right at the top of the list is “an illustrated historical atlas for Ralls County.” If I hover my curser over the title, I am given all citation information for the item. Click on it and it carried me to that record. Now, I had to do a bit of work to find what I wanted. But here are my results in the “text” tab.text-results-of-utterbackNotice the column above the rectangle. It includes a tab for “image,” “text,” and two up down arrows noting the number of Utterback’s found in the document (11). I went to text, arrowed to where I found Harmon Utterback. Now, if you look in the upper right hand corner, you find some cool options: “view image and text,” “download,” and “print”. The last two items are pretty self-explanatory. But when I hit “view image and text,” I got a plat map showing where the brother of my great, great, great grandmother lived. (township 55 north range 7 west of the 5th principal meridian) It took a little adjusting by left clicking to hold down and move the map but…pretty wonderful. Here is that imagemap-of-utterback

Your second option, if you are pretty sure of the county and even the township (perhaps gathered from a census record from the timespan of the records), is to use the county search feature (plat map search page:arrow #2). It then allows you to search the county records over time. I chose Chariton County and got plat map results for 1876 and 1897. With a little searching I found the map for 1876 showing Peter Philander Morriss (P.P. Morris detailed at the top of the post.). Not only did I find where my great, great grandfather lived, I also discovered no Thomas Morriss, a good indication that I can narrow his death to between 1870 when he appeared on the census in Chariton and 1876 when he disappear from land ownership. There may be another explanation, but the clues keep compounding. And with a little detective work—who knows?

Go ahead—explore Missouri from your laptop. It’s easy!

About croywright

The author, a writer of history and historical fiction, always yearned to go back in time.

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