Tips from the Pros: Have Fun with Geography, from Juliana Smith

globe.jpgI have collected every historical map that I can get my hands on for the areas my ancestors hail from. I go to copy machines and make photocopies of sections and use the copies to do some plotting. When I’m having a hard time with a family, it’s good to really explore the area in which they lived. I plot ancestors’ homes, churches, ward boundaries, geographical hazards, and transportation that was available at the time. If I have the address of the ancestor’s place of business (from city directories), I plot that as well. By examining our ancestor’s surroundings, we can better understand how the events found in local histories and newspapers affected them.

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4 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Have Fun with Geography, from Juliana Smith

  1. Any chance in your search for maps that you have found city maps showing the enumeration districts (or wards)? I am trying to find New York City census maps from 1790-1840. Thus far, I’ve found county and state maps but no NYC maps with specific districts. I’m trying to use census maps to help solve one of my “brickwall” mysteries. Thanks for your help.

  2. Excellant Tip!. It’s a subject that a whole book could be written on, Hummmm?? Out “West” the Bureau of Land Management (BLM site doing it’d best to digitize it’s source of land patents ,Donation Claims, Homesteads, etc and the township survey platts that go with them. I am doing Township searches with corresponding US Census searches and finding tons of interesting family data. Cousins living next to each other, maiden names because so and so married the “girl next door”, and the biggest barn burner of disproving the “three brothers from England myth”.
    As another reader wrote, for the urban areas, having a source of Census Tract, or Enumeration District maps would be of great value. Hummmm a USGenWeb project maybe???
    Anyway, all maps have a value, and family researchers should always use them if available for there area of research. The use of Maps is a Top Ten List Item. Thanks, Tom Wilcox

  3. I do much the same. Another thing I have done is to use Google Earth to locate and view addresses where ancestors lived. After searching the Bailey’s Online Court Dockets from the early 19th century London, I got an address for an ancestor of mine who was the plaintiff in a case. From that, I used that address to locate his funny little alleyway-like street in London. Looking at an aerial photograph of the location is second best only to being there in person.

  4. I too, use Google Earth. But what I’ve done is, using the street addresses provided by the various census’, I type in the address of my ancestor and put a placemarker at that address. I’ve found some Moews relatives that all lived within blocks of each other between 1900 and 1930 in Bloomington Illinois. Granted, they all knew each other, but it’s neat being able to graphically see them in the U.S. I plan on using Google Earth to track other relatives as they migrated from East to West.

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