August 27, 2014

Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online

Map of New York City, 1857. Click for full citation information.

Map of New York City, 1857. Click for full citation information.

Thousands of historical maps of New York City, the mid-Atlantic states and even the Austro-Hungarian empire (yes, really!) are now online–and they’re free.

The New York Public Library has published more than 20,000 historical maps dating from 1660-1922. They are free for public use, downloading, manipulating and publishing!  A lot of the maps are from New York City neighborhoods, like the one shown here.

The author of a news item about the collection said this: “We can’t imagine too many people wanting to remix Gangs of New York-era property charts, but it’s hard to object to getting more geographic knowledge at no charge.” Well, we genealogists may not “remix” these old property maps, but we can certainly see the value in them!

Do you use maps in your research? Have you tried overlaying a historical map showing an ancestor’s home with a modern one on Google Earth? Learn more about using Google Earth in your genealogy research in this FREE video. 

And if this post is interesting to you, you should also read this blog post about interactive historical maps of major cities (like New York City).

 

World War II Maps: A Revolution in Map-Making

Perspective MapsWorld War II started a revolution in map-making. It didn’t just change maps, but it also changed how the world looked at maps.

Maps suddenly became very interesting to everyone. Not just war strategists and troops but all those left behind on the home front. This interest was fueled even more by a revolution in how maps were made–a revolution that anticipated the information-sharing power of Google Earth.

“War has perennially driven interest in geography, but World War II was different,” reports this article in New Republic.  “The urgency of the war, coupled with the advent of aviation, fueled the demand not just for more but different maps, particularly ones that could explain why President Roosevelt was stationing troops in Iceland, or sending fleets to the Indian Ocean.”

The story focuses on artist Richard Edes Harrison, whose World War II maps portrayed theaters of war with vivid clarity. He used the artist’s tools of shading, color and perspective to create maps “that could be intuitively understood by readers of widely varied levels of literacy and sophistication.” His “colorful and sometimes disorienting pictures (not quite maps)…emphasized relationships between cities, nations, and continents at the heart of the war. These maps were published in Fortune, then issued in an atlas that became an instant bestseller in 1944.”

After reading the article I ran a quick check of Google Books, one of my favorite go-to genealogy resources online, on “Richard Edes Harrison:. Sure enough, Google Books has a fully digitized copy of Life magazine (Feb 28, 1944) which includes the article “Perspective Maps: Harrison Atlas Gives Fresh New Look to Old World.” It’s not only chock full of his color maps, but includes a detailed section on how he drew his maps. You can see it here

What really caught my attention was the article’s explanation of how these World War II maps anticipated the information-sharing power of Google Earth. Google Earth shows us the terrain as well as geographic boundaries. That helps us understand things like movements of troops–or movements of ancestors.

As genealogists, we can learn so much by studying maps–particularly the powerful ones on Google Earth. Genealogy Gems Premium Members have access to my series of videos on Geographic Genealogy, including:Historic_Maps_Video

  • Google Earth for Genealogy
  • Time Travel with Google Earth
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Research with Old Maps (brand new full hour class – retail value alone $39.95)

PGenealogy Gems Premium Membership and Podcastremium Membership is a bargain at only $29.95 for an entire Bonus EBookyear’s access, plus right now you get the free bonus ebook Lisa Louise Cooke’s 84 Best Tips, Tricks & Tools from Family Tree Magazine.

Click here to learn more about Premium Membership.

 

Old Maps Help Locate Mystery Grave of WWI Australian Jockey

Mystery Grave TombstoneGot a mystery grave in your family history? It’s not uncommon. It can happen for many reasons: no headstone, unidentified body, paperwork missing or lost, graves moved, cemeteries abandoned.

During battles and the immediate aftermath, soldiers’ remains can also be lost. That’s what happened to Private Will Phillips, a “popular jockey” from Australia who joined the British forces during World War I.

Years later, Phillips’ great-nephew chased down his burial place. It wasn’t easy: he had to consult cryptic terrain and battlefield maps created during the chaos of war. He compared cemetery records of known and unknown burials. But he did eventually locate his Uncle Will’s grave next to another soldier’s (mismarked as someone else’s). In the process, he made another breathtaking discovery: a photograph of his uncle taken on the day he was killed in combat–standing next to the man he’s now known to be buried alongside. Read the full story and see photographs of Uncle Will here.

 

Google Maps Street View Delivers a Taste of Time Travel

Google Maps Street View was given an edge today over Google Earth’s street view when Google launched a “time travel” upgrade. The ability to time travel is high on most family historians list, and Street View imagery for Google Maps desktop provides a taste of that prize.

According to Google’s blog post today they have “gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world.”Google Maps Street View of Gettysburg

Here’s an example of viewing Gettysburg with the new feature. In many cases, there’s nothing earth shattering to see. But in some locations which have undergone substantial change in that short time period (such as viewing the reconstruction after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Onagawa, Japan) the results are riveting.

Don’t worry if you don’t see Google Maps Street View Historical Imagery feature yet. When you have millions of users it can take a while to roll out upgrades.

Members Have Been Time Traveling for a While Now
If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium Member then chances are you made a bee-line for the Time Travel with Google Earth premium video as soon as you joined. In that video we explore some incredibly powerful ways to travel back through our ancestor’s lives and times. And while I still think that those techniques deliver more relevant results for genealogists, this new Street View time travel in Google Maps is exciting in its own way. It offers a glimpse into the future.

Consider this: Google has been amassing incredible amounts of data over its short life including satellite and street view imagery. 7 years in and they can now begin to offer this collection of older imagery in a meaningful way. Imagine what historical street view imagery will look like in 10, 25, or 50 years from now!

After Looking Back in Time, I Offer This Prediction for the Future
While this feature has just rolled out in Google Maps, and is not yet available in our beloved Google Earth, I predict this omission will not last long. You may have already noticed that as you zoom in closer to street level in Google Earth a small clock icon appears at the bottom of the screen indicating historical satellite imagery is available. Next to the icon a date now appears indicating the earliest available imagery. Click the Historical Imagery icon in Google Earth’s toolbar and a time slider indicating the years available will appear.

Historical imagery Google Earth

For most areas of the world this spans about as long as satellite imagery has been around. But in some key areas, such as London and parts of Europe, the slider goes back to the World War II era. Black and white aerial imagery of war torn areas are plainly visible. (If you have World War II veterans in your family tree, this is a feature you’ll want to explore.) It can only be a matter of time before this same Historical Imagery comes to Google Earth’s Street View.

Burkett Family in San Francisco Google Earth for GenealogyMore Ways to Explore and Time Travel Now
If you are intrigued by the idea of using this technology to simulate your own genealogical time travel experience, watch my free video called Google Earth for Genealogy. You’ll travel along with me as I uncover the secrets of a photograph taken just over one hundred years ago, pinpoint the location today, and then travel back in time to further explore my ancestor’s neighborhood. From there, the sky is the limit with Google Earth and Google Maps!

Further Reading:

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

enumeration district maps

1940 Census Enumeration District Map, Oklahoma, Wagoner County, http://research.archives.gov/description/5836456

Looking for enumeration district maps for the U.S. Federal Census? You’re not alone! Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Michelle in Denver, Colorado, wrote in with this question:

“Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district.”

My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps

First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website:

“An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.

Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly. The base maps were obtained locally and include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)

Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 is the most accessible. These are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.

What about enumeration district maps before 1940? Consult Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for maps in the National Archives. For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress.  (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.) If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.

Here are a couple more thoughts:

  • In cities,  there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for GenealogyDepending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area.  Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.

(Image right: Sanborn
Fire Insurance Map)

 

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 DavidRumsey.com.

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 DavidRumsey.com.

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

 

 

 

 

History of the ENTIRE World on a Single Map?

Partial image of Histomap of World History from Slate.com.

Partial image of Histomap of World History from Slate.com.

This might be the single most ambitious publication EVER: a chart that lays out the history of human civilization. It’s the ultimate infographic, created long before the era of the infographic!

What you see here is a partial image, a screenshot taken from a cool article on the 1931 Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History.

It’s not perfectly accurate, it carries some cultural biases and ignorance of much of Africa’s rich history and the dates are given more as a range than anything. So what makes this a useful tool for genealogists?

We’re always looking for historical context: a way to understand how our ancestors fit into the “big picture” of history. Are you learning about a Portuguese or French line in your family? Learning by DNA tests that you have some deep Asian roots? Find these categories displayed on the map along with other dominant (or not-so-dominant) groups of your ancestor’s era. It’s cool to look at! Check out the entire map (and an explanatory post in this post by Rebecca Onion at Slate.com.

Timechart history of the worldGenealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton owns a book with a similar chart in it: Timechart History of the World (Timechart series)
The Timechart History of the World. The oversize, double-sided stiff cardboard pages fold out to more than 30 feet of full-color Victorian-decorated timecharts. She highly recommends it for the coffee table, if your coffee table is big enough to handle it!

Bonus: The  Huffington Post has a neat article (with a photo) of another map from this series,The Histomap of Religion.  (Time Chart of World Religion: A Histomap of Faith Through the Ages)  Religions can be tough to trace forward over time, as various sects divide or merge. Every tool helps!

David Rumsey Shares Souvenir Map for Early Airline Passengers

A recent blog post at slate.com 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!

 

(Free Video Class) Google Earth Helps Genealogist Find Family Business

Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother.  She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863.  To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!

“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:

Family business photo 1

“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco.  I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)

“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham!  There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”Family business photo 2

Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.

toolbox kit SMALLThe presentation she’s talking about can be found in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Kit, 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). Even better, right now that kit is available for 20% off! The 2 discs are also available as a bundle on their own. And thanks, Gail, for sharing your success with us!

Follow Your Commuter Ancestors in NYC Subway Maps

New York City Subway HistoryIf your ancestors lived or worked in New York City, did you know you can follow them home from work? At least virtually.

David Pirmann runs a website dedicated to the history of the New York City subway system. NYCSubway.org includes great historical background, photos, maps and other documents.

Start by reading about elevated rail service that began in the 1860s and the development of the transit system since then. Then consult route maps for several time periods, either in the Historical Maps section or the Line by Line Guide (both under the Maps and Stations tab).

The fun part is browsing the rest of the site: learn how “The Great White Hurricane” snowstorm of 1888 paralyzed the city, or how things have worked behind the scenes (fares, power, signals, etc). You can even check out images of abandoned stations and old cars.

Thanks to Gizmodo.com for an article that pointed me to this fun resource.