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All Over the Map

old map and compass

July 11, 2018

In college, I majored in history and minored in geography. Many of my history classes have helped me over the years as a genealogist, but I have found that the geography classes have been just as useful. In one particular class, the final exam required us to fill up an entire Blue Book examination book writing about a map the professor handed us as we walked into the classroom. It’s amazing what you can discover if you study a map close enough. I have found that maps are incredibly valuable in genealogy research.

If you are all over the map with your genealogy research, try using maps to clear the way. The Midwest Genealogy Center is full of geographic resources that can help you with your genealogy. Historical atlases list towns that no longer exist or show political boundaries that have changed. Fire insurance maps (Digital Sanborn Maps) show specific properties and addresses. Plat books indicate boundaries of land plots and often owners’ names.

In the Family Maps series, author Gregory Boyd mapped out the original landowners using Bureau of Land Management data by section, township, and range in various counties throughout the United States. Although topographic maps, with their contour lines, are most often associated with hikers or surveyors—or even geologists—genealogists use them to locate the places where their ancestors lived as well as nearby cemeteries, churches, or schools. Next time you are in the Library, take a minute to explore the map section. Just like with books, we use the Dewey Decimal System for maps—with call numbers correlating to the U.S. counties or foreign countries.

What other types of maps have you discovered in your genealogy research?

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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