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Showing posts with the label township & range

Create a link to a map of ANY Section, Township and Range, including your CURRENT location

If you have a website that makes use of legal land descriptions, now you can quickly create a link to a map centered on any Section, Township and Range.  Or if you are traveling looking at large land parcels, you can see what Township, Range and Section you are currently* in.

This is an advanced capability of the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool.

To zoom into a particular Section, Township and Range, create a link such as this:

https://www.randymajors.com/p/township-range-on-google-maps.html?state=CO&s=15&t=4&td=N&r=69&rd=W

Clicking this link takes you to this map:

Map of Section 15, Township 4 North, Range 69 West, Colorado

TIP: copy/paste the link above and customize to suit your needs

The parameters you can use are as follows:
      • state - REQUIRED FIELD.  Expects a two character state abbreviation, such as ?state=CO
      • s - Optionally include a particular section number, such as &s=15 (if not included, the map will center on the entire township and range) 
      • t - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Township number, such as &t=4 
      • td - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Township direction indicator and must be N, S, E or W, such as &td=N
      • r - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Range number, such as &r=69 
      • rd - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Range direction indicator and must be E, W, N or S, such as &rd=W
      • color - optionally choose the color used for the Map Title. Expects a 6-character hex color code without the leading # character, for example, &color=00FF00 would create a green map title (free tools are widely available on the internet to find your hex color)
      • title - optionally creates a title for the map, such as &title=Sec+15+T4N+R69W+CO

      To zoom to your PRESENT* Section, Township and Range, create a link such as this:

      https://www.randymajors.com/p/township-range-on-google-maps.html?loc=true&color=00EE00&title=My+Current+Township+Range+Section

      The parameters you can use are as follows:
          • loc - REQUIRED FIELD.  Expects to be set to true in order to use your current location, such as ?loc=true
          • color - optionally choose the color used for the Map Title. Expects a 6-character hex color code without the leading # character, for example, &color=00FF00 would create a green map title (free tools are widely available on the internet to find your hex color)
          • title - optionally creates a title for the map, such as &title=My+Current+Township+Range+Section

          A few important things to make this work:

          1.  You must use the question mark ( ? ) right after .html, as shown above
          2.  Do NOT use spaces anywhere in the URL or query parameters
          3.  You must separate query parameters using the ampersand ( & ), as shown above
          4.  User the + character to represent spaces in the title parameter

          TIP:  For simplicity, you can drop the https://www from the front

          Your current location is typically more accurate on smartphones and other devices containing a GPS; desktop browsers typically show an approximate location.


          Happy mapping!

          Which U.S. states have which levels of local government...and why should I care?

          This topic is more complicated than it sounds, so I'll attempt to keep it high level.

          Whether you're doing present-day or historical research about a place, it's important to know which levels of local government exist in the state you are researching (e.g. counties, cities, townships).  Why should you care?

          • It may determine which place houses the records you're looking for
          • The exact location often determines which local taxes are levied and which local laws are applicable 
          • It determines who has jurisdiction for a given location (e.g. police, sheriff, etc.)
          In addition to providing some definitions, I'll also point you to the Google Map tools on this website that map each level of local government.

          What is Township and Range?

          I'll get this one out of the way first, as it's often a source of confusion. "Township and range" is NOT a form of local government (not to be confused with "civil townships", covered later).  Instead, "township and range (and section)" is used to establish boundaries for land ownership in many states.  "Township and range" may also be called a "survey township", and is part of the Public Land Survey System (also called the Rectangular Survey System).  Use the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool to explore "township and range."  

          Shaded in red below are the states that use the "township and range" system (plus Alaska):
          Map of U.S. states that use Township and Range
          Map of the U.S. states that use Township and Range

          What are counties?

          OK, after that jumble of terms, let's move on to the easiest form of local government below the state level:  counties.  According to Wikipedia, a county is "an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority."  Counties exist in all 50 U.S. states (except it can't be that simple:  rather than counties, Louisiana has parishes and Alaska has boroughs).  

          Use the County Lines on Google Maps tool to see present-day counties or the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool to explore historical county boundaries for any historical date.  Use the What County Am I In Right Now tool to find out what county you're standing in.  

          Here is a map showing all counties in the lower 48 states:
          Map of U.S. showing county lines
          Map of the U.S. showing county lines

          What are townships?

          "Townships" (also called "civil townships") are "a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county. The term town is used in New England, New York, and Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state." (Michigan uses "charter townships" instead.)  "Civil townships" are not to be confused with "township and range," explained above.  

          Several tools on this website show "civil townships" by checking the "show townships" checkbox in the lower left of these map toolsCity Limits on Google Maps, County Lines on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps, and Elevation on Google Maps.  Use the What Township Am I In tool to see what township you're presently standing in.  Be sure and read about the "Class Codes" described below the city limits map tool for exceptions to what is shown when you view "townships".  

          Shaded in green below are the states that have active "civil townships" (several other states, not shown here, have inactive townships, meaning they don't serve a local government purpose):
          Map of U.S. showing active civil townships
          Map of the U.S. showing active civil townships

          What is a City and what are City Limits?

          So as to not continue down a rabbit hole, this will be the last form of local government described. 

          Cities typically refer to "incorporated places", which are "a type of governmental unit incorporated under state law as a city, town (except the New England states, New York, and Wisconsin), borough (except in Alaska and New York), or village, and having legally prescribed limits, powers, and functions. Requirements for incorporation vary widely among the states."

          "City limits" refers to the defined boundary or border of a city.  When a city adds new land into the city limits, that is referred to as annexation.  Further quoting from Wikipedia, "property within a city limit is subject to city taxation and city regulation, and expects city services. Areas outside any city's limit are considered to be unincorporated, and in most U.S. states they are by default regulated and taxed by the county. In others, areas outside a city's limit fall within another type of local government, such as the civil township." 

          The main tool to see city limits is City Limits on Google Maps, although several other tools have a checkbox in the lower left to show "city limits".  To check if you're currently standing in the city limits, use the Am I In City Limits tool.  

          Shaded in blue below is a map of all "city limits" (aka "incorporated places" discussed here):
          Map of U.S. showing city limits
          Map of the U.S. showing city limits of incorporated places

          Despite this article being over 800 words long, I've attempted to keep my promise of keeping this high level :)  But it can be a complicated topic:  For instance, as you can see from the above maps, there are many states that have both "township and range" and "civil townships", while there are other states that have neither.  

          There are hundreds if not thousands of details and exceptions to the above definitions, and they vary from state to state.  At a minimum, hopefully this article helps explain which map tools to use on this website to view the various levels of local government (plus township and range).

          Feel free to point out important exceptions to the above definitions in the comments section below.


          So...what is randymajors.com Research Hub anyway?

          "So what is your website all about?"  I increasingly get asked some form of this question about randymajors.com Research Hub.

          A BRIEF BACKSTORY:  Back in 2006-2010, the randymajors.com website was a fairly small collection of blog posts about family history plus some of my photography.  Then, in 2011 I launched the AncestorSearch on Google Search and Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tools primarily aimed at genealogy and historical research.

          FAST FORWARD TO 2018:  I decided to broaden the appeal of the mapping and search tools to a more general audience by launching the present-day County Lines on Google Maps tool.  I continued to get more traction with that tool and added more global coverage.  Then I released ZIP Codes on Google Maps.  Of course, I continue to write genealogy how-to/tips articles as well, and enhance the genealogy tools.

          Finally, in 2019, I opened the floodgates and launched a whole slew of mapping and search tools including:
          In 2019, I also launched the ability to:

          GIVEN ALL THIS, WHAT IS THE COMMON THREAD RUNNING THOUGH THE randymajors.com WEBSITE?

          In a word:  RESEARCH

          randymajors.com Research Hub

          Hence the name randymajors.com Research Hub  


          I created an About randymajors.com Research Hub page to attempt to state my mission and answer the questions I receive most often.  A few excerpts from that page:

          The goal of this website is to make research easier by providing effortless access to publicly available data through familiar, straightforward tools.

          The map tools are built on Google Maps and the search tools use Google Search.  Why?
          They're the world's most popular mapping app and search engine, and so very familiar to nearly everyone.

          Why not use Google Maps itself rather than the map tools on this website?  There are many topics not covered by Google Maps that lots of people would like to see included.  This website aims to fill many of those gaps, such as...

          If the data used by the tools on this website is publicly available elsewhere, why use the tools on this website?  In a word, simplicity.  It shouldn't be so cumbersome to see the map you want and the answers you're looking for.  The tools on this website are built so you can get the answers you're looking for with as few clicks and steps as possible.  In most cases, literally one or two clicks.

          No downloads, no installation, no importing/exporting required.  Just go to the tool you want to use based on your topic of interest (e.g. county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes), and either type a place you're interested in or zoom on the map, and you have your answer.
          A special note to all of my long-time users doing genealogy, ancestry and historical research:  NO WORRIES. THIS RESEARCH FOCUS IS VERY MUCH INTENDED TO INCLUDE A FOCUS ON YOU!

          Thanks for your supportive comments and excellent suggestions over the years.  And thank you for sharing the tools with your friends, colleagues and family!



          Now you can get access to an AD-FREE version of AncestorSearch on Google Search too!

          Back in December, I announced a way to get access to all of the map tools AD-FREE and FULL-SCREEN.

          I'm pleased to announce an AD-FREE option is now available for AncestorSearch on Google Search as well!

          The functionality is identical, but with no ads:

          The ad-free versions of the map and search tools are formatted to work equally well on your smartphone or tablet too!

          All the details are on this page:  NEW:  Enjoy ALL of the map and search tools AD-FREE and FULL-SCREEN!

          GOOD NEWS:  If you have already signed up for access to the ad-free map tools, you now automatically have access to the ad-free search tools as well!  Just look for the "Login to Ad-Free Version" link in the lower-left corner of each map and search tool.

          County info added to Section Township Range on Google Maps tool, plus a tip for historical county research

          Sometimes it's hard to determine where you are when using Section, Township and Range Maps.  So to help provide more geographic context when searching for a land parcel, county information has now been added to the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool.

          For example, let's do the following "Find parcel" at the bottom of the map:
          Find Parcel on Section Township Range on Google Maps Tool

          That will show the following map, now including the county name on top as well as dashed gray lines for the county boundaries, like this:

          Note the county name shown in the upper right (highlighted with the red box above), and the county line is just to the left of the blue dot on the map.  So as of today, that parcel is located in Elmore County, Idaho.

          But what if you're doing historical research and want to know what county that exact location was part of in December 20, 1879 when your ancestor moved there?  Here's how to find out:

          Highlight the Longitude, Latitude numbers and type Ctrl+C to copy them to your clipboard (highlight just the numbers as shown below):

          Now, go over to the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool.  Once it loads, simply click into the "Search places" box above the map, type Ctrl+V to paste the values from the clipboard, and choose the first item that appears:


          Then simply type 12/20/1879 in the "As of date" box at the top of the map, and feel free to zoom in for a closer look:

          You can see that parcel (based on that longitude, latitude pasted) was located in now-extinct Alturas County, Idaho Territory as of 20 Dec 1879.

          I hope this addition of county information is useful, and now you know another way to search for places as well, this time using longitude, latitude!


          For those who have read this far, if you're interested in Ad-Free, Full-Screen Map and Search Tools, you now have an option to get access to that!  Learn more about it here:  NEW: Enjoy ALL of the map and search tools AD-FREE and FULL-SCREEN!


          Check this post for more background on the Public Land Survey System, aka Township Range, aka Congressional Townships.

          Wishing you and your families and friends a wonderful holiday season!

          Big upgrade to the Section Township and Range tool: more detail, more flexibility, new labels

          After the infrastructure upgrade I mentioned in the last post, the increased speed of the maps enabled me to add much more detail to the very very large map layers (over 12 Gigabytes!) that comprise the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), also known as Section, Township and Range.

          When you open the tool, you will now be presented with a Google Map overlaid with township and range lines, including labels, such as this:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps example from Wyoming with labels

          Note the Township and Range labels above.  For example, the box where the red dot is has a label "14N 67W" which is shorthand for "Township 14 North, Range 67 West".  (Note:  If you get a message that says "Area not covered" when you open the tool, then you're looking in an area that doesn't use the PLSS)

          As you zoom in, progressively more detail and labels will appear, such as the Section numbers shown here:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps example from Wyoming with section labels

          And if you zoom in REALLY close on one township, you will even see the quarter quarter sections and their labels.  In this example, we can see the red dot in a box labeled "NENW", which is shorthand for "NE quarter of the NW quarter" of section 36:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps example from Wyoming with quarter section labels

          Head spinning?  Click for a primer on what the PLSS / Section Township Range system is all about, including which states use the system (which is most states outside of the original thirteen colonies).

          TIPS and reminders for how to use the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool:

          1. Search for any address, city, place or even GPS coordinates by using the "Search places" box above the map:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps Search places box

          The panel above the map will show it's section, township and range, such as when I typed "Pikes Peak, Colorado" and got this information:
          Section Township Range on Google Maps Search places box and results



          2. If you know a Section, Township and Range you want to find (for example, from an old deed such as BLM Land Patent records or a current land description), use the "Find Parcel" panel below the map.  TIP:  If you don't know the Section number, just leave it blank.
          In this example, I specified Township 4 North, and Range 69 West, 6th Principal Meridian, Colorado, then clicked "GO!" and got this map with the township highlighted in yellow:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps Find parcel panel

          If I had specified a Section number, the map would have zoomed in all the way and highlighted the section:

          Section Township Range on Google Maps Find parcel panel with sections

          TIP to speed up entering info into the Find Parcel panel:  Use the TAB key to move between boxes, and type the first letter of each drop-down (e.g. type S for South, type C twice for Colorado).  Click "GO!" when you're done entering info.

          3. Geeky fun:  If you want to know what Township, Range and Section you're in right now, use the  button in the upper right corner of the map!

          4. As always, share this tool with friends that might find it valuable!

          Remember, the Township Range Section map layers are VERY large (did I mention they're over 12 Gigabytes?) and drawing time may sometimes take a while, especially if there are a lot of labels.  So, on occasion the tool will require patience :)

          Hope it helps you in your research!



          Are you talking about townships or townships?

          You're in luck either way:

          If you want to map Township/Range/Section, I've just released a new tool called Township Range on Google Maps that maps them all the way down to the quarter quarter section. These townships are part of the Public Land Survey System found in roughly 30 states in the U.S. (which you can read about here).  You can search by address, place, GPS coordinates, or do a reverse find by Section, Township, Range.  They look something like this:
          Section Township Range grid on Google Maps example


          Using the Township Range on Google Maps tool shown above, you can:
          1. Search by address or place using the "Search places" box above the map
          2. Use the "Find parcel" tool on the left side of the map if you have a known Section Township Range you want to map
          3. Just click around the map to see which township, range, section and even quarter and quarter quarter section you clicked in  


          On the other hand, if you want the other type of townships (e.g. the level between county and city in many states) discussed in my last post, they can be found on both the City Limits on Google Maps tool and the County Lines on Google Maps tool by checking the box in the lower left corner of the mapHere's an article on this type of township.  This is an example of this type of township on the map:
          city limits and township boundaries on Google Maps example

          Be sure and read the coverage notes and usage tips below each map tool.

          Hope these are useful in your research!  Feel free to share with anyone you think may find the tools useful.

          Townships have arrived!

          One of the most commonly requested features I've heard over the past several months is the ability to map townships.

          Well, now you can on both the County Lines on Google Maps and the City Limits on Google Maps tools by checking the "Also show townships" box in the lower left corner of both map tools:

          Ability to also show US township boundaries on Google Maps with City Limits

          If you're using the City Limits on Google Maps tool and you search for a place or address that is in a township, that township will be highlighted on the map for you even if you don't have the "Also show townships" checkbox checked.  This is based on the assumption that if you're using the City Limits tool, you probably want to know if a place or address is part of a city-like entity, which townships often are.  So, searching for Manalapan township, NJ will produce a map like this:
          city limits and township boundaries on Google Maps with City Limits tool

          Checking the "Also show townships" checkbox adds all of the rest of the townships to the map.

          To see townships on the County Lines on Google Maps tool, just check "Also show US townships".  If you then click on the map or search a place or address that happens to also be part of a township, you will see that information listed at the bottom of the map:
          city limits and township boundaries on Google Maps with County Lines tool


          So, just remember, if you want to see the City or Townships highlighted on the map, use the City Limits on Google Maps tool.

          Enjoy!  Feel free to share this tool and leave any comments below.


          For those who want to dive a tad deeper...

          By way of background, townships are primary governmental or administrative divisions of a county (separate from a city or town) found in much of the northeastern and midwestern U.S. states.  Here's a map showing where townships are present:

          These are the townships that can be viewed on the County Lines on Google Maps tool and the City Limits on Google Maps tools.

          The above townships are not to be confused with the Townships that are part of the Township, Range, Section designation used by the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) in 30 states in the west, central and southern U.S.  This latter PLSS type of Township/Range/Section can be viewed on the Township Range on Google Maps tool on this website.