Every discovery in genealogy is cause for celebration. Researching census records, I discovered my grandparents’ address. But on today’s maps, that address no longer exists—there’s a freeway there now. So, how do you find home sweet home? Historical maps are useful for finding communities that no longer exist. One resource you can use to find such maps is Digital Sanborn Maps, which you can access with your Mid-Continent Public Library Access Pass (Library card).
Another good resource is the Library of Congress’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online.
The Sanborn Map Company published detailed maps of U.S. cities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Originally created for fire insurance companies, these maps contain detailed information about buildings in many U.S. cities.
Armed with an address and time period, I did a little digging and found the actual building where my grandparents lived. The map gave me context for the records I was finding for this time period. The Sanborn map also identified where the nearest church was (where I could possibly find more records), nearby cemeteries (another research avenue), and other locations my ancestors may have visited or used.
What if your ancestors didn’t live in a city covered by a Sanborn map? Try other websites, such as Union List of Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps or Old Maps Online. You might just find your ancestor’s home sweet home!
We would love to hear your map research stories!
Midwest Genealogy Center