Genealogy Articles

Beginner’s Guide: Pushing the Boundaries

April 17, 2017

When researching locations of your ancestors it is good to keep in mind that state, county, and city/township boundary lines changed over time. Too many times we get stuck in our research by assuming that the current location is the correct place to search. If records aren’t found in the current location, broaden your search to include surrounding states, counties, cities/townships, etc.

Boundary maps are a great resource to help pinpoint exact locations at any given time period. Depending on the map, you may glean valuable information regarding name changes of a location, personal property lines, buildings, waterways, railroads and land markers. Many documents will cite a water course or land marker as a description of a property.

A few types of maps that are useful to a researcher:

State Formation maps: Your ancestor may have lived in a few different states without ever moving.

County Formation maps: Same as above, just on a county level

County District maps: Districts changed over time and are most noticeable on Census records.

Sanborn Fire Insurance maps: Provides detailed information on buildings in an area. Want to find out where Great-Grandpa’s grocery store was located? Sanborn maps may provide an answer.

 Maps prove to be an invaluable tool to any researcher, and can add a more thorough picture of your overall research.


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