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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 2, Number 7
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
July 2010


Sixth Edition of 2010 - Genealogy Gazette

In this issue we will be discussing how to use maps in your genealogy research. Maps can provide a great source of information about an area you are researching. We have recently added lots of Civil War Maps and the entire collection can be found here.

We will be at the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Knoxville, Tennessee, August 18-21. We will be offering special discounts for the attendees. We look forward to meeting you.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press


Maps Abound

One of the most overlooked tools for personal genealogical and historic research is the use of maps. Since most don’t come across a map immediately when they start to research, they say that they do not exist. Nothing could be further from the truth. We just have to look for great maps.

One of the first ways to look is right in front of you - google it. It is amazing what is out there on the web. However, this may or may not give you just what you want. Generally, with the web maps and especially with map quest or some contemporary maps, they do not give the detailed information from a century ago. Since this is usually what you are looking for, let’s move on to a deeper search.

Mapping is about as old as mankind. This means you have to get into the right century to find the right information. Let’s say that you have a letter from an ancestor during the Civil War. In the letter several towns and roads are mentioned and you would like to know just where they are in their travels. During the Civil War, maps came into their own in a real sense. Both the Union and the Confederate sides created maps. The Union maps are much easier to find as they were made more readily available to the public. Their maps were very detailed due to the method used to create them. Using the recently invented technique of “blueprinting” invented in the mid-1840s, the cartographer would sent out soldiers to cover a square mile of territory. They would bring back details on creeks, rivers, roads, communities, churches, schools and residents. During the night the cartographer would put these onto his master map and when the sun came up in the morning he could create a new map for the soldiers. These soldiers would then go out and collect data for another square mile of territory and the process would start all over again. On one local map in our area, we find a road along which many persons lived. These were generally listed as “Widow Smith”, “Widow Brown” and “Widow Jones”. They told the soldiers they were widows because their husbands were off fighting for the other side and they were treated a little more kindly in the process. Right in the middle of this stretch of roads there is “Miss Kitty”. We do not know if she needed the advertisement, just proud of her status, or was ninety years old and didn’t care. I’ve always wondered about Miss Kitty.

The National Archives houses the original copies, but after the war most of these were redrawn and published. The detail is fantastic. One series in particular was the area from Chattanooga to Atlanta. There are four maps in this series made originally for General Sherman as he started his little picnic across Georgia to Savannah. If you have had ancestors that lived in that part of the country, they are likely listed on these maps as they contain all the details gathered including where residents were at the time. General Sherman wanted to know everything about the area.

Now looking elsewhere, there are many sources for the maps you want. The county court house is a good source. Within the deed and survey books are small hand drawn maps that might just include the family you are researching. The clerks generally know where all of these maps in the books are as they have referred to them many times. Just ask!!

Starting right after the Civil War, the United States Geological Survey began to map the entire country. In the beginning they used what was known as the “30 minute” map which covered a fairly large portion of the area. In most cases, it would take only 3 to 5 such maps to cover an entire county. Today they have reduced this to their “7.5 minute” maps which cover one-fourth of the same area. However, the 30 minute maps are the best for the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The old roads, villages, mills, churches, and schools are there. The later maps revised and updated the information and these places are no longer there or have been reduced to a “road” name, etc. Most of the State Archives have the original maps and can supply a copy for a small fee.

In the mid-twentieth century the Tennessee Valley Authority came into existence and their mapping division is one of the best in the world. In fact, they have assisted the U.S.G.S. in covering the entire United States with the 7.5 minute maps. During World War II, they helped the Allies with maps of the rest of the world. Their mapping department covers the world with maps on one lot to multiple countries.

Starting in the late nineteenth century are the “Sanborn Fire Maps”. Talking about details, if your ancestor lived in a town or city, these maps would go block by block and give details on every lot. In the drawings one can find outhouses, smoke houses, and out buildings with the names of the owners. The commercial property nearby gave more details. Some cities now have books of these maps that cover the entire town at the time they were drawn. Since these were updated frequently, they cover a long period of time. These are worth their weight in gold for your research as they give details seldom ever found elsewhere.

If you are looking for the hand sketched drawing found in the deed or survey books, the county maps or even a city map, you can find a great deal of information that will make your ancestors come alive like the person living next door to you. Give maps a chance to speak to you from the past.

Map 5 of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign

Size: 25" x 26", MP-CR109e, $35.00

Atlanta Campaign, Map 5

Map 5 of the Sherman Atlanta Campaign map series showing the route from Pine, Lost and Kennesaw Mountain to Atlanta. Reprint.

Click here to see bigger picture.

Click here to see all Sherman's maps and other Civil War maps.


1885 Sanborn Map of Chattanooga

Map 1

Full Color Reproduction on Parchment Cover Stock, Size: 19" x 23"
MP-KG01, $20.00

This Sanborn fire map of down town Chattanooga in 1885 is a great source of the street names at that time. Many of the street names have changed since then and new streets have been constructed, but when reading the older newspapers and letters from the area, this will be a great source of information on where the names indicate. In various side panels, there is a great deal of information about the city at the time such as their water facilities, fire department and places of interest such as the manufacturers, stores and churches. Anyone who has an interest in the City of Chattanooga in the late 19th century will find this a one of a kind resource for information.

Click here for bigger picture.



Tullahoma, Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns

Size: 23" x 38", Black and White, MP-0049, $10.00

Tullahoma, Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns

The map has excellent details of the area covered from Knoxville to Nashville, Tennessee to Decatur, Alabama and northern Georgia. The water sheds, roads of the day, bridle trials, and in some cases the home sites of Union supporters for the most part. This is a map that is essential to the understanding of the area during the time of the Civil War.

Click here to see bigger picture.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.