Genealogy

Using Maps for Family History

Are you like me, constantly looking at maps to see exactly where your family once roamed?  I’m always using the below map on the FamilySearch Wiki to solve brick walls, wondering where my next further back batch of relatives would come from or lived in relation to others.

PennsylvaniaClickableMap-FamilySearch

Just about all the relatives on my paternal side are found within the counties in the South-Western/Central portion of Pennsylvania. These counties would be Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon counties.  But not all of these counties have always existed, at one point I believe most of the region was Bedford County (which is why I chose Bedford to visit in July 2019).

Maps can be very helpful for locating where your ancestor’s records are kept.  Records tend to stay with the county of when they were created.  So if your family’s land is in what is now Blair County – since it was formed from Bedford County and Huntingdon County – if the records you seek are prior to 1846 – you will need to look in either Bedford or Huntingdon Counties.

An article on GenealogyBank.com by Gena Philibert-Ortega states, “Maps help you follow migration patterns, learn more about the place your ancestor lived, determine the location of cities that no longer exist, show changes in county boundaries, and verify land your ancestor owned.”

You may be lucky enough to find a map that even shows where your ancestors lived without your even plotting it.  Below is a map that I photocopied out of the “County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania” and it shows the land where both my 2x-Great-Grandfather lived (G. Morgart) and my 3x-Great-Grandfather lived (A. Morgart).  It turns out B. Hughes is a distant relative as well, and he married my 2x-Great-Grandmother when George Morgart passed away. I’m most likely related to the Ritchey’s as my aforementioned 2x-Great-Grandmother was Mary Ann Ritchey, and she had 2 brothers with the first name beginning with D.

IMG_1244

Gazetteers

According to Wikipedia, a gazetteer is “a geographical dictionary or directory used in conjunction with a map or atlas. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup, social statistics and physical features of a country, region, or continent”.

These books are essential as they normally list the names of places that may not even exist in an area anymore, which can be very important for finding information on your family. Gazetteers can also provide the history of an area, including photographs.

David Rumsey Map Collection

A great website to find historical maps is the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The collection began about 30 years ago and includes over 150,000 maps spanning between the 16th through 21st centuries from across the world.  The digitizations began in 1996 and include over 95,000 pieces.  The real pieces are housed in the David Rumsey Map Center in Stanford library.

Mapping Software

If you find yourself trying to purchase a ton of books to find the maps you need, you can always turn to mapping software for computers.  These programs work by you typing in your location and then you can scroll through the years watching the boundaries change before your eyes, giving you the exact county within your state (if in the United States) of where your ancestor lived at a specific point in time.  This makes it convenient so you know where to look for the records you seek (remember, records stay with the county).

Examples of these programs are AniMapFamily Atlas,  or you can go the free route and use Google Earth.  One of the nice features of using Google Earth is that it is programmed with some of the David Rumsey maps that you can overlay where your ancestors lived at various points in history, so you can walk where they walked, so to speak (please note you’ll have to download the software for your computer for the Rumsey maps to work, but don’t worry, it’s still free!).

Just Google It

One of the other functions I used for my more recent ancestors is simply putting the address of where my ancestors lived that I have found using City Directories in Google so I can see the homes where my family members once lived.  More often than not the house is still standing (I will often refer to the real estate tax site for my county as well just to confirm when the house was built). By seeing what the house looks like in advance I am able to drive by and find it more easily.

My mother’s side of the family settled where I live around 1916 and a majority of her side of the family is still here.  Because of where they originally made their home each day when I drive to work I pass where my great-great-grandmother and her husband had their store.  And I found it using the City Directory to obtain the address and putting the address into Google.

City Directory
1924 Akron City Directory
331 Howard St
Google Image searched on 28 Jan 2020

In a Nutshell

Maps offer us so much information.  They are visual so it can open up an entirely new world to your research.  You can see how far apart relatives live.  If you’re tackling a brick wall and you see someone far away from any other place they’ve lived it might have you question “Is this person mine?” as the migration patterns can become quite apparent once you begin plotting addresses.

I’ve always referred to maps in my search for my family history, but I am at the point I’m really going to start plotting out where they lived just to get a better idea of where their proximity to others so I can wrap my head around things.

If you have used maps please feel free to share your tips and what you use to visually track your relatives and get a feel for where they lived.

 

Genealogy, My Family Tree

A Wonderful Surprise

A week or so ago I decided my living room had had enough and I needed to move the last of my stuff up into the attic where I planned on storing my genealogy research. Once there I decided to go through one of the boxes I’d found a few weeks before because I was surprised to find my sisters and my school photos.

But as I looked at the photos of my sister and me as we each wore the same dress in different grades with even the same barrette in our hair, it was what was underneath that made me even happier.

It all goes back to when I began doing my genealogy a couple of years ago, one of my first initial puzzles was my great-great-grandmother Mazie Lorenia Warner.  I had such a difficult time finding her in the census and things because you would be surprised how messed up the name Mazie can be in “official” documents.  Magie in one, which is at least close, Daysa in another, because that makes sense.  As I found more and more out about her the more I began creating a personality for her, as she seems like a wonderful and caring woman, especially in regard to her children.  She was always letting her children move back home when relationships didn’t work out or finding a new home for herself to let her children have the existing home to help them get started on their own.  I discovered this trend as I saved City Directory after City Directory.

The one thing all the documents didn’t provide was what Mazie looked like.

But then going through this box of photos I stumbled across pictures that must have belonged to my great grandmother.  I found a photo of Mazie and I was so incredibly happy. I literally had tears of joy, immediately calling my husband because I was so thrilled.

MazieWarnerSig

Next up is making sure I find the right products to store such treasures.  Along with the photo of Mazie was one of her mother, Orienta Gustine Warner (this had me thinking as my grandmother had it titled “Great Grandmother Warner” – it made me think Mazie because I am so used to associating maiden names with my female ancestors, and then I realized who she really meant).

OrientaGustineWarnerSig

Now I’m curious as to what other great finds are awaiting me in my boxes of photos. The ones in the header of my blog here are my relatives – the baby is my great-grandfather who was born in 1873 while the group shot is my 2 paternal great grandmothers, my beloved Grandma Blair, and my grandfather, affectionately called Pappy (he passed when I was 2).  Those 2 photos I found in a box of pictures from my Grandma Blair, and I know her niece may have an adult photo of my her dad (the baby).

I hope you are lucky enough to have such wonderful finds in your own family history quest. If you have been fortunate please share in the comments below.