Using maps online

It seems true that the most informative maps to use for local history and genealogy research are maps with the greatest amount of detail. The three most recommended, and requested, maps at ISL are these large scale varieties: plat maps, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and the 7.5 minute topographic map series. Coverage varies for these maps, but you will certainly find the area you are investigating on at least one of these maps. To the great advantage of researchers (and preservationists) these maps are increasingly being made available online.

The USGS 7.5-mintue topographic maps cover every inch of Indiana ground with editions dating back to the late 1940s. One inch represents 2000 feet, so perhaps they are better described as medium-scale. Regardless, they are detailed enough to pin-point a neighborhood and figure out what the landscape of grandpa’s farm looked like. They are offered multiple places online. You can find them at the USGS Store and also at the USGS’s new online viewer. The maps are free to download either way you go at it.

An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Jackson County, Indiana; Driftwood Township. Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

Showing even more detail of grandpa’s farm (perhaps even the cows, pigs and grandma, too) are the historical plat atlases. Most of Indiana’s historical plat atlases are available online. Not all of them are online yet, but ISL is working to fill the gap! IUPUI, Ball State, Ancestry and the Indiana State Library are making an effort to digitize these helpful maps. The atlases were published by county, with individual maps of each township. These often have some biographical and statistical information as well. These are great for rural areas. Try looking for plat maps at the following sites:

Indiana State Library Map Collection

IUPUI Historic Indiana Atlas collection

Ancestry.com has a collection called U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918. This collection includes maps from across the county and covers about 60 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are the most detailed maps you will find of developed areas. IU Bloomington has a nice collection of pristine pre-1924 Sanborn maps available online: https://libraries.indiana.edu/union-list-sanborn-maps

IUPUI has digitized the state library’s Indianapolis volumes and they host them in their Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection.

And of course, don’t forget there are thousands more maps that haven’t yet been digitized. Investigate the thousands of print maps we hold in the Indiana State Library Map Collection.

Happy hunting!

This blog post was written by Monique Howell of the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.

Digitizing Indiana Atlases and Maps

The Indiana Division has a wide assortment of rare and valuable atlases in its collection, and to make them more accessible to people, we’ve taken the initiative of putting them online. This process involves finding out which atlases aren’t already digitized, and making sure the books are in good enough condition before scanning them.

After they’ve been scanned in at a high resolution, we edit the files with programs like Adobe Photoshop and then upload them online through contentDM. From there, they’re on the web for the entire world to see. You can look at them here: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15078coll8

A map of Johnson County, from “An Illustrated Plat Book of Shelby and Johnson Counties, Indiana (1900)”
Map of Johnson County

In addition to providing detailed maps of Indiana counties, these atlases show information on property owners, offer family histories, and provide useful facts about the time period they were published in. When you’re researching your family tree, be sure to take a look at these books because they might even show you a picture of your ancestor along with exactly where they lived!

Photographs of County Officials, as they appeared in a “Descriptive Atlas of Jackson County (1900)”
County Officials

These atlases also had maps of the United States and the entire world, so that readers could learn more about them as well. Not only that, but the world maps had interesting statistics on the power of nation’s armies and navies, their various national debts, and how much railroad and telegraph infrastructure each country had. These maps provide a marvelous portal to the history of the late 19th century.

Map of the World, from “An Illustrated Plat Book of Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties, Indiana (1899)”
Map of the World

This blog post was written by Justin Davis, Indiana Collection Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana Collection Division at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.