Sanborn Checklist of Fire Insurance Maps Now Online

From the Library of Congress INFORMATION BULLETIN, September – October 2009

The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress has announced the new Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online Checklist, which can be accessed directly at This collection of maps, produced for business purposes, has proven to be a boon to historians.

The Online Checklist describes the Library’s nearly 700,000-sheet collection of maps published by the Sanborn Map Co. from 1867 to the 1960s. This is the largest and most comprehensive collection of Sanborn Maps. The Checklist is an online version of the print publication, “Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress: Plans of North American Cities and Towns Produced by the Sanborn Map Company” (1981).

The maps show accurate details of individual structures and were often the earliest large-scale urban mapping available for small cities. They were designed to assist the insurance agents in determining the degree of hazard associated with a particular property. They show the size, shape, and construction of dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories, as well as firewalls, locations of windows and doors, etc. They also show the names of streets, property boundaries, building use and house and block numbers.

The online checklist is a searchable database, which lists all editions and number of sheets for each city/town/village represented in the collection. The website includes essays on the history of large-scale mapping related to fire insurance efforts and examples of how large scale maps can be used by historians, geographers, and researchers in virtually any discipline – including genealogy!

The Library of Congress has the largest and most comprehensive collection of maps and atlases in the world, with some 5.2 million cartographic items that date from the 14th century to the present.