Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finding Landless Ancestors With Maps

For those of you who haven't seen elsewhere that in honor of National Library Week, ProQuest is making its Historic MapWorks Library Edition available from your home computer (through April 20). I saw it thanks to Family Tree Magazine's post on Facebook (you can click to the ProQuest page from there). The first thing I did was to start downloading township maps where my people had land. This took quite a bit of time because the images were quite large (often 20 MB or more). I didn't mind because the high quality maps were worth it. Although there were no maps for some counties or time periods I was interested in, I was happy to find some that I didn't already have.

Now that I have most of my landed folk from the available maps, it's time to turn to my renters in the last couple of days of access. First, I'll look for my families' neighbors (the ones who owned land, anyway) in the census. Then if I can to locate them on one of these maps I may have found the general place where my people lived. I imagine my kin rented from one of their neighbors.

You may wonder why I am interested in having a map that doesn't show my ancestors' homesteads. Well, the short answer is that I like maps. The long answer is that they can still tell me something about the world my relatives inhabited. Did they live in a very rural area or were they near a town? Were there lakes or rivers nearby? Were the farms large or small (how many neighbors did they have)? Looking at the neighbors, are there any familiar surnames? The 1890 Oshtemo township map showed me how my great-grandparents likely met; they lived just down the road from each other.

Well, it's time for me to get back to the maps. Only time will tell what else I might find.

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