Master Site File

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Florida Master Site File?
A: The Florida Master Site File is the State of Florida's official inventory of historical cultural resources. Categories of resources recorded at the Site File include archaeological sites, historical structures, historical cemeteries, historical bridges and historic districts. The Site File also maintains copies of archaeological and historical survey reports and other manuscripts relevant to history and historic preservation in Florida. The Site File currently holds information on more than 180,000 cultural resources and copies of over 17,000 manuscripts. Site File staff do not evaluate the historical significance of sites or the potential impact of development projects, however, evaluations of historical significance by other State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) staff and preservation consultants are included in our records. Florida Master Site File staff are available to assist citizens, government agencies and historic preservation professionals in performing searches and obtaining information from our inventory.

Q: What is the difference between the National Register of Historic Places and the Florida Master Site File?
A: The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is an active list of U.S. properties that have been determined through a formal process to be historically significant by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Projects involving federal or state revenue, licensing, or permitting, must account for effects to resources that are listed in, or eligible for listing in, the NRHP. The Florida Master Site File is an active inventory of Florida's historical cultural resources that are over 50 years old, without regard to historical significance. The NRHP is maintained by the National Park Service, although Florida's Bureau of Historic Preservation within the Division of Historical Resources has an office (the Survey and Registration Section) charged with giving technical assistance to agencies and private individuals who seek to have properties listed in the NRHP. Properties that are listed in the NRHP are also recorded at the Site File, and the Site File has copies of the federal nomination forms and sometimes other information as well. However, most properties recorded at the Site File are not listed in the NRHP because many Site File properties do not meet criteria of the NRHP for historical significance and because the NRHP nomination process can be complicated and require professional assistance. For further information and assistance relating to the federal NRHP program, refer to the National Register of Historic Places website maintained by the National Park Service. For information on the NRHP specific to Florida resources, visit the Florida Division of Historical Resources website or call the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation at 850.245.6333.

Q: Who can request information from the Site File or record resources?
A: Anyone (whether a professional consultant, amateur historian or just interested citizen) can request information from, or submit information to the Site File. Private citizens, government agencies and historic preservation professionals all utilize the resources of the Florida Master Site File free of charge. However, there are some restricted classes of information held by the Site File. Building plans and archaeological site location information are classified as sensitive and are exempted from Florida's open records laws.

Q: How do I record an archaeological site, historic building or other resource with the Florida Master Site File?
A: A State Site Number must first be assigned to the resource by the Site File. Then, a State site form must be filled out and submitted to the Site File in order to get the property into our inventory. There are different forms used for different types of resources. The five form types available are Archaeology, Structure, Cemetery, Bridge and Resource Group. If you have not submitted information to the Site File before, deciding which form to use for your resource can be tricky. In addition, there are several required attachments to a completed form, including maps and a photo. Please contact the Site File at 850.245.6440 or for guidance in obtaining a site number and submitting information to us for the first time.

Q: What is a T-R-S or Township, Range and Section?
A: The Township and Range system (or Public Land Survey System) was developed by the Federal government in 1812 to more accurately define U.S. locations. Townships are 36 square miles in area and are sub-divided into 36 1-by-1-mile square parcels called sections. Sections are numbered from 1 to 36 for identification. Each township has a township and range designation to define its 36-square-mile area. Township is numbered north and south from the base line, and range is numbered west or east from the principal meridian. In Florida, the base line and principal meridian run through Tallahassee. A standard search request at the Site File is performed by providing the Township, Range and Section (T-R-S) of the area for which information is needed. Generally, the T-R-S (sometimes expressed as S-T-R) can be found in the legal description of parcels and properties. An example of how to write a T-R-S value is T8S R17E S33, referring to Township 8 South, Range 17 East, Section 33.

Q: Can a building recorded at the Florida Master Site File be demolished?
A: Yes, but a complete answer to the question may require consultation of local ordinances. The Florida Master Site File has no active role in local governmental matters like zoning or permitting decisions. Please notify the Site File if a building in our inventory is demolished or destroyed so we may update our records to reflect the change.

Q: Can a building be removed from the Site File at the owner's request?
A: No. The FMSF holds public information gathered, processed, and organized partly or wholly at public expense. Granting such requests would be similar to deleting public tax records at the taxpayer's request.

Q: Does the owner of a property need to approve inclusion in the Site File?
A: No, the owner is not required to approve inclusion in the Site File inventory. Neither the owner's name nor interior information on buildings is required on Site File recording forms.

Q: What restrictions are there on the development/renovation of my property if it is included in the Site File?
A: None. Local ordinances should be consulted for development and zoning restrictions.

Q: I found an artifact or archaeological site. What do I do now?
A: Contact the Bureau of Archaeological Research in the Division of Historical Resources at 850.245.6444. Staff there can recommend a course of action based on the information you provide.

Q: Who do I talk to about human remains that have been found?
A: First, contact your local law enforcement agency. Then, the State Archaeologist (850.245.6444) should be contacted. Unmarked human remains interred less than 75 years are under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner and may be related to a crime. It is a felony under Florida Statutes Chapter 872.05 to knowingly disturb human remains or funerary items. Florida law accords equal protection to unmarked human remains encountered on public and private land. If you are planning a project that includes ground disturbance, the Site File can assist you in determining if there are any recorded instances of unmarked human remains in your project area.

Q: How do I acquire a State site recording form?
A: Forms may be downloaded from this website or requested from the Site File via phone, e-mail or U.S. mail.

Q: What happened to SmartForm II?
A: SmartForm II has been replaced by our new fillable PDF forms. The PDF forms are available on this website and require Adobe Acrobat Reader 7 or later to use. SmartForm II forms will still be accepted for the foreseeable future. Contact the Site File for more information on the use of Site File PDF forms.

Q: Is Site File information available online?
A: Site File information is available from our staff via e-mail, however, we do not offer self-service internet searches to the general public due to security concerns and Sunshine law exemptions for archaeological site locations and building plans.