Preserving Minnesota's Original Field Notes – Pilot Project Results By John Hoshal, Land Management Information Center
The General Land Office field notes – a chronological description of the actions the surveyors took and the measurements they performed – were created for the federal government between 1847 and 1911, prior to opening Minnesota to land sale and to European settlement. Contained in 758 volumes totaling nearly 250,000 pages, these notes are uniquely valuable, for historical, environmental and legal purposes. They are the only comprehensive representation of Minnesota's landscape prior to development. Furthermore, the field notes and the GLO maps – which were derived from the notes – serve as the legal foundation for all land ownership in the state; all property titles ultimately rest on these descriptions. However, access to these important documents has been limited due to their unique nature and fragile condition.
Building upon an existing partnership that led to the digitization of Minnesota's GLO maps, LMIC, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Association of County Surveyors recently completed a pilot project with the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Eastern States Office to digitize and comprehensively index four volumes – approximately 1,600 pages – of field notes from sample townships located in Anoka, Chisago, Hennepin, Isanti, Pipestone and Traverse counties. To better understand potential costs for a full-scale effort and long-term usability of the digital products, the field notes were scanned at various resolutions, in color or as gray tones.
Field notes: Results from the pilot can be viewed at BLM’s General Land Office Records website: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/SurveySearch/. For example, to view sample field notes from Anoka County that were scanned in gray tones, enter T34, R22 and click on Search, next on Original Survey, and then on the Field Note Images tab. To view color examples from Pipestone County, enter T105, R46 and choose the second Original Survey type appearing in the list and then the Field Note Images tab. Please note that field notes for a township may extend across multiple volumes.
While all Minnesota counties are listed on BLM’s site, field notes for the following townships were the only ones digitized and indexed for this pilot.
(b&w) 500 dpi gray tone scan; (c)450 – 550 dpi color scan
GLO maps: All of Minnesota’s maps were scanned in a previous project and are online in PDF format at: http://www.gis.state.mn.us/GLO/. Detailed information about the field notes pilot will be posted on this site later this year.
Background and history: The following websites provide further information about the General Land Office surveys:
BLM Eastern States - This page links to many topics including a new overview of surveys, plats, and field notes:
Based on this successful pilot, the “Field Notes Team” is now seeking funding opportunities to complete the scanning and indexing of the original field notes for the rest of Minnesota. If you have funding ideas or questions about the pilot, please contact: