Big upgrade to the Section Township and Range tool: more detail, more flexibility, new labels

After the infrastructure upgrade I mentioned in the last post, the increased speed of the maps enabled me to add much more detail to the very very large map layers (over 12 Gigabytes!) that comprise the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), also known as Section, Township and Range. When you open the tool, you will now be presented with a Google Map overlaid with township and range lines, including labels, such as this: Note the Township and Range labels above.  For example, the box where the red dot is has a label “14N 67W” which is shorthand for “Township 14 … Read more

How you may be sabotaging your search for ancestors…and how to fix it!

UPDATED MARCH 2020: NEW!  Let this FREE tool do the work for you as you search on Ancestry.com U.S. county boundaries have changed over 17,600 times since America was settled in colonial times. Don’t sabotage your search for ancestors by not knowing the correct county for the historical years you are researching. While searching on Ancestry, the free Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker extension for Google Chrome automatically checks that the county existed in the year you are searching, warns of boundary changes, and links to historical county lines on Google Maps for the place and years you are searching! Install … Read more

For Your Maximum Viewing Pleasure

Yesterday, I released one of the most frequently requested features for the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool (as a reminder, this tool lets you view on a Google Map the county boundaries as of any HISTORICAL date or year for ANY U.S. location!). The new functionality is simple but very useful:  the ability to work with a much larger map in an immersive full screen experience!  (Also, keep reading to learn of a couple more enhancements.) To go into fullscreen view, just hit the button in the upper right corner of the map, highlighted in redbelow.  You will see a much … Read more

History buffs: With one click, see a timeline of every county, state and country the spot where you’re standing has ever been a part of.

Just type in your address or city in the box at www.randymajors.org/maps, type a year as late as 2000, then click Go! County boundaries as of your chosen year will appear.  (Sorry for those outside the United States — this only works for U.S. locations) Now, find the check box just below the map, and click it. Sit back and travel back in time through every county, state, territory and country your red marker location ( ) has been a part of!  See the example below showing Durango, Colorado — part of La Plata County, Colorado today — all the … Read more

A couple of enhancements to the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool — and a thank you!

I’ve recently made a couple of enhancements to the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool that make it easier to read and see the results of the search (see screenshot below). Thank you, The Family Nexus, for your article that had very nice things to say about the tool, and also made me aware that the text was a tad small. Another enhancement is the addition of a little “maximize” button above the “Go!” button that expands the map window for much easier viewing (see the little square in the top right of the above screenshot). Finally, one last enhancement is … Read more

Viewport to 1836 New York

Explore present-day New York City with a viewport using an 1836 map. Try Swapping Views using the button in the upper right.  Link: http://goo.gl/DRXIdP Courtesy ESRI and the David Rumsey Map Collection.

1660 New Amsterdam atop 2013 New York

The excellent historical blog Ephemeral New York has a post today about the 1660 Costello Plan, referred to by the New York Public Library as the “earliest known plan of New Amsterdam and the only one dating from the Dutch period.” To put the original Costello Plan into a present-day context, I’ve overlaid it on Google Earth and made these screenshots of lower Manhattan (click the images to see larger versions): North is up in this map.  Look how much of present day New York would have been underwater back in 1660!  Manhattan’s west coast would have been present-day Greenwich Street, … Read more

What do courthouses, cemeteries, churches, and libraries have in common?

Well, for the genealogist and historical researcher, they’re all great places to look for historical sources and information on ancestors, historical figures, or the local area.  And they’ve recently been incorporated into my Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool!  Just check the “Show Research Locations” checkbox and then select which categories you want to show, and symbols will appear on the map: Then, you can click an icon, and an info window will appear: The name of the place and the Website are both hyperlinks, which will open up a Google Places page for more information on the place: I’ve … Read more

New and more interactive version of the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool released!

Check out the new and more interactive version of the Historical US County Boundary Maps tool! Here’s a quick run-down on what’s new: Show me the answer now please!  Now, when you type a Place and a Year* and click the Go button, you will be zoomed to that place and an information panel will automatically appear above the map, as highlighted here: I want the details.  The information panel above the map shows the year, county name, full place name, and details about the latest evolution of your county of interest’s boundaries as of the year you chose.  Source … Read more

Are you sure you’re looking in the right county for those records?

Example of county boundaries changing over time

When doing genealogical or historical research, it’s helpful (if not essential) to know what counties to search for the timeframe you’re interested in.  And as we all know, boundaries shift over time.  So you may think you know what counties to search, but is there a chance you’re missing something? Take a look at this example.  Let’s assume you’re looking for records for your homesteading ancestors who settled in the region between Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  This animation shows the boundaries by decade from 1850 to 1950.  Those county boundaries were anything but stable.  Take for … Read more

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