X Marks the Spot

x marks the spot

On a previous post I mentioned that you can learn so much as a genealogist. One of the things I mentioned was geography. It was a light-hearted post but now I’d like to be a bit more serious.

Understanding  geography can be very important when doing your research.  It’s simple enough to enter locations for various events; but I believe it’s important to understand  the geography of where your ancestors lives so you can tell their story and follow their trail.

One thing that you might find is that names of places have disappeared or changed.  For example; a place near where I live is called Westlock, Alberta but I’m sure there are people who live there that don’t know that it use to be called  Edison.  The founding family was called  Edgson but that was too hard to pronounce so it was decided to name it after Thomas Edison.

Also understanding topographical maps can help you understand why one of your ancestors was  baptised in a different denomination church than was specified on the census. Was it because their church was on the other side of a rather large hill and difficult to get to?

Not only is it important to understand what country your ancestors lived in but what county is another important aspect, as borders are fluid. This is the case in many European countries but also in the case of borders for many of the U.S. states. I have heard stories of people who have been searching for records for their ancestors for years in one state not realizing that during their ancestors lifetime the borders had changed and they were actually living in a different state and the records were just waiting for them. So don’t worry there are  programs that can show you how borders have changed from one time frame to another.

Searching the web you will find  present day maps and  historical maps. Some historical maps can be overlaid on present day maps and that will give you an idea of how things have changed. The David  Rumsey Map Collection can do just this  within Google Earth.

And programs!!! There are so many programs  that incorporate maps into genealogy. Most genealogy programs have some sort of mapping capability but if yours doesn’t do what you want then all you have to do is search “genealogy mapping” and you will find  any number of  programs to do the job. 

So you get the idea that maps often become a fascination for a genealogist. They truly can be a treasure map with X marking the spot.

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