Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement

So long, paper maps and pushpins: Two new software programs track the geography in your genealogy.

Where’s Great-Grandma’s birthplace in relation to the town her parents got married in? What path brought your Smith kin to Ohio? Now you don’t have to haul out an atlas and a box of pushpins to answer such questions — new mapping software instantly plots places in your pedigree.

RootsMagic’s Family Atlas and Progeny Software’s Map My Family Tree “geocode” the locations already entered in your genealogy software: Just import your family file (both programs read RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File and Legacy Family Tree files, as well as GEDCOMs; Map My Family Tree also opens five other programs’ files), and these utilities match your clan’s locales to ones in their databases of 3 million-plus place names. From local to worldwide levels, you can see at a glance where your family settled.

Both programs display similar-style maps, but you navigate them differently. Family Adas has a nifty globe view that lets you spin and zoom in and out on any area. Map My Family Tree also allows zooming via a slider in its top-of-the screen toolbar. Your primary mode of navigation, however, is drilling down through a list of all the places in your file. Click a country, state or city name, and the view switches to a map of that area. Each program has a “publish” feature for saving what you see on screen as a graphic file. You can tinker with the map’s size and placement on your page; Family Adas also lets you add custom tides and lines to indicate migration.

You can tweak the maps’ appearance — fonts, colors, whether event details show up — to your liking in both applications. In terms of controlling what data you display and how, Family Adas offers the most flexibility. You can change the shapes and colors of the markers denoting ancestral events, and turn entire sets of markers on and off — for example, you could display the migration of one family branch, all birthplaces associated with a surname or ancestors’ locations during the Civil War. That’s useful for analyzing your research.

Map My Family Tree’s hallmark feature is place-name “cleanup”: It finds and corrects misspelled, ambiguous, incomplete and unknown locations. Family Atlas notes place-name blunders, too, but it’s a less-ballyhooed feature. We recommend both tools, with a nod to Family Adas for its broad customization options and more-attractive price tag.

Vital statistics

Family Atlas


(800) 766-8762

Price: $29.95

Biggest draws: Many customization options, nifty globe navigation

Drawbacks: Doesn’t automatically insert lines to indicate migrations

Map My Family Tree


(800) 565-0018

Price: $49.95

Biggest draws: Place-name correction, direct import from nine programs

Drawbacks: Higher price

Parcel services

Another handy geographic tool for genealogists: maps showing original landowners. You’ll find fully indexed ones in Arphax Publishing Co.’s <> countywide Family Maps books. For his next project, Arphax president Greg Boyd plans to go digital: Boyd’s Texas Land Survey Maps will feature the state’s original survey maps on CD, with a viewer that lets you see them juxtaposed with modern roads, waterways, railroads, cities, even cemeteries (think Google Maps’ satellite photos). Click the “Boyd It” button on each survey, and you’ll go to a Web page designed to facilitate research on the people associated with that land. Each $19 to $25 CD will cover one of the Lone Star State’s 254 counties. Arphax will release the CDs (like its books) gradually; call (800) 681 -5298 or check the Web site for availability.

If your family has ties to Pennsylvania, check out Ancestor Tracks’ atlases and CDs documenting the state’s earliest landowners. Currently available for Berks, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties, each name-indexed book provides tables showing information culled from township warrantee maps, along with an 8 ½×11-inch version of each map — companion CDs deliver larger, more-detailed copies of the maps. Prices range from $20 to $75; see <>.

From the December 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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