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Confused about where exactly your great-grandfather was born? Map out your ancestors’ big life events like births, deaths, marriages and immigration using these tools and historic maps.
This site from Chicago’s Newberry Library is simply the best way to understand how shifting county boundaries might have affected the whereabouts of your ancestors’ records. It lets you pan and zoom and overlay yesteryear’s borders onto modern geography. You can even download state files and import them into Google Earth.
Find your ancestors in federal land records, including more than 5 million images of land patents from 1820 on plus digitized plats and field notes describing the surveying process. Fill out search criteria or use the map interface, then plot where each of your results is located.
Geocoded to modern maps, the nearly 1.6 million historical maps here are searchable by today’s address, latitude and longitude, keywords, town names, mapmakers’ names or by year, or browse by state or country. Subscriptions cost $124.99 a year, but you can also opt to pay per use if you have only a few map mysteries to solve.
Got homesteaders in your tree? The First Landowners Project here combines more than 7 million landowners in 16 public-land states plus Texas on a single interactive map. Your $59 annual subscription also includes the Antique Maps Collection, with 100,000 landowners compiled from nearly 4,000 old maps.
The winner of a Webby award for best nonprofit website, this free site (with accompanying smartphone apps) from Britain-based We Are What We Do combines geography and history with help from more than 55,000 users and the collections of 1,692 institutions. Historical image uploads get plotted on Google maps, which you can use to compare old photos with street views showing how the same locations look today.
New at this site already rich with e-books, images and old maps is the Map Warper, which lets you overlay one of more than 15,000 digitizied historical maps onto modern maps and digitally rectify them. Register to add your own “control points” to match an old map and the corresponding modern map.
This Australia-based site combines family trees with maps and geocoding technology, enabling you to place even the most obscure family history events in geographic context. Once you upload your family tree, your ancestors’ events are literally put on the map. A basic account is free, but to upload historical maps (which the site then matches to modern locations), view family migrations and use other advanced features, you’ll need to subscribe at $24 a year.
Here’s a new reason to upload your ancestors to FamilySearch: Once you do, this free site maps as many generations as you specify, including the birthplaces of each individual, and animates their migrations. It only works with trees in FamilySearch, however.
Where was that place your ancestors lived back when? The National Atlas and Geographic Names Information System will find “Depp River” or “Hoot’s Hollow” or any other place, however obscure. Then you plot it on the customizable National Map or find it in the growing Historical Topographic Map Collection.
Another site that combines uploaded images with Google Maps, this would-be “photographic history of the world” needs only location and year to put your old photo in four-dimensional context. It’s free to use (as is the iPhone app), but you must register to upload.
See more of the 101 best genealogy websites of 2014:
- Best Big Genealogy Websites
- Best US Genealogy Websites
- Best Military Genealogy Websites
- Best Social Media Websites for Genealogy
- Best Genealogy News Websites
- Best Tech Tools for Genealogy
- Best Canadian Genealogy Websites
- Best Historic Newspapers Websites
- Best Websites for Vital Records
- Best African-American Genealogy Websites
- Best State Genealogy Websites
- Best Websites for Immigrant Research
- Best UK & Irish Websites
- Best Continental European Genealogy Websites
Back to the 101 Best Websites of 2014 main page.
From the September 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine