Premium Episode 47 – Sanborn Maps

Date Published: May 27, 2010

Click here to download the Show Notes pdf


Diane Haddad, Managing Editor at Family Tree Magazine talks about oral history on the Vicky and Jen podcast

Family Tree Magazine’s Genealogy Insider blog diane has posted Tips to Research Military Ancestors on Memorial Day

Free Book Bazaar App
With Book Bazaar,you type in a title, author, keyword or ISBN to compare prices for books at online or local bookstores, and now with their new update you can search libraries.
The iGoogle WorldCat Gadget is back!

Kathy sent in an email she received from Ancestry that she found rather “big-brotherish” What do you think?

Gus wrote in to say how much he enjoyed genealogy gems podcast episode 89which was about applying the scientific principles of forensic linguistics to your genealogy research.  He writes,  “you definitely raised the bar in pod casting.”

I really enjoyed doing that episode and am so glad you liked it too.  But even more, I want to thank Gus because he says he put my Genealogy Gems Podcast logo up on his blog with a hot link to my website.

If you have a blog like Gus and would be willing add the logo with a link to the show that would be fantastic and let me know about it so I can mention your blog here on the show.  And also if you are a toolbar user and would like to share that with your readers, drop me a line at genealogygemspodcast@gmail.comand I will send you a neat little banner that you can include which makes it easy for folks to click and download the free toolbar.

Profile America: Grilling History – May 27
According to Wikipedia, “the charcoal briquette was first invented and patented by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania in 1897 and was produced by the Zwoyer Fuel Company. The process was further popularized by Henry Ford, who used wood and sawdust byproducts from automobile fabrication as a feedstock. Ford Charcoal went on to become the Kingsford Company.”

GEM: Sanborn Maps
History of fire insurance mapsDuring the past century the Sanborn Map Company has published maps and atlases of more than twelve thousand United States towns and cities, issued in some seven hundred thousand separate sheets.   The Library of Congress collection
Read Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress by Walter W. Ristow

“Although Sanborn maps today have minimal interest for the fire insurance industry, the Sanborn Company is supplying updated copies of many of its maps and atlases to various clients. Today municipal governments are Sanborn’s best customers, accounting for 60 percent of map sales and services. Engineering and architectural concerns are also significant purchasers of corrected Sanborn maps.”  And genealogists love them too!

The largest collection of Sanborn maps and atlases is preserved in the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, where there are an estimated 700,000 Sanborn maps in bound and unbound editions.
Read more about the history of the Sanborn maps.

Some Online Sanborn Maps by State:

There are also many more maps available in hard copy and as part of microfilm collections; check with your local library or  historical society.

Let’s take a look at an example 
1. Address:  288 Connecticut St., in San Francisco around 1900 to 1910
2. Click the California – San Francisco link which takes you to the San Francisco Genealogy website
3. Click on the first Map Index link.
4. Click through the Map Indexes / Key Indexes
5. Locate the Map Index page for the location.
6. Further down the page on the SF Genealogy
7. Click on link 538
Result:  Sanborn map for that location at the turn of the century.

Connecticut Street in the Sanborn Map Index

Connecticut in the Index of Streets

Sanborn map abbreviations printable pdf

Types of Digital Images:

Front Images:
First page of volume – sort of the title page.   It should include publishing information such as the date.

Map Index: which is a map that includes the sheet numbers to the  individual map sheets, including the Key.

Streets Index: is an alphabetical  index by street name to the individual map sheets.  

Specials Index:an index of “special” places, such as businesses, buildings, etc. to the individual map sheets.

Even if the maps for the area where you are researching isn’t currently available online, browse one of these Sanborn map collections to start to get familiar with them.  And take the time to read the instructions on the websites for maps in the state where you are researching.  You may find links to other sites listing where complete collections can be accessed on microfilm or in other formats.

Watch Premium Video #6 in the Google Earth for Genealogy video series and you will be able to turn that map into a custom map overlay that can become part of your personal historic map collection in Google Earth.

Fire Insurance Maps at the National Archive, United Kingdom

Fire Insurance Maps at the National Archive Canada

American Treasures of the Library of Congress Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn Maps in the Geography and Map Reading Room

Genealogy Gems Toolbar Update:

the Google Earth button. Great for quick location searches. 

IMPROVED: YouTube Video button. Click the YouTube button a little widget window will pop up and right there you’ll have videos from the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.  Scroll through the available videos but using the scroll bar on the right side of the widget.  Click the “Get Widget” button on the bottom of the gadget and you can add it to Facebook, Twitter your blog where ever you want. (P.S. Thanks for sharing it with your friends!)

Historical Maps of Major U.S. Cities and More in New Online Tool

1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in "spyglass" format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at

1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in “spyglass” format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at

I love showing people how to use online tools to compare historical maps to modern ones. You can map out your ancestor’s address, check out their neighborhoods “then and now,” map their route to work, see if their old home still exists and more.

Well, the online Smithsonian magazine has created an exciting new interface for six American cities. Now you can compare modern satellite imagery with bird’s-eye views of:

You’ll see great city layouts before the fire that claimed much of old Chicago, the San Francisco earthquake, the Lincoln memorial and more. The historical map of New York City is the oldest, but the other maps capture each city at a critical point in their growth. For each city you can look at a historical map with a “spyglass” mouse-over of a modern satellite image, or vice-versa, as shown in the New York City map on the right. Each map is accompanied by a fantastic Smithsonian article; the historical maps come from the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection.

As many of you know, it’s possible to do something similar (or even better) with Google’s amazing mapping tools. Learn how to do that with these three Genealogy Gems resources:

1. My FREE Google Earth Video, which teaches you how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads;

2. My Google Earth 2-Disk Bundle, with detailed demonstrations and examples so you can SEE for yourself how to use Google’s mapping tools;

3. My new Time Travel with Google Earth video, in which you’ll see old maps, genealogical records, images, and videos come together to create stunning time travel experiences in Google Earth. This is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members (learn more membership here).

time travel

David Rumsey Shares Souvenir Map for Early Airline Passengers

A recent blog post at caught my eye because it features a map from the genealogists-love-it David Rumsey map collection. But what captured my attention was the story the unfolded behind the foldable map itself. I think you’ll love it!

Rumsey TAT map

Illustrated Map of the Route of Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc., Pocket Map, 1929. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Blogger Rebecca Onion uses a 1929 souvenir map of the United States to tell the story of early commercial air traffic–specifically the story of the origins of airline giant TWA. Apparently early “transcontinental flights,” as they were advertised, were sight-seeing tours with short flights interspersed by train rides to the next flight location. The map featured in her blog post was a souvenir of one of these passengers, who added his own colorful comments on his experience.

This fun post is part aviation history, part map-lover trivia. The story unfolds even more in a short video documentary on Transcontinental Air Transport I’ve added below. It includes cool aerial shots and more on how the early air transport industry, er, got off the ground.

And don’t forget to use maps (storied or just the plain informational types) in your family history research! These can help you find your way around ancestral hometowns, chart migration routes as they would have and otherwise see the world (literally) in the same ways they did.  David Rumsey’s map collection is one of the best online collections out there, with free access to over 44,000 high-resolution historical maps.

Learn more about how to use the David Rumsey historic map collection in conjunction with Google Earth by watching my free video class Google Earth for Genealogy.

My Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Kit, is a value bundle that includes my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Volumes I and II of Google Earth for Genealogy (on video CD). And right now the kit is available for 20% off!

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: Where are you?!

The online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is a go-to resource for determining old U.S. county boundaries. Its popular, interactive map will re-launch later this fall. Meanwhile, you can still access county boundary data and even Google Earth compatible maps.

For quite some time, the online U.S. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries has flashed the following message at the top of its webpage:

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries error message

The first time I saw this message, I panicked. This is my favorite resource for quickly researching historical county boundaries in the U.S. The interactive map feature lets you click on a state and then on a county to see its boundaries on any exact date. I realized the rich data that feeds the interactive map is still there and you can still get to it.

Several months later, I noticed the out of order message was still there. I emailed the Newberry Library in Chicago which hosts the Atlas to see what they could share with Genealogy Gems about the Atlas and its future.

Curator Matt Rutherford replied right away: “We love Genealogy Gems! It’s such an excellent podcast.” (Lisa says “Thanks! We love you, too!”)

He explained that the online Atlas was originally meant to serve a small group of historians. When the interactive map’s code became outdated, the thought was to just let it die. He credits genealogists with giving it a future.

Atlas of historical county boundaries quote“Newberry heard loudly and clearly from the genealogy community about their love for the online Atlas,” says Matt. “It is because of the popularity of the Atlas among genealogists and due to Newberry’s commitment to serving the genealogy community that [we’ve] decided to dedicate resources to the interactive map’s redevelopment.”

When will the interactive map be back? “We do anticipate a launch in the fall, but we don’t have an exact date yet,” he says. “It takes time and funding to redevelop an interactive tool that is as data-rich as the Atlas. Once we got ‘under the hood,’ we realized that the redevelopment needed to be more extensive than originally anticipated.” (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear the full scoop from Matt in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #137.)

How to find county boundaries with the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries in three steps


1. From the Atlas home page, click on the state of interest from the national interactive map.

2. From the state page, click on View Index of Counties and Equivalents. This will show you all current and past county names. (See image.)

3. From this page, click on your targeted county. You’ll find a timeline of that county’s boundary changes.

Use the timeline to discover what county your ancestors belonged to at any given time. Perhaps you’ll discover you should actually be looking for an ancestor’s marriage record or video how to use google earth for genealogyprobate in a parent county, one that existed there before the current county, or in a successor county later carved out of this one.

Google Earth Bonus: The Atlas of Historical Boundary Changes state pages include downloadable maps compatible with Google Earth and Google Maps. If you are not using Google Earth for genealogy yet, watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s free video to see how and why you want to use this amazing 3D map of the world for your family history!

More Gems on Using Interactive Maps for Genealogy

Illuminating Time-Lapse Videos Show Our Changing World

Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online

Family Maps and Migration Routes Traced with New Tech Tools

Premium Episode 72 – Improve Your Google Earth Tours, NewspaperMap

Date Published:  July 17, 2011

Click here to download the Show Notes pdf

Blog Post: My Continuing Genealogy Education
Ian’s blog 

I spent so many Sunday afternoon’s watching Shirley Temple movies on TV when I was little, and so we had all the VHS movies when Hannah was little, and now I have all the DVDs, but Hannah and I had the very special opportunity to view them the old fashioned way last night – on the big screen at the Stanford Theater


Tips for Finding Lost Classmates
The two best suggestions:
#1 Search Facebook
#2 Search

Finding Living Relatives Recorded Webinar available until 9/1/11 at the Genealogy Gems Store at Lulu  

My high school class has created a Group on Facebook and an Event page for the upcoming 30th reunion which has gone a long way to helping us locate classmates.  Those on Facebook, each seem to know a few people, and they urge them to join the group, and then it keeps spreading from there.  I find it’s also going a long way to sort of break the ice and get people reconnecting which I think will make the reunion so much more fun because we’ll already be sort of reacquainted and comfortable with each other again.  Much like what I see at genealogy conferences – just having met someone and chatted on facebook makes you feel like old friends when you finally meet up in person.

Diana posted the following on Facebook: “Found quite a treasure trove the other day. A small town library digitized their entire collection of the town’s newspapers dating back to the 1870’s.  I was able to find almost 100 different references to my family in the newspaper, starting with their arrival and purchase of land in 1890.  Discovered that my great-great-grandfather was quite a businessman and was involved in a couple of scandals.  Also learned that my great-great-great-grandfather was in the Civil War, which led to me ordering his records from the Soldier’s Home in Quincy, IL.  Currently trying to learn if my great-great-great-grandmother was sent to a “hospital for the insane” prior to her death.  All of this from ONE visit to a library in a one-traffic light town!”

GEM:  Newspaper Map

Newspaper has an interactive map which allows you to search over  10,000 newspapers from all over the world and see where they are located.  And You can browse, and read them all right online. Simply  search by specific location, zoom in on specific areas of interest and click on the icon for the available newspapers.

For example, the third field in the search box in the upper right hand corner is Search place so I just typed in California, United States  ns of mostly yellow little icons appear on the map and the map is zoomed in to California.

In the bottom right corner is the color code guide for the icons.  Yellow is for newspapers in English, but you’ll find that there are several different languages supported.

If I’m interested in the newspapers in the Sacramento area I can click the zoom plus sign in the upper right corner to zoom in closer and click on each icon in that area to see which newspapers they have access to.  Most of these are modern day newspapers, and when you click on the icon you’ll learn not only which newspaper it is but you’ll see that you can often click the language  you want the paper translated into. If you want to read the paper in it’s native language, just click the thumbnail image of the paper.  And again, because these are modern day papers most likely you’ll be taken to that newspapers website and you’ll be reading the paper on their site.  This is a neat way to get familiar with an area in your country or around the world as it is today.

But there are historical newspapers available as well!  To get to those, head over to the box in the upper left corner and click the Historical button.   When you do that the map changes – the current newspaper icons disappear and all that are left are icons plotting historical newspapers available online for that area.

In the case of the Sacramento California area that leaves me with The Record from 1893 to 1901 and a little further southeast the Amador Ledger which spans from 1875 into the 20th century.  When I click through to either of these I find that they are from the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website.

What if I want to find newspapers near Gladbeck Germany where my ancestors on my mom’s side once lived?  As I start to type Gladbeck in the search box the site prompts me for Germany as it is looking for locations that match as I type.

Once the map zooms in to Gladbeck, Germany, the town is pretty much dead center.  That’s good because unfortunately the site doesn’t put a place mark on the town you requested.  That would be a nice feature to see in the future, because certainly we’ll be searching some areas we’re not that familiar with.

I find a newspaper in the nearby town of Essen, and when I click on the icon I get that dialogue box again where I can then click on English so that when I’m taken to the website for that paper it will be already translated into English for me.

Over in the black box in the supper left corner you can click the plus button so that you can see all of the newspapers currently available.  If you want to thin it down to just the major newspapers, click the minus button. 

When I click the Historical button unfortunately I don’t see any historic papers plotted.  In that case you have to zoom out to see where the closest place mark is, and in this case that looks like Luxemburg.

When you want to start a new search, and sort of get back to a clean slate, just click on the words Newspaper Map in the black box in the upper left corner.

New newspaper content is being added every day online and it’s a challenge for the folks at newspaper Map to add them all.  If you know of an online newspaper you can add it to the map!  Just head back up to the box in the upper left corner and click the Add/Correct button.   Fill in the field and click Submit.  This means we can all chip in and Newspaper map just be able to be that one stop shopping place for finding online newspapers.  

And of course they have all the social media links so that you can tell all your friends about what you’re finding at newspapermap.

Tip:  The search is spelling- and case sensitive, so keep that in mind.

Also you can Click on the map and drag it around just like you do with Google Earth UK version called  Newspaper Map UK  German version Zeitungskarte Japanese Newspaper Map 新聞地図 -世界のすべてのオンライン新聞

Thanks to Barbara for the lead on this great little gem and you can visit Barbara at her blog at blog: 

GEM:  Improve Your Google Earth for Genealogy Tours

If recording your family history tour is the last thing you do before saving your Google Earth file (KMZ) then the tour file will be the last thing in your folder. Here are two suggestions for improving the usability of the entire Family History Tour folder for your recipients:

1) Drag and Drop the Family History Tour recording so that it is the first item in the folder.  That way your viewers will see it first and click on it.

2) Better yet, create a main folder that contains your recorded tour and a sub folder containing all of the content.  That way when the recipient clicks on the tour file to launch it, it will load up in the Temporary Places showing the recorded tour, and a folder with all the content.

TIP: If you close the content folder (by clicking the little arrow next to it in “My Places”) BEFORE you save the file, the folder will appear closed when opened again. This just gives a nice and neat file that makes it clear that the first thing you want them to do is play the tour file.

TIP: You could even name the recorded tour file something like:  “TOUR – click this file first to play tour)”  If you name it that, it will appear that way in My Places and provide instructions to the recipient. 

Top10 Civilizations to Disappear

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