The Sanborn Map Company published maps from 1867 to 1970 to evaluate fire insurance liability in urban areas. The maps are detailed street plans on large sheets of paper—one sheet shows about four to six city blocks.
You can learn a lot about your ancestor’s house and neighborhood from these maps, or research the history of your own old house. These maps show building outlines, locations of windows and doors, building use (including the names of most public buildings), property boundaries, house and block number, street names and more.
Here’s an example of how I’m using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for my family history. Below is the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for San Francisco in 1905. My great grandparents house has long since been torn down, but I know that the original address back before the great earthquake of 1906 was 1144 Kentucky Street. The Sanborn Fire Map for this neighborhood sheds light on why they picked this location when they first married. Not only is it on Kentucky Street where my Great Grandfather Charles worked the Kentucky Streetcar line as a conductor, but it’s right next door to an Emergency Hospital complete with two ambulances and 2 horses. Why is this significant? Because Great Grandmother Ellen was a nurse when they met!
Learn how to use these under-valued genealogy resources and where to find them in my NEW Premium video on using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. In the video I demonstrate using the maps in Google Earth, which is something you may not find anywhere else! The companion handout for the class is a guide to finding Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps online.
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