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Surveyor Field Notebooks, 1815-1918

How do I search this collection?

You can search by coordinates, date created, county, and surveyor.


You can search for maps by the township and range numbers in the coordinates field. Use the township number and North or South followed by a space then the range number plus East or West, this would look like 25N 08W or 03S 01E. Please note that township and range numbers must always include two digits to search well in this collection. If you need a review of township and range, please visit the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s page on the Rectangular Survey System.


You can search for records by county. Fill in the county name, such as “Barry” in the field. You do not need to add the word “county” to the field.

Date Created

You can search for a notebook by year using the “date create” field. Whether search for a year or a day, select the day before and after your timeframe. For example, if searching for 1884, select 12/31/1883 and 01/01/1885.


You can search this collection by surveyor. We recommend searching surveyor names by entering them as “Last name, First name”.

If the name you are searching has alternate spellings or if you are unsure of the correct spelling, use a question mark (?) at the exact spot where you are unsure of the spelling. The search results will include all results with all letters available for that single spot. For example, using “sm?the” would return results for both smithe and smythe.

If you want results for different variations of a name, use an asterisk (*) at the end of the term where spelling starts to vary. This type of search is called a truncation search. The results will include all results with the exact spelling up to the asterisk (*), and results with any additional letters after the exact spelling. For example, searching for “Smi*” will return results for Smith, Smithe, Smythe, and other words that begin with “Smi”.

What information can I find in this collection?

This collection consists of scanned pages from the original surveyors’ field notebooks. Commonly referred to as GLO notes, these handwritten notebooks were created between 1815 and 1918 and encompass the majority of the State of Michigan.

You may also be interested in searching the surveyor maps (1815-1860) where you can use the same township and range system to find maps that correspond to the surveyor fieldnotes. In addition, The Archives of Michigan has transcriptions of the original survey notes in both microfilm and bound formats that can be viewed in the reading room or can be ordered through the Archives services portal. Transcriptions may be useful to research because while also handwritten like the originals, they are generally more legible and laid out in a more simplistic format.

Please note that to preserve the integrity of the original GLO Notes they cannot be pulled for research in the Archives reading room. The Archives does have transcriptions of the original survey notes in both microfilm and bound paper formats that can be pulled for researchers at the Archives of Michigan.

How can I browse this collection?

Browse the collection

This collection is organized by its title including the township and range of the parcel.

What is the story behind this collection?

The initial survey of the State of Michigan was conducted primarily between 1815 and 1860. The federal government contracted land surveyors who earned between $3.00 and $4.25 per mile to pay their crews and cover supply costs. Crews usually conducted surveys in the winter because their line of sight was improved, and they could walk across frozen lakes and ponds. Crews typically took about 20 days to survey a township with two surveyors, two axe men to trim brush, and two chain men.

The land survey divided all public domain land of the State into townships, each approximately 36 square miles and divided again into 36 one-square-mile sections. The survey covered 1,400 townships and used over 2,000 notebooks.

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