Geographic Tools and Resources
Maps, gazetteers, atlases and other geographical aids can be very
useful to genealogists -- they offer clues as to where records might be
located, they can show migration patterns, they can give information on
location name changes, boundary changes, and subdivisions (such as county
changes). Even if your family has lived in the same house for
several generations, changes in political jurisdictions, county name
changes, and city or town name changes might have affected them. Small
cities and towns often changed names, and sometimes did not appear on maps.
Some towns were absorbed into larger cities; using an old map, you may
be able to locate where the original town existed.
Often questions come up about courthouse research. Local vital records
are usually kept in the county courthouse, but if the county
changes due to subdivision, which courthouse should you search? Generally,
records were kept with the original courthouse -- succeeding
counties did not as a rule acquire prior records. There are exceptions,
however. If you have a research situation with changing counties you may need
to inquire at both courthouses to ascertain which records are
located at what facility.
Several spots online allow you to play with an "interactive"
map -- that is, one you can customize. Interactive maps allow you to place
markers and labels at various spots on the maps, creating a personalized
"family history" map.
Using one of the customizable map services online, you can bring
up a map of the ancestral home town and indicate where each family
member lived, which houses or cities they moved to over a period of
time, where important events took place, the pattern of their migration, and
so on. Once you modify a map, you can save the image and print it, then
move on to the next location! It's a great way to document where
ancestors lived and how the family moved around the city, state, or country.