Maps point the way

Letter M: Thirteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Maps can point the way to buried genealogical treasure. For me they are an indispensable part of a family history search. While many maps are now digitized, others sit in libraries, archives and repositories waiting to be discovered — if we just go and look for them.
Map of Schoharie, Greene and Delaware Co., N.Y. (1895). Preliminary family history research suggestsed my ancestor Arthur Bull was born in the area at the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains where these three counties meet. This and other historic maps helped me narrow down the possible location. Image: Rootsweb

One of my favorite maps, shown here, depicts Schoharie, Greene and Delaware counties near New York State’s Catskill Mountains.

Finding this map online helped me search for the birthplace of my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull, who likely started his life in the area where Schoharie and Greene Counties meet.

Other historic maps have depicted where my ancestors lived and worked — sometimes even showing their names in tiny letters near their homes or places of business. Those are the best maps of all!

Mapping your ancestors

Digital maps are often just an online search away. Some of the most interesting digital maps are gathered together in special collections on the websites of libraries, archives and other repositories.

The New York Public Library website features an online guide to its digital collection — including antiquarian maps sorted by year for locations all over the world. Clicking on Maryland 1842, I found a wonderful map showing Harford and Cecil counties and Baltimore City — areas  where my immigrant Dempsey ancestors lived beginning in the mid-1800s.

The digital collection of the New York State Archives also features antiquarian maps. That’s where I found an 1829 map of Delaware County, more detailed than the one above with land grids for the towns where some of my Bull ancestors lived.

The David Rumsey Map Collection is another great source of digital maps, with new ones added regularly. But don’t forget to also check for hard-copy maps at libraries and other repositories you visit — the map that helps tell the story of your ancestors may not yet be digitized.

Does your town, state, province or country have a digital or printed map collection? Be sure to schedule time for an online search or in-person visit — and let historical and antiquarian maps help point the way in your ancestral journey.

Up next: Norm’s eightieth birthday. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Maps point the way”

  1. We thought alike on this one 😉 thanks for the US-based links. I have one or two connections to follow in upstate New York and these will be helpful.

    1. Glad to help! When you visit the New York Public Library Digital Collection, be sure to check out the two very early maps of Australia.

  2. It is my plan one day to map my ancestors residences from Census and Electoral Rolls to show how families moved around, moved back or stayed in one place.
    I’m enjoying your A to Z posts. Great work.

    1. That is a great idea, Fran. Migration patterns are important to learning the full story of a family and its members, and marking them on a map would provide an interesting visual. Enjoying your A to Z posts, too.

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