Geography & Land Records
LOCATIONS -- VERIFYING IS ESSENTIAL
Because most records related to your family will be kept at the local level you must know where each place they lived is and what county, province, town or township it is in or was in. The sites below, along with many books, will help. Make sure the locations are verified on your forms before you start your research.
- Geographic Name Information System (GNIS)
- Enter a current U.S. place name and this site will give you basic geographic information including the county.
- County/Town Finder
- This program simplifies searching the GNIS. You put in a town or city name and get the current county name back.
- Google Maps – Worldwide Searching
- Google Maps lets you look up current countries, cities, towns, and even specific addresses. It is even forgiving on misspellings.
- Geonames – Worldwide Searching
- Geonames is a worldwide geographical database with a search function, browsable maps, and downloadable data files. It is NOT forgiving on misspellings.
- U.S. County Boundaries – Boundary Changes Through the Years
- County boundaries have changed dramatically through the years. Here, you put in a date and see the boundaries that were active on that date overlaying the current boundaries. After choosing a state, select View Interactive Maps.
- ABC Genealogy Maps
- This page links to free online topical and historical maps for six continents.
- U.S. Topographical Maps
- Topographical maps show the landscape of your ancestor's rural home. Current natural features, structures, and features like cemeteries are often shown. Historical editions of the maps can be found here as well. The maps are free to download as PDFs.
- Federal Land Patent Records
- This site finds your ancestor's FEDERAL land claim from 1820 to the present. Often actual images of the patent can be viewed. These are records for the Public Land States formed after the original 13 colonies.