Maps are a big part of my genealogy research. It’s a great way to orient yourself to a location and there are lots of different types of maps. There are maps just for census and property records. For example, for 19th century Irish ancestors, this Griffiths Valuation site allows you to fade out the historical property map to see the modern street map beneath to pinpoint the modern location. I also look for maps that show how things looked around the time an ancestor lived. One example of this is when I was trying to determine which country Valenciennes was in at the time my 17th-century ancestor was lived there. (It was in Spanish Netherlands, but today it’s in France.) There are lots of great maps available, but sometimes you have to create your own.
While combing through the pension application files that I found at the National Archives for my Roth ancestors, I noticed a slew of addresses, over a 15 year period, in St. Louis, Missouri, and Georgia. To make sense of the information, I decided to plot the addresses on a map.
For this task, I used Google Maps. When signed in, you can create your own maps by selecting “My Places” from the menu and then “Maps” from the tool bar. Under that section is a link to create a map.
Since I was going to be plotting the addresses of my ancestor and three of her adult children, I chose to group locations by individuals, using a different color for each person and their spouse. I also used a separate color for locations of general family interest, such as the cemetery where several family members are buried. Later I added colors for additional records I already had, like city directories, where the family was living all together.
I was able to find many of the address simply by searching for it on the map. For others, I had to consult a map from 1870 I found on the Library of Congress website to find locations since freeways now run down the streets they once lived on. Using that map, I approximated the location of the address on the Google map.
An interesting thing to note about this historical map is where the boundary for the city was in 1870. At the top, towards the right is H. Shaw’s Botanical Garden. As far as I can tell, that is where the Missouri Botanical Garden sits today. Just 22 years after this map was published, in 1892, my ancestor is living about three and half miles beyond those gardens, almost double the area covered in the 1870 map.
I have plans to continue to add locations to the map from census records and other documents that I find. It should make an interesting visualization as my ancestor and her sister moved to other parts of the country after they were married and their half-sisters stayed in St. Louis.