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"Roll-your-own" Genealogy Atlas


  1. This page can be modified as often as daily at times. If you have been here previously, it probably is a good idea to click on "reload" (at the top of your screen) to ensure that you are looking at the actual current version.

  2. This is a section explaining how to make your own genealogical atlas by downloading images from the internet and printing them on your printer. You will still need all your other map resources, but you will be surprised to find that your personalized atlas is the one you will reach for most often.

  3. Sample maps. In order to make the page load as rapidly as possible, I have resisted the urge to include a lot of auto-loading example maps. Instead, you may click on a framed link to see any samples that you choose.

  4. I am a Windows user and all my explanations will understandably be based on that environment.

  5. The maps I have found on the internet are in either the .gif or the .jpg format. Sometimes the image filename will not tell you which it is. In such cases, when I save the image file, I just add .gif to the end of the saved filename. It has worked every time so far. Usually, very large, slow loading maps will be in the .jpg format, which is a very compressed format just for such files. It makes no sense converting such files to .gif since they would be many times larger. You just have to get your hands on some software to handle both kinds.

  6. The maps that work best for what we will be doing are usually not highly detailed. Often, a county will show only the county name and be distinguished from other counties by a different color. County lines are important in genealogy but are often very difficult to see in a conventional atlas.

  7. One thing that I did not do as I went along that I should have done was to record where I found each map. It really is a good idea to do that.

  8. Let me put a little special emphasis on the word personal. What you will be making is copy 1 of 1. It is intended for your own personal use and not readily reproducible.

  9. You should expect a lot of trial-and-error in the maps you print. If you can't read it, don't keep it. Most professional photographers take several pictures for each one they "keep". You should expect to do the same with your maps.

  10. You should always download the file (explained below) rather than attempting to use your browser to print them. For one thing, your browser is quite likely to be willing to print your map on several sheets. There are a number of graphic view/print programs out there that will do the job nicely. A couple are listed in the following item.

  11. WinGIF will work with .gif files (or .bmp files from Windows Paint). It will not work with .jpg files. Since most of the files are .gif and it is easier to use, I use it when working with .gif files. I use other programs to work with .jpg files. LView will probably work with either. If you look about a bit, you can probably still find freeware (earlier versions) of both. These earlier versions work fine if all you are doing is printing. Shareware versions of both programs are available and may be expected to have additional capabilities.

  12. I suggest that you create a special subdirectory on your hard drive in which to store your map images (e.g., c:\atlas). When making your own custom-made maps from Tiger or MapQuest, you will usually make several versions, so remember to number the versions in some way (e.g., grandpa1.gif, grandpa2.gif, etc.).

  13. These maps will probably print on about any printer, but results will be most satisfactory if you use one of the new inexpensive (starting at around $250) inkjet printers that are available. Most of the maps you want are in color.

  14. If you don't already know what the setup options are on your printer, get familiar with them.

  15. I suggest that you follow the migration route of your various families. For many of us that will begin in Europe. Then, you will need to follow some system of your own design (e.g., moving north to south). It is probably a good idea to start using a 3-ring notebook so you can easily change your mind about your "plan" as well as making it easier to add pages a few at a time. By following such a scheme, I have avoided numbering pages and making an index or table of contents. The remainder of this discussion is not planned to suggest any particular scheme.

  16. Binder. My final version of my personal atlas is bound in a brief binder with a clear acetate front cover and has about 100 pages. That sounds like a lot of pages in such a binder, but it works quite well. This binding is good because it stacks flat.

  17. Topographic maps. A good place to start is Color Landform Atlas of the U.S. Repeat this for all other states of interest. I did NOT use the county outline maps from this site. You may choose to.

    Click to see example map (PA) [86 kb]

  18. County outline maps:

  19. Alabama county detail maps. I know, this won't work for everbody, but if Alabama is by chance one of your areas of interest, these Alabama county detail maps are great.

    Click to see example map (Elmore Co.) [94 kb]

    With some digging, you may find similar maps for some (but by no means all) other states.

  20. Dated Georgia county outline maps. Once again, it won't work for everybody, but if Georgia is of interest to you, then you'll want to visit Paul Hickey's webpage for some early county outline maps. You have to page down a few times to find them. You will note that these load very slowly, and you will find that they are .jpg files (you don't try to change that). But other than that, the procedure is the same.

    Click to see example GA map (1860) [119 kb]

  21. Somewhere, I found a single dated county outline map for Alabama in 1860, of the identical type as those for Georgia, above, but did not record the source for it. If anyone knows where that map can be found besides here, please let me know. This map is particularly interesting because it shows faint lines indicating where additional counties will be formed a few years later.

    Click to see 1860 AL map. [111 kb]

  22. European maps. For those, I went to the Univ. of Texas collection. In this case, you have your choice in some cases of both .gif and .jpg, but note the file size difference. These are highly detailed maps, unlike the others we have printed. I used printer setup and changed to "best quality" and found that it helped a bit. On the simpler maps, this a waste of ink.

    Click to see example map (Italy). [193 kb]

  23. U.S. territorial expansion. These maps are found at the Univ. of Texas at Austin. There are 15 maps in this series covering from 1775 to the present. Using "best" quality setting for your printer is required. Don't overlook other historical maps at this site that might relate to part of your family's history.

    Click to see example map (1810). [119 kb]

  24. Scottish clan map. If you are from the South, you have Scottish ancestors! One place you can find this (there are others) is Liam Forbes webpage. It is interesting.

    Click to see Clan map of Scotland. [227 kb]

  25. Counties of England, Scotland and Wales.. This is similar to the U.S. color county outline maps except that it is for the U.K. It can be found at GENUKI at United Kingdom.

    Click to see U.K. map. [46 kb]

  26. Chapman Codes for Ireland. Like the above, this is similar to the U.S. color county outline maps except that it is for the Ireland. It can be found at GENUKI at Ireland.

    Click to see Ireland map. [13 kb]

  27. Make your own maps. I used the following sites to make maps showing locations of every place we had ever lived, where I grew up, where my wife grew up, where our parents and grandparents grew up, and for the location of the 200 yr-old house built by my ggg-gf (still in use).

  28. U.S. distribution by ancestry from the MN Land Management Information Center. I'd suggest your reading the documentation for how this information was obtained.

    Click to distribution map of Scotch-Irish descendants [30 kb]

  29. U.S. distribution by surname from Hamrick Software. For each surname, maps for several different time periods are available. There is also an animated version showing all time periods (neat, but not the version you want to try to print!).

  30. Printing is pretty straight-forward and requires little comment. I found that I got the most desirable left margin in WinGIF by rotating the image (upside-down) before printing, but that may not exist in newer versions. You will need to be sure that you have used "printer setup" and have selected "portrait" or "landscape" as appropriate. WinGIF has a handy feature of allowing you to select that you want the image enlarged to fill the space available on the page.

  31. Don't overlook the map links in my webpage section Location/maps table. Almost every link leads to maps. If you aren't handy with the GNIS/Tiger method for searching for locations and then making a map for that location, you can get the feel for it by clicking on a feature like "communities" for one of the listed state/counties.

  32. There is a large collection of maps and links in another section on this site "Historical county lines". This is a large collection and one you might want to undertake by itself. Links to this page are provided at convenient locations. The following is an example using the editing possibilities of AniMap software. AniMap note.

    Click to see example map ( 96 District SC 1789 ). [10 kb]

  33. I can't imagine how I have overlooked the Univ. of VA Geographic Info. Center.

  34. In my personal atlas, I have two maps from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. One is a map of Virginia's counties, and the other is of Virginia's independent cities. These maps do a good job of clarifying this somewhat puzzling arrangement.

    Click to see VA counties map. [12 kb]

    Click to see VA cities map. [3 kb]

  35. Louisiana parish maps. A couple that I have in my atlas are:

  36. These are simply the links that I found useful. Half the fun of making your own atlas is the finding of new links from which to obtain them.

  37. I will continue for a while to locate additional sources for the maps I have and add them to this listing. I will show the revision date at the top so that you can see if anything new has been added.

  38. Carol C. H. pointed out that the United Kingdom has a near-equivalent to GNIS at Ordnance Survey.

  39. Henry Poole, htpiiihom, and Cynthia R. Parker recommended the Hargrett rare map collection at the University of GA. These historical maps are not at all limited to GA. The ones I looked at there are digital images of actual old maps and are great. My inkjet printer wasn't able to produce anything very useful with them. They are definitely worth the trouble, but I think they would fare better with a laser printer, and perhaps printing sections and taping them together in order not to reduce them.

    Henry also makes the useful suggestion that you do not have to limit your personal genealogical atlas to downloaded images; you can also make some nice additions with maps that you have photocopied or have scanned from originals.

  40. Steve Martonak, shmartonakticnet has made maps with sources like MapQuest and has edited them to his liking. He has added feature names and on one map showed on a single state map where various relatives lived. Steve has also put together a nice collection of map links on his webpage.

  41. Please let me know if you find uh-oh's in the above description. I will modify this description based on comments received back from those who have used it.
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Historical county line maps
for many states
Selected state/county
GenWeb/GNIS links
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