Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 7, Number 8 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 April 29, 2015
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss using maps to find out more information about your ancestors. If you can find them, they can give you great insight into the area where your ancestors lived. Sometimes you have to look in unlikely places to find the maps, but it is definitely worth the search. We might have a map that interests you since we have a large map collection. Many of our maps are suitable for framing.
James L. Douthat
MAPS Nothing is more exciting in our genealogical research than finding something of interest on a map. I am constantly being asked about a particular map someone wants for their own research. Sometimes this is easy, however, most of the time they want a particular community map in a particular county. Therein lies a major problem. Maps of this kind do not always exist.
I have found some of these special maps in some of the most unlikely places. If you want a small area of a county try thinking outside the box. You may find the particular map in a local library or a historical/genealogical society collection, but most likely not. In these cases, I try to go to one of the utilities in the area. The water, gas and electric companies have maps in their collection for the local areas.
Where we live, the Tennessee Valley Authority has a huge collect of antique and current maps of every power line in their system. In fact, I was asked by a local sheriff of a county in another state if we had any record of a location in his territory where a strip mall had been built. He knew there was an old cemetery in that location. We went to the map division of the TVA and after a search found the particular property since there was a power line over that piece of property. On their old map was the location of the cemetery right where the Sheriff said it would be. He was later able to take the owner of the strip mall to court and the cemetery was restored with a fence and a few markers replaced. These maps aren’t easily accessible, but they do have information for seven states in the southeast.
I have also gone to our local water company and the manager is very much interested in old maps. I have been in his office and looked at their maps on the computer and we could read the magazine title on a table beside the pool. Scary isn’t it? They have a large collection of maps of property boundaries through the years which enabled us to go back to at least 1900 within our local area.
The State Archives will have a number of maps that are specific for the state of interest. The problem there is that many times, you have to go to their location and view the maps personally. I found in our State Archives a map that was just labeled “Hamilton County”. When the map was presented it was an old school map of one community within the county where some of my wife’s family lived. Sure enough they were right there in the middle of the map. The school system was wanting to make a study of the area to see if there were enough children to warrant a new school. All the neighbors with the number of children per household was given.
During the Civil War many maps were generated on both sides of the conflict. It is most interesting to get maps from both sides for the same area. I have found when I have had maps of this situation that the Union maps will list most of the families as “Widow Brown”, “Widow Smith”, etc. while on the Confederate maps they would be listed as John Brown, Henry Smith, etc. This tells me that the two men were off fighting for the south. We have just listed the Montgomery County, Virginia maps for the Union and Confederate sides. These are great ones to compare and contrast.
Some of the most sought after maps from the Civil War were those created by General Sherman’s map maker J. H. Bufford and others who used the blueprint technique to create a very accurate map. The process was slow going, but very accurate. A group of soldiers and surveyors were given a square mile to go out and draw a detailed map of their section of the map. Then at night, the map makers would draw the various sketches brought back by the soldiers onto a master map. When the sun came up in the morning, the sketches were then transferred to photosensitive paper giving a quick map of what was done the day before. The surveyors and soldiers would go out again with the former map and fill out another section. This way they built a larger map of the area in question. In one series, for example, Sherman mapped the area from Chattanooga to Atlanta in great detail; even down to the names of families living on every road and byway in the area shown. It took five such maps to cover the entire area, but the details are most valuable for those researching the north Georgia area.
There are many, many maps available. You just have to search far and wide to find the one or two that meet your needs. Think outside the box to find them. There are also insurance maps produced for many of the major towns and cities at the time or the USGA maps from the early part of the 1890s until today, but that is for another article later.
Sherman Atlanta Campaign Maps
Map 1 overview of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.
Map 2 show the land from the Tennessee River to Oostanaula River.
Map 3 showing the land from Resaca to Ackworth Georgia.
Map 4 showing the area from Rome, Kingston and Cassville to Dallas and Marietta Georgia.
Map 5 showing the route from Pine, Lost and Kennesaw Mountain to Atlanta.
Map 6 showing the route from the Chattahoochee River to Jonesboro and Lovejoy’s Station.
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