Saturday, August 11, 2007

Research Resources - Maps

Maps are one of the major tools that I've used to help me visualize where my ancestors lived. The one below was created after I'd been doing research for about 15 years. What I wanted was something small enough that I could take to the library and on research trips yet have it include a summary of all the surnames being researched. I also wanted something that would make sense to non-researching family members. It prints nicely on a standard 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper (click on the image to enlarge it).

As a starting point I scanned a portion of a U.S. counties map, probably from a very early edition of The Handybook for Genealogists. I currently have the Eighth Edition, printed in 1991, and it doesn't include anything like this, so maybe that's not where it came from. Anyway, after scanning it I opened the map in an image editing program and commenced to highlight each of the counties where my ancestors had lived.

The counties highlighted in yellow are the maternal lines and the orange are the paternal lines. Those with yellow centers and outlined in orange indicate that families from both my mother and father resided there. The names in blue are maternal lines and the red are paternal lines.

The only states where some of my ancestors lived that are not included on this map are Iowa, Kansas, and Mississippi. Also, I've just barely touched on researching my New England ancestors so not all of the counties where they resided in Massachusetts and Connecticut are highlighted. In addition to this map, I keep a file of copies of maps for each of these counties and have attempted to identify the township or at least the approximate area where they lived.

One of the other resources I've used extensively is "Map Guide to the U. S. Federal Censuses 1790-1920" by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide. The edition I have was published in 1987, which is a bit old but in decent shape and it still serves my purposes. If, like me, you have ancestors that are listed in a different county almost every census year but never physically moved, this book is indispensable. Of course, there are now web sites and software that dynamically show these county boundary changes.

A third resource that I use in my research is "The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy" which was my major purchase at the NGS Conference in Chicago in June 2006. Dick Eastman's review of the book covers it much better than I ever could. If I spent more time reading "The Source" I could probably forgo attending the FGS Conference next week, but there is more to going to a conference than attending lectures!

What general research resources are on your bookshelf?


Apple said...

The idea of highlighting the counties on a map is great! Having the counties in neighboring states on the same page would help me out a lot.

Becky said...

Thanks Apple. It's especially nice since it is an image file. Whenever my copy gets wrinkled, torn or covered with notes I can easily print out another one.