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MassGIS frequently asked questions

Answers to a collection of commonly asked questions from our user community

Q & A

Q: I want to use your data, a map from MassMapper, or some other MassGIS derivative in a publication; can I do this, and do I need to cite you?

A: Since MassGIS data is paid for by public tax dollars, the data are in the public domain and therefore can be used by anyone for any purpose. When using MassGIS data on maps or in digital applications, source credit should be stated as "MassGIS (Bureau of Geographic Information), Commonwealth of Massachusetts EOTSS"

Q: Why don’t I find actual maps as PDFs on your website?

A: As the state's mapping agency, we house myriad digital map layers for use in GIS software. We have no way of knowing what combination of layers and in what geographic area(s) a user might want to see our data. If you do not have GIS software, you can use our MassMapper program to create an online map. Many of the datalayer description pages have a link at the top to a pre-made, yet dynamic, Massmapper and/or ArcGIS Online map that displays the data.

Q: I was hoping to do some land property ownership research using your assessor’s parcel data.

A: MassGIS has an Interactive Property Map. The primary limitation to the assessor's parcel data in the map is the currency: Be sure to look at the “FY” field to determine the Fiscal Year of that record as some may be several years out of date.

To get the most current information, you’ll need to visit the website of the city or town where the property is located and look for “Online Assessing” or the Assessor’s Office. Also, Assessor maps are not an official accurate depiction of the property boundaries. Only a survey or a deed can determine the accurate boundary. 

Q: Do you have a map layer showing Zip Code boundaries?

A: MassGIS has created a distributable Zip Code layer

Q: I saw your datalayers page, but did not see the layer I was looking for. Do you have additional data other than what I see there?

A: Most likely, if it is not listed there, we do not have the layer. We strive to collect, aggregate and publish any and all statewide data we can. Often our users are looking for temporal data or very specific (and sometimes obscure) layers that may not exist. Consider what agencies might have the data you need (transportation-MDOT, environment- EOEEA, health-DPH, etc) and contact them.

Q: I saw your orthophoto/aerial imagery options on the datalayers page, but do you have anything older?

A: We do not have anything older than the 1990s. The MassDOT Highway Division’s Survey Section has historical aerial photographs.  There are statewide sets from the 1930s, the 1950s, the 1960s, and another set from the 1980s. Although they are referred to as statewide sets, they all have omitted areas. There are also sets of photography that were taken along certain swaths or corridors for proposed highways or highway improvement projects. The aerial photographs for the most part are indexed and organized.

There is a procedure in place for anyone looking for images and they charge for time and materials. To inquire about these, contact Jeffrey.bruce@state.ma.us or DOTSurvey.Help@dot.state.ma.us, phone (857-368-9691), or fax (857-368-0642). Ideally, a map would be supplied to show your area of interest. If a street map is not readily available latitude and longitude coordinates also work.

Also, the USGS has resources here: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/eros/science/usgs-eros-archive-products-overview

Q: I have a spreadsheet of addresses. How do I map them?

A: Using the free QGIS software, use this method for geocoding addresses or highlighting certain Massachusetts cities and towns based on your data.


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