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oldest map from babylonia Map History : The oldest maps discovered so far were uncovered in Babylonia and dated back to 2500 BC. The maps were etched into sturdy clay and displayed crude depictions of the locations of fields, villages, rivers, and hills.

The greatest known map maker was Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer and geographer who during the second century AD managed to determine the world was not flat. His theory thus prompted him to develop a map using longitude and latitude which are techniques still used by global map makers today.

Using maps within your genealogy research will prove to be very enlightening. County governments store a variety of genealogy information, but in order to locate the correct county government facility for research on a family member, one must consult with a variety of old maps. Many towns change names or are consumed by larger towns. Learning how to date old maps and understand how to read maps will help any serious genealogist find the missing links that would otherwise baffle them without the use of these graphical tools.

Types of Maps
 Plat book : 
A Plat book indicates who owned property in the rural areas and in a few cases, perhaps at the edge of the towns and villages during a given period of time.

Genealogical information you may extract from a plat book map :
  • You will most find the names of heads of households or the names of owners of the property through a given period of time.
  • You will not know who rented a given piece of property, so if you have an address for an ancestor, but the plat book shows a completely different name, you may assume that your ancestor rented at that address.
  • If a property is marked as estate, you can be safe to assume that the land owner died and passed the land down into his or her will.

  •  Fire Insurance Map : 
    For centuries, insurance companies have categorically preserved the history of many towns with these maps. The maps usually are produced on a large scale of 1 inch for each 50 feet. Color coatings distinguish buildings and other structures from the landscape and each other. Most are created as overlays to show the progression of urban development.

    Genealogical information extracted from Fire Insurance Maps
  • When and where homes and building were built
  • Names of old towns that either changed their names with different variations, were consumed by bigger towns, or made way for such man made developments as lakes and dams.
  • Overlays will show you how your ancestors lived on farms that are now the locations for major towns, cities, and lakes

  •  Topographic or Relief Map : 
    A relief map shows the terrain in as three dimensional model. With a relief map you can easily see how difficult it may have been for an ancestor to traverse over a mountain or wide mouthed lake to get to the closest town or even to church or school. Unlike modern times, these geogrpahical structures served as solid boundaries that impeded migrations.

    How to Date Maps or Globes
    Map makers, or cartographers, generally do not mark their maps with dates because they do not want to their maps to appear out of date. However, even a newer map may not help you if a town you are searching for no longer exists.

    Some libraries and geographers have organized maps by date, but these are some tricks to help you determine the date of a map yourself :
  • Make a note specific towns or locations on the map you are trying to date.

  • Research when the town may have been eliminated or consumed by a larger neighboring town. For instance, if you know of a town that was engulfed by another in 1905, but still exists on the map you are looking at, you can be safe to say the map you are looking at predates the year 1905.

  • Learn when a town may have started to take on a new spelling or name variation. For instance, a town in Iowa was called Southerland until the early 1900s when its name gradually became known as Southland.

  • You may also want to research the map maker to find when she started making maps of this type.

  • Interesting Facts About How Genealogist Use Maps
    1. Maps of Europe during the middle ages were very basic taking on the "T" and "O" shape. They show a T-shape of water separating three continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia surrounded by a ring of water representing the ocean.
    2. The Library of Congress reported that 700,000 Fire Insurance Map existed in the state of Iowa alone.

    Find Free Genealogy Map Resources
    National Geological Survey (USGS)  :  Centralized in the town of in Reston, VA, this United States government agency works to scientifically map the earth's surface and categorize place names and their variations used throughout time. The government agency maintains the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), which is the nations official database of placenames.

    Many genealogists interested in finding a specific town on maps consult with the USGS to understand the different variations of names and the time periods that certain towns were in existence. This group also lists churches and cemeteries in such towns as a further service to family histories seeking their services.

    Anyone can visit this government agency's website and benefit from their free services can visit at http://geonames.usgs.gov to find maps and other geographical information.

    Historical Map Works  :  
    Based in Maine, Historic Map Works, LLC, strives to present quality maps of the United States online and most boasts as providing the largest digital library of maps of North America. Site visitors can easily sign up for a free account that gives them access to the maps. Low fees are charged when you want to print a map or zoom to more detailed levels.

    Residential Genealogy Map Collection Includes :
  • United States Property Atlases
  • Antiquarian Maps
  • Nautical Charts
  • As well as detailed illustrations that fit into their scope.

  • Anyone can visit this genealogy map company's website and benefit from their free and paid services at http://www.historicmapworks to find maps and other geographical illustrations.

    Google Maps  :  
    Google maps provides a comprehenive view of the United States via satalite views. For free, you can drill down to street levels, to see the most up to date land views across the United States.

    Anyone can visit google's popular mapping website and benefit from their innovative free services at http://maps.google.com to find up to date satalite scoped maps.

    Genealogy Craft : Overlay Map
     Make your own overlay map that will fit perfectly into a binder and help add depth and a visual aide for your family tree. You will be surprised at how much the area that your family planted its roots has changed. Plot the changes on a map using plastic dividers that help to easily distingish the changes on a map in a two dimensional format. Find instructions here.

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