Contemporary are your basic starting point, especially when you plotting out ancestral locations and planning to visit them. There are many online options, the most popular being:
But really, the most useful maps are those contemporary to the lives of our ancestors. Here are some great collections:
- David Rumsey Historical Map Collection - There are so many maps on this site, as well as a multitude of ways to view them. You can just look at the overall collection of maps, or find and view them with tools such as MapRank Search, Google Earth, Second Life, and more. There's a ton going on here, so take some time and explore.
- Sanborn (Fire Insurance) Maps - These maps are mostly of cities and towns, providing detailed information about the streets and buildings. You'll need a ProQuest password to access these maps on the official Sanborn website, but you can also probably find the maps you're looking for through another portal. Just Google "Sanborn Maps" and the location you're looking for (ex. Georgia) and you'll probably find what you're looking for. For example, the Digital Library of Georgia provides access to Georgia maps.
- Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library - Part of the University of Georgia Libraries, this digital collection includes over 1,000 old and rare maps.
- USGS Historical Map Collection - These are topographical maps, which include designations for some structures such as churches and cemeteries. You'll need to download the maps to view them.
- Old Maps Online - This site provides an easy way to search for old maps housed on other websites.
- Atlas of Historical County Boundaries -
- Genealogy Inc - View a progression of county boundaries, one state at a time, using this website.
- American Memory Map Collection - This is a website for the Library of Congress' digital map collection. You can search maps or browse by category. A lot of the maps have been moved to another LoC site, but if so, the links are included.
- Real Life! - Not all historic maps can be found online. I've found some amazing maps housed at libraries, archives and book stores. They can be found in their original form, as copies, in books and on microfilm.
And these maps can be fun and helpful just as they are... but what about creating a really interactive experience?
- HistoryPin - This site allows you to upload old photos or view those uploaded by others, "pinned" in the location they were taken. You can even arrange your photos onto a Google Maps "Street View," so that it can be viewed as if you were standing on the street and holding up the photo. It's not a perfect system, but it pretty neat.
- Uencounter.me - This site allows you to place pins on a map, called "encounters," and create personal maps (collections of pins). You can add photos and information for each pin to explain its significance.
- Flickr - A photo sharing site, Flickr allows you to add your photos to a map. There's the double benefit of having your photos stored online, as well as being able to organize them on the map
- Google Earth - Just for your desktop, you can do so much with this program. I love to plot the locations where my ancestors lived with pins shaped like houses, churches, etc, then take the maps that I've found else where and overlay them. I learned how to do this from Lisa Louise Cook's class at a Family History Expo.