You’re probably aware that the David Rumsey map collection website is a terrific source for old maps. But you may be surprised by the variety of maps, some which you likely don’t come across every day. Here’s a fun little tactic I took today to see what it may hold in store beyond typical maps. A search of the word neighborhood reveals that their holdings go well beyond traditional maps. Here’s an example from San Francisco showing a neighborhood in its infancy:
And the image below depicts the Country Club district of Kansas City in the 1930s. If your family lived there at that time, this is a real gem.
If you think Google Books is just books, think again. Historic maps, often unique and very specific, can often be found within those digitized pages. Try running a Google search such as: neighborhood map baltimore.
Click the MORE menu and select BOOKS. Then click the SEARCH TOOLS button at the top of the results list, and from the drop down menu select ANY BOOKS and then click FREE GOOGLE BOOKS:
Select a book that looks promising. Then rather than reading through the pages or scanning the index, save loads of time by clicking the thumbnail view button at the top of the book. This way you can do a quick visual scan for pages featuring maps!
When you find a page featuring a map, click it display it on a single page. You can now use the clipper tool built right in to Google Books to clip an image of the map. Other options include using Evernote (free) or Snagit ($).
Like Google Books, the digitized pages housed at the Chronicling America website contain much more than just text. Old newspapers printed maps to help readers understand current events like the progress of war or the effect of a natural disaster. This map from The Tacoma Times in 1914 shows a map of Europe and several quick facts about the “Great War,” World War I:
The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.
Here’s one more example below. A search for “San Francisco earthquake” at Chronicling America brought up this bird’s eye view of San Francisco at the time of the major 1906 earthquake. Articles below the map explain what you’re seeing:
The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.
Next time you’re trying to find old maps online, take a look at OldMapsOnline.
As the site explains, “The OldMapsOnline Portal is an easy-to-use gateway to historical maps in libraries around the world.” And not just a few minor libraries, but a long list of major libraries, like:
the British Library
David Rumsey Map Collection
Charles University (Prague)
Dutch National Archives
Harvard Library Map Collection
Map Library of Catalonia
Land Survey Office Czech Republic
the National Libraries for nations like Scotland, Wales and Colombia
The portal allows the user to search for online digital historical maps across numerous different collections via a geographical search. Search by typing a place-name or by clicking in the map window, and narrow by date. The search results provide a direct link to the map image on the website of the host institution.”
The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.
Recently I’ve seen two calls for volunteers to help “georeference” old maps. Basically, you’re tagging the maps in a way similar to tagging photos of people on social media sites. This makes finding old maps online easier and more accurate. It also allows sites to overlay the old and new maps. “Some places have changed significantly or disappeared completely, creating a puzzle that reveals an exciting contrast,” explains the British Library.
These two sites are asking for volunteers:
The British Library Online Gallery.The British Library is asking for volunteers to help georeference 50,000 maps it’s put online. Go right to the site and you’ll see the invitation to help on the home page. You’ll also see that you can click on a tab to search maps that are already georeferenced! The British Library tells its volunteers: “Your name will be credited, and your efforts will significantly improve public access to these collections. Contributors can see the results of their work, as well as the progress of the pilot and other participants, and the top contributor will be publicly announced.”
David Rumsey Historical Maps. This mega-maps site is also looking for volunteers to help add locations to its online map collections. On the home page, click on the left where it says Georeferencer: Help Add Location to Maps.
We blog about maps a lot here at Genealogy Gems. To learn more about using old maps online and for genealogy, go to our home page and search on the Maps category on the lower left side of the page. Additionally, Genealogy Gems Premium members have access to full-length video classes like these:
Screenshot from First Landowners Project video, shown below.
Do you ever find it difficult locate U.S. property owned by your ancestors? Two online resources for land ownership maps are available by subscription at HistoryGeo.com, which might just prove helpful!
The First Landowners Project aims to map out the original landowners in public land states. Currently, they’ve charted about 8.8 million original landowners from 21 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin). “We will continue to add more of the Western states soon,” says a recent press release. “Information on eastern states can be found on our frequently asked questions blog entry.” Watch a video demonstration of this project below. Click here to read a detailed description of it.
The Antique Maps Project is a growing collection of historical maps that contain names of U.S. landowners. Their comment: “Many of these maps are indexed and searchable, and the ones that are not will be (thanks to our volunteer labeling program).” Watch a video about this project below:
Learn more about great mapping tools for genealogy by searching our blog by the Maps category (do this from our home page, lower left side). Or become a Genealogy Gems Premium member to gain a full year’s access to video classes like:
5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps
Google Earth for Genealogy(use Google Earth to identify an old photo location)
Do you have ancestors who lived in the “Windy City” of Chicago, Illinois (USA)? You should check out Chicago in Maps, a web portal to historic, current and thematic maps.
As the News-Gazette reports, “There are direct links to over three dozen historic maps of Chicago, from 1834 to 1921. The thematic maps include Chicago railroad maps, transit maps and geological maps.”
Of course, there are current maps, too, including a Chicago street guide for 2014. There’s a fascinating set of maps showing the effects of landfill projects. The Sources and Links page directs users to helpful guides to street name changes and house numbers. You’ll find links to surveyors’ maps, too.
From the home page, you can also click to a sister site on Chicago streetcars that includes a 1937 map of streetcar lines. (There’s a second sister site on Chicago bridges.)