Monday, September 27, 2010

Mappy Monday - United States Digital Map Library

Thus far my time has been spent researching information such as vital records, pension records, and locating grave sites. When I saw the post called "Mappy Monday" I realized I had not spent any time at all with this great resource.

For sometime I have been using the USGenWeb Project . On the site you will find the United States Digital Map Library with the following description:

Old maps often contain information that will help locate towns that no longer exist, or old landmark names that aren’t used anymore. Some good early maps can be valuable to genealogists in finding these long forgotten places. Unfortunately, good early maps are hard to come by —and aren’t inexpensive. Early cartographers relied on surveys which were not always accurate. This resulted in mistakes on early maps (for example, California is often depicted as an island). From our colonial times, up until about 1915, basic surveying was taught as a normal part of the mathematics curriculum up until about the eighth or ninth grade. The best of surveyors were then know as mathematicians but there were certainly many surveyors that barely qualified back then, and definitely would not qualify by today's standards. The surveying tools, originally made in Europe, finally began to be made here in the United States and by the 1850s, our American-made tools of trade were up to European standards. Interestingly, the first survey made in California was made with nautical instruments. It is after the 1850s that our surveying really made giant leaps forward. Better maps came with the better surveys. Up to the Civil War, really good county maps were very scarce. During that war, both sides were plagued with poor quality maps. Today, we have the excellent USGS maps to rely upon, and those maps should be part genealogists reference materials.

Being born and raised in Maryland I wanted to see what was available on the site. Below is the map of the Southern Maryland Railroad and its connections (c. 1881).

So excited to use these maps to understand the world my ancestors had to navigate and plotting family movements across the United States.

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