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Each collection features a unique aspect of Michigan's history.

Rural Property Inventories


How might I use the information in this collection?How might I use the information in this collection?

This collection consists of property inventory cards created as part of a WPA project during the Great Depression. The cards may contain descriptions of the land; buildings; fences; crops; woodlands; means of communication; sources of heat and light; number of school districts; legal land descriptions; village or township location; name and address of person assessed; and amount of acreage within certain classifications. Sketches of houses and general land areas are included.

The cards contained in this collection are from Oakland and Grand Traverse counties. They are a sample of the more extensive (though not complete) records available in the Archives of Michigan reading room. For more information about these records, please see our subject guide and online finding aid.


How do I find things in this collection?How do I find things in this collection?

The records are organized by township, range, and section numbers. Each section is one item with multiple pages. If you know the township, range, and section number, you can search for these in the title field by clicking the Advanced Search link at the top of any page within Seeking Michigan. (Be sure to uncheck the box next to “Death Records” and check the box next to “WPA Property Inventories.”) All numbers in the titles use two digits and there is no space between the number and directional notation (“02S 10W 34,” for example). Select “the exact phrase” from the drop-down menu on the right, enter the township, range, and section numbers in the text box, and select “title” from the drop-down menu on the right. Township and county names are listed in the descriptions for each item. You can search for them by specifying “description” in the drop-down menu on the left when you open the Advanced Search screen.


What's the story behind this collection?What’s the story behind this collection?

During the Great Depression, the Michigan Department of Treasury collaborated with the Works Progress Administration to undertake an extensive survey of nearly all land parcels in the state (excluding Wayne County). The survey served two purposes: it provided jobs for unemployed engineers, land surveyors, and appraisers while giving the state a basis for assessing property taxes. The project started late in 1935 and continued until 1942.