The Advanced Land Class at GRIP spent yesterday afternoon in the computer lab, and it was probably my favorite part of the week. Pam Sayre led 35 of us through the process of platting property on a historical map using the windows based DeedMapper software, by Direct Line. We practised on both the rectangular grids of Public Domain Land, and the more complicated metes and bounds of the 13 colonies. You can learn more about the software here.
The computer lab at La Roche is set up for 30, so some of us had to double up on computers. The room was also FREEZING so, for future reference, if you’re taking a course that will spend any time at all in the lab….bring a heavy sweater! Walking a large group, with a wide away of computer skills, through new software is challenging, and it was a little chaotic getting us all to the same beginning point. But, I must say Pam did a fantastic job of keeping us on task. Rick roamed the room, and was always ready to jump in and help someone who clicked on the wrong thing, or seemed a little lost. I think we all learned a LOT!
The DeedMapper software is excellent. There is a learning curve of course, but once you get the hang of it, it’s amazing what you can do with it. Basically, you enter either the coordinates (township/range/section) of Federal Lands, or the metes and bounds of the deeds from State Lands. Optionally, you can add as much information as you’d like: owner, acreage, description, dates of purchase, and so on. The software does the rest…plotting the plat, which you can then overlay on any number of maps: road, topo, historical, modern, Google Maps, Google Earth. The software works with an application (I think it may be a plug-in for Google Maps, but don’t quote me on that), called EarthPoint, which you can find more about here. EarthPoint is a subscription service, but the things you need to work with DeedMapper are free.
We talked a lot during the week about which websites have the best maps for genealogical use; many of which are in the public domain. It was interesting to see how those maps. The National Map website is an excellent starting point for locating maps which would be of particular use to genealogists. We also looked at some private, commercial websites. Some of the ones we looked at in the lab were:
- NationalAtlas.gov (part of The National Map website) Here is the blurb from the website:
- “In the National Atlas Map Maker, you can assemble, view, and print your own maps. You can choose from hundreds of layers of geographic information to make maps. Each map layer can be displayed individually or mixed with others as you tailor a map to your needs. For example, you can make a map showing America’s streams and lakes. And you can add new map layers showing additional geographic information, such as state boundaries, county boundaries, roads, railroads, and towns and cities.”
- Historical Topographic Map Collection, another section of The National Map website, containing high-resolution images of all editions of the topographic maps published by the USGS since the topographic mapping program in 1884. 193,000 maps were created for this project.
- The Library of Congress American Memory Map Collection, contains digital images of some of the Geography and Map Division’s 4.5 million items. Among the digitized scans are military, environmental, urban, and cultural maps,covering a wide range of history.
- The images were scanned at high resolution and can be downloaded for your own use, absolutely free, as these and most of the maps listed here, are in the public domain and no longer under copyright.
- David Rumsey Maps: this is a private collection of maps, with some very interesting and unique items that would be of interest not only to genealogists, but also to lovers of history, art, and….well, really ANYONE…. take a look!! Here’s an excerpt from the website’s homepage:
- “The historical map collection has over 41,000 maps and images online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North American and South American maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia, and Africa are also represented.”
These are just a few of the many interesting websites that the Sayres shared with us this week. I learned so much!! This class is not on the schedule for GRIP next year, but if you ever see it listed at one of the institutes in the future, I highly recommend it