Little did I know how valuable maps would be when I started down these paths to ancestors. And may I say, bless the map makers! Be they explorers, navigators, geographers, cartographers or surveyors. They all had a place in the need for and creation of maps. And may I also say, bless those who are creating the collections of these valuable resources and make many of them available online.
Tracing/finding property maps and combining with taxation records has allowed me to locate the farm where my great great grandmother lived with her mother in the rural area of Evansville Indiana. Plat maps with names are extremely useful to put those pieces together. Sometimes you may be lucky and find your relatives were given the patent from the government or bought the rights to the land from the patent holder. You can find this in the Bureau of Land Management collection.
It’s really a kick to find a certificate signed by the president of the time when the land was awarded to your ancestor. I’ve just looked at the website and they have added more information to the site.
Early maps in New Amsterdam when Stuyvesant led the Dutch colony in the 1600s shows where my 9th great grandmother lived near what is now Wall Street when that area was small farms near the village. It’s fun to look at the originals and then overlay the modern ‘village’ of the metropolis of New York City and know that my family once lived there, not to mention her involvement with the Tappan Patent where Rock County is today north of the City along the Hudson River. I wish I had known when I was in Rockland County in the 1970s that I had a direct connection to one of the houses that is still there!
One of the most useful map services that I’ve found is the collection of tools provided by Randy Majors.
If you want to figure out what those surveyor identifiers mean, section/township/range, and how to find them on an actual modern map of your ancestor’s farm or town, this is where you go. Need an historical representation of early states and counties, this is where you go. His tools are continually developing so you never know what new insight one can find every few months. Revisit often. US only.
Another collection that I’ve used often in The David Rumsey Map Collection.
Photographs, maps, information, a blog – what more could you want? This is a place I could (and have) spend hours.
These are just three of the many map collections that I’ve learned of in doing family history research. If you know of others I’m missing, please leave a comment below.