Using GIS Maps for Public Records Searches

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What can you learn from a GIS map? GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, and these maps can be an excellent way to search for certain types of public records. The GIS is a way of capturing, storing, and displaying data. Users can perform searches based on certain criteria and interact with the GIS maps. These maps are usually composed of layers of data, one often includes information from an assessment office.

The map will consist of certain sets of criteria and a focus on certain subjects and layers. Each state and county will likely have their own way, but most GIS mapping systems have an underlying layer with information such as streets and shorelines. The next layer may contain zoning information, electoral district, water supply, parks, etc. Some areas may divide their layers into categories such as “property, “planning, and “points of interest. You can also view GIS map layers, to search for things such as where a property is zoned, property sales, and even clandestine drug lab properties. Of course, the availability of the type of information depends on what information the state, city, or county chooses to provide. However, many states, such as Washington, provide a very comprehensive GIS Maps with several subjects and layers to search through.

For many public record hunters, the most useful aspect of a GIS map is its ability to provide real property parcel searches. Searches can generally be performed by parcel number or street address. Also, if you do not know the exact location of the parcel you are searching for, you can use the interactive tools by zooming into a location, or some GIS maps allow for broader searches by street intersections, which can help you get closer to your desired vicinity. For property searches, you search results will likely yield the parcel number, full address, and assessor report, and possibly a district report. The records produced from the GIS map search can be very comprehensive. They can include information such as property owner, sale date, sale price, property type, renovation dates (where applicable), lot size, square footage, tax history, appraised value, tax assessments, and more. For counties with advanced online systems, you can often also link to the recorded document associated with that property.

I’ve found that at times, when viewing a GIS map, it can seem a little overwhelming due to the scope of the information contained in that single map. However, if you are interested in land and property related public records, this is one of the best resources to help you find useful information. So, when searching through these maps, simply keep in mind exactly what you are looking for. If there is a layer called “property, you may want to stick with searching in this area. Other GIS systems may simply provide a link taking you to an area where you can perform your search by address, parcel number, etc. However, don’t be afraid to play around with the GIS maps because they can produce a lot of interesting information and records.

Some states and counties have their own GIS departments that are responsible for compiling and displaying the information. Other areas may use the assessment departments. To find links to GIS maps in your area of interest, visit the Free Public Records Directory where you will find links by state and county.

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