Saturday, September 26, 2009

Researching With Maps


Maps make your family history come alive. It is impossible to understand the lives of ancestors without consulting maps. There are many online that are helpful and can be downloaded or purchased.

The Library of Congress offers maps collections. Two of my favorites are the Civil War Maps and the Railroad Maps. Use the Civil War collection to enhance your ancestor's military information. The railroad collection will enable you to visualize the growth of the system and in so doing understand your ancestor's migrations.

One of my favorite web sites is Color Landform Atlas of the United States. You can view maps by selecting from the options of shaded relief map, black and white map, county map, satellite image, 1895 map or PostScript map. The shaded relief map is not only colorful, but allows you to see the mountains or hills, along with rivers and valleys.

Another extensive collection of maps on Internet is the David Rumsey Map Collection. Here you will find over 20,000 maps and images of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Determine exactly where your ancestor lived in 1895 by using the 1895 US Atlas. Here you will find population statistics, an index of towns and cities and map of the state and county as it appeared in 1895. The 1914 County Maps by State provides similar information only for 1914.

Various states have maps online that are historical and helpful. Historical Maps Online from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a great place to look for topographic maps of Illinois, but they also have maps of other locales. Virginia County and State Maps is great for that state.

An extensive collection of links to maps is Historical County Lines (USA). You can locate a county of interest online at County Boundary Map. It's easy to link counties together and see the towns and cities.

The New York Times hosts an Interactive Map Showing Immigration Data Since 1880. You can select a foreign-born group to see how they settled across the United States.

Search for maps online by using Google or checking out map categories on Cyndi's List.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Illinois Goes Digital


Get out of the rut of researching Internet's gigantic genealogy databases. They are extremely worthwhile, but there is much more to explore on the Internet. I have discovered many great web sites for Illinois. They offer digital images.

The Illinois Digital Archives is worth checking. I recommend that you begin by clicking on the Collection Directory. This will give you an idea of what is there, then you can browse and search. There is also a help site if you have questions. Some of the collections include Illinois Veterans History Project, Illinois State Highway Maps, Illinois Historic Aerial Photographs and collections of various state historical societies and libraries.

Another great digital collection is the Illinois Historical Digitization Projects from the Northern Illinois University Libraries. Some of the projects include Illinois during various periods, such as the Civil War, 1861-1865, The Mexican-American War and Illinois Civil War Newspapers.

Be sure to check out the Illinois State Archives. There are many links to information about doing genealogical research in Illinois, the Illinois Regional Archives Depository System (IRAD), and online databases. Their holdings include digitals of the Federal Township Plats of Illinois.

There are many databases to check at the Illinois State Archives. These include Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916 and Illinois Statewide Death Index 1916-1950. There is a listing of records in IRAD, plus lists of veterans. I particularly like the Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database.

If you have Chicago ancestors, be sure to check out the Chicago Public Library Digital Collections. Another interesting web page is Chicago Ancestors.org from The Newberry Library.

There's more out there, so be sure to Google for your areas of interest in Illinois and include the word "digital."