So much of genealogy involves places. I have a huge American colonial heritage and I'm always having to look up various places throughout the United States. Some of those places are still towns and some of them are ghost towns, or even under water in the case of areas near dams and reservoirs. I've been using Google Earth for much of my investigations, but just realized there is another resource; the United States Geological Survey!
"Government agencies are also favorite haunts for genealogists to locate past and present place-names. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) was on the forefront of collecting place-names when it began its mission of resource mapping the entire nation in 1879. USGS began its program six years after the Ordinance Survey completed its mapping of England. The United States did not complete its topographic mapping of the entire country until prior to the decenniel census of 1990."*
A collection of videos from the National Map Viewers Conference in May 2011 gives an overview of the massive online digitization project of the USGS map collection mentioned above. Much of the conference is "in the weeds" but worth viewing.
The National Map Viewer, similar somewhat to Google Earth, is a way to access all of that info. I'm just starting to fool around with it and see what kind of goodies this amazing resource can bring. Even more info.
USGS also has a nice overview report in PDF, "Using Maps in Genealogy," which was written 13 years ago but is still generally relevant.
*page 32 "The Unfolding Tale of Using Maps in Genealogical Research"
from Geography and Genealogy: Locating Personal Pasts
Dr Jeanne Kay Guelke, Professor Dallen J Timothy
Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., Nov 28, 2012
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