Michigan’s Rural Property Inventory project was one of the many New Deal projects designed to put unemployed individuals back to work during the Great Depression. The products of this project provide great research material for genealogists and local historians.
Rural property inventory card for Lyon Township, Oakland County (Side One)
Rural property inventory card for Lyon Township, Oakland County (Side Two)
A Short History
The Rural Property Inventory project started in 1935 and continued through 1942. In addition to providing jobs for out of work surveyors and engineers, the project was designed to give state and local governments a uniform basis for assessing property taxes. In Michigan, approximately two thousand white collar workers prepared 8″ x 10″ cards for each individual land parcel outside of Wayne County. The cards provided information about land use, soil type, topography and crops grown. Cards usually also included sketches of any structures on the property, along with a diagram of the property and surrounding roads. A guide to abbreviations and codes used on the cards is available in the Archives of Michigan reading room.
A Sample RPI Card
In the example shown on this page, the parcel is in section 20 of Lyon Township, Oakland County (Continue clicking on the images to view them in a larger size.). The land is good farmland, with mostly sandy or gravelly loam. The house was built in approximately 1845 and has two covered porches, electricity and telephone service. The property is bound by gravel roads and the Grand Trunk Railroad line.