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).
Did you know that FamilySearch has an interactive map to help you find English parish boundaries in 1851?
Daniel Poffenberger, who works at the British desk at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showed me this map gem. He says this map was about 7 years in the making!
English parish boundaries: map on FamilySearch.org.
Before you click through to the map, you should know:
- Use the main Search interface to search by a specific location.
- Click on layers to indicate whether you want the map to show you boundaries to parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses and more.
- Click and drag the map itself to explore it.
- Wales is also included here but the Welsh data doesn’t appear to be entirely complete (try it anyway–it might have what you need).
- The map isn’t yet permanently operational. It does go down sometimes, possibly because they’re still working on it. It doesn’t print easily. It’s suggested that if you want to print, you hit “Ctrl-Print Screen” and then paste it into Word or another program that accepts images.
Click here to see the FamilySearch England & Wales 1851 Parish map.
Want to learn more about using maps? Premium members can check out my video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more.
Matt from Omaha, Nebraska (U.S.) recently told me about a project his cousin is working on that is so cool the story was picked up by U.S.A. Today.
While poking around at an 1800s-era Iowa prison about to be torn down, Mark Fullenkamp came across boxes of old glass negatives. Upon closer inspection, he found they were intake photos of the inmates. Some were 150 years old!
Mark first set out to digitize and reverse the negative images of over 11,000 prison inmate photos. Others gradually became involved, like scholars at University of Iowa where he works and even inmates at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. A doctoral candidate who was interviewed by U.S.A. Today says she’s struck by the moment these photos were taken: when their lives were about to change forever. Though many look tough for the camera (and presumably the other inmates), she sees a lot of emotion in their expressions: “The eyes are everything.”
Now Fullekamp’s team is trying to connect names and stories with the photos. It’s not easy, but many of the pictures have inmate numbers on them. Some files have surfaced with inmate numbers and names in them. Others are stepping forward with memories.
Read more about the project on Matt’s blog.
Got a digital photo archiving project of your own? Click here to learn about a free ebook published by the Library of Congress on digital archiving.
Recently a friend sent me a link to a TED talk by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. As a radio broadcast journalist, Dave has spent his life capturing other people’s stories. The profound impact this had on him led him to found StoryCorps, which collects and archives interviews with everyday people.
“Every life matters equally and infinitely,” Dave learned, something we discover as family historians, too. He talks about how inviting someone to talk about his or her life “may just turn out to be one of the most important moments in that person’s life, and in yours.” This is something I try to explain to people about family history interviews: asking respectful questions and listening just as respectfully is a gift we can give our relatives when we interview them.
StoryCorps started with a little recording booth in Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest places in the world to hold these intimate conversations. Two people share a conversation, one interviewing and the other being interviewed, and a facilitator helps them record the conversation and leave with a copy of it. Another copy goes to the Library of Congress.
In our own ways, we do this when we record loved ones’ life stories. We honor their feelings, experiences and opinions by asking about them and preserving them. Sometimes we share personal moments of understanding, forgiveness or revelation. In my experience, it’s similar to what unfolds in the StoryCorps booths: “Amazing conversations happen.”
In Dave’s TED talk, he shares snippets of some of those amazing conversations, like A 12-year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome interviewing his mother, and a husband sharing his love for his wife: “Being married is like having a color television set. You never want to go back to black and white.”
StoryCorps now has an app that helps people capture conversations like these. A digital facilitator walks you through the interview process, the app records the conversation, and then you can save and share the resulting audio file. Why not record an interview in honor of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day this spring with the StoryCorp app? Or have a meaningful conversation with an aunt or uncle, sibling, cousin or your child or grandchild.
Genealogy Gems Premium members can learn more about preserving the stories of your own life in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 116, in which I interview Laura Hedgecock, author of Memories of Me.