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Geographic Tools and Resources

Antique Map 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.

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