Six Tips for Mapping Your Family History

By Diane Haddad

One of my research goals is to visualize my family history on a map showing all the places my ancestors lived and worked.

I found plenty of advice in last month’s Family Tree University One-Week Workshop, Map Your Family History With Google Earth. Participants studied course materials and created a family history map project with guidance from Google Earth expert Lisa Louise Cooke.

Here are a few tips from Lisa for using Google Earth and finding old maps of places your family lived:

  • A great source of old maps to use with Google Earth is the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Sign up for a free account for access to the highest resolution downloadable maps (You can still download up to about medium resolution if you aren’t signed in).

    Instead of using the “Search the Site” box, scroll down on the home page and use the Map Rank Search tool to search by year and location.

  • Lisa recommends using Google to find online plat maps (these show property boundaries and owners’ names), which might be anywhere from large mapping web sites to a genealogist’s own site. Try doing a Google Image search with keywords such as Indiana “Randolph County” “Plat map.”
  • Another strategy to find plat maps is to run a Google Books search on a county, state and the term “plat map.” If the book you want isn’t fully digitized, copy the title and search for it at WorldCat to find libraries that have that book.
  • You can have Google email you when Google Maps or Google Earth map images are updated, or Street View becomes available, for the areas where your ancestors lived. Go to Follow Your World, log in with your Google account, and follow the prompts.
  • Google Earth doesn’t auto save, so if it crashes on you, you’ll lose your work. Every so often, go up to the menu and select File>Save My Places to save everything in My Places.

Enhance your family history search with the maps and how-to guide on Family Tree Magazine‘s new Genealogy Map Collection CD.

Check out Family Tree University’s next One-Week Workshop, How to Research Genealogy Records, with video classes on essential family history records and guidance from expert researcher Lisa A. Alzo.