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Digitized plat books from Midwest Genealogy Center

The clock has just ticked over from the 19th century to the 20th.

It is right in the heartland of America: Jackson County, Missouri.

And the year is 1904.

So let’s say that’s what you’re researching.

Say, for example, you descend from one Emma T. Adams.

You’re sure of that.

And you’re sure she lived right there in Jackson County, right at that time.

Now generally you’d think this would be easy, wouldn’t you?

After all, 1904 is right between the 1900 census and the 1910 census, and women began to be enumerated by name in 1850.1 Surely you can find Emma on one of those two censuses, no?


Fact is, you won’t find Emma T. Adams in Jackson County, Missouri, in that 1900 census.2 And you won’t find Emma T. Adams in Jackson County, Missouri, in that 1910 census either.3

So how do you prove Emma actually was there in 1904?

That’s where yet another of those wonderful resources from the Midwest Genealogy Center will come into play.

Yeah, that same Midwest Genealogy Center that’s taking The Legal Genealogist to Blue Springs, Missouri, today en route to the all-day Spring 2017 seminar tomorrow.

The “Plat Books of Jackson County, Missouri,” is a “collection that includes four Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri plat books. The plat books in this collection are held by the Midwest Genealogy Center of the Mid-Continent Public Library. These heavily -used plat books have been digitized to prevent further deterioration and to make them available to a wider audience.”4

What are plat books? Well, in the United States, “a plat … (plan or cadastral map) is a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land.” 5

So these are basically map books.

And they’re “a treasure trove for genealogists, providing land ownership information on ancestors. These plat books are also excellent resources for tracing back the ownership of land you may own now. The digital collection includes actual, exact, and complete images of the plat books, and name indexes were completed by volunteers at the Midwest Genealogy Center.”6

The detail on the maps is terrific: in the image here, for example, you can see the lands of Emma T. Adams — 120 acres along the right (eastern) edge of Sections 24 (80 acres) and 25 (40 acres) in Township 47 North, Range 31 West.7

James A. Henley was her neighbor to the north, S. B. Harris, O. L. Harris and Perry Craig her neighbors to the west, and J. H. Jennings to the south.8

You can see the branch of the Big Creek that came down from the north into Emma’s land, and see that Emma’s house was on the north side, in section 24, along the west border with S. B. Harris’ land. You can see the Wilson Farm, just to the south of the Jennings land, that was — the plat book tells us — settled by James Wilson in 1841.9

The lands of that area were in School District No. 7, and the children likely would have attended Woodland School, on the west side of Section 25.10

The nearest town, where Emma may have gone to shop or to attend church, was Greenwood, just to the west.11

Her neighbors on the east were in a different Range — Range 30 West. But you can see them too, on a different page of the plat book: Isadore Inslow on the north east side, and Mattie Forsythe’s short horn breeding farm, with its springs and orchards all carefully drawn in.12

Now that goes a long way towards making up for not being able to find her in the census, doesn’t it?

Plat books. Digitized. For the lay of the land.

It doesn’t get much better than that.


  1. Jason Gauthier, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000 (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Census Bureau, 2002), PDF at 9-10.
  2. There is more than one Emma Adams in Jackson County in 1900, but not the right Emma. See 1900 United States Federal Census database at ( : accessed 2 Mar 2017), search terms: Last Name (Adams), Location (Jackson, Missouri).
  3. Ditto. See 1910 United States Federal Census database at ( : accessed 2 Mar 2017), search terms: Last Name (Adams), Location (Jackson, Missouri).
  4. Plat Books of Jackson County, Missouri, Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library; digital images, Missouri Digital Heritage ( : accessed 2 March 2017.
  5. Wikipedia (, “plat,” rev. 11 Feb 2017.
  6. “Jackson County & Kansas City Plat Books 1886-1925,” Digital & Archival Collections, Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library ( : accessed 2 Mar 2017.
  7. Plat Book of Jackson County, Missouri (Minneapolis, Minn. : North West Publishing Co., 1904), 8; digital images, Missouri Digital Heritage ( : accessed 2 March 2017.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid., at 3.
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