Free Ancestry Reports – How to Use Maps in Free Ancestry Reports

The use of maps in free ancestry reports is highly recommended by professional genealogists. Because borders and boundaries change, and have changed frequently over the years, the use of historical maps helps you to locate boundaries that at existed during the life of your ancestor. Historical maps can also help you to determine which county or parish, even country, may have jurisdiction now over the records you seek for your free ancestry reports. Contemporary maps can help you to locate those areas; as such they have their value as well. But to make the most effective use of maps, one must have a precise strategy. Follow along as we show you how to develop and use a methodology that works when using maps to construct free ancestry reports.

Free Ancestry Reports Strategy Step #1 – Begin with a Contemporary Map

Once you've decided on the area that you will need to search for the documentation you need for your free ancestry reports, procure a modern map of the area. Good maps can be found in Atlases, which usually provide other useful information on the area you will be visiting, while travel maps such as those issued by Automobile Associations are usually up to date and accurate. You can also get highway department maps from local county offices, which are often more detailed than those sold in commercial establishments, as they have accurate information on lesser known local roads. Make sure that whichever map you choose to assist you in your free ancestry reports has the crucial boundary lines you require.

Once you have your desired map, pursue the following steps for the best results;

  1. Locate the area you need to visit
  2. Take notes of the county or province that it is located in
  3. Make notes of the closest surrounding towns and villages
  4. Note any important landmarks that may assist you when navigating the area

If the area that you’re searching for isn’t listed on the map, there may be several reasons. It could be:

  • Too small to be included on the map
  • An unincorporated area
  • Extinct (no longer exists)
  • Has been renamed

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If any of the above is true for the location you need to visit for your free ancestry reports, don’t panic. Local histories can point you to name or jurisdictional changes, but a gazetteer is the best genealogical weapon to use in this instance. A gazetteer is basically a dictionary of place names, and they are available in printed form or on the internet. The best way to find one online to help with free ancestry reports is to simply type gazetteer, followed by the country or province name in Google or another internet search engine. State and National Archives, Libraries and Genealogical Societies may also have gazetteers available, as well as the staff to instruct you in their usage in constructing free ancestry reports.

Free Ancestry Reports Strategy Step #2 – Find and Study Historical Maps

After locating the area in which your ancestor resided, the next step in using maps to compile free ancestry reports is to determine the time frame in which they lived. After determining when they lived and where, you’ll want to locate a historical map or two of that region. If you’re searching ancestors from America, an excellent publication to assist you with this aspect of your free ancestry reports is the Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790 – 1920. You can order it through, and although it’s a bit pricey, it is an invaluable genealogical resource.

For anyone searching British Ancestors for their free ancestry reports, the website has an extensive catalogue of historical British maps covering England, Wales, and Scotland, and features various gazetteers as well. They offer tutorials to help you to learn how to maximize the use of the historical maps in building free ancestry reports, and prices vary according to date range and size op map.

After securing your historical map you’ll want to compare it to the modern one you have to distinguish and boundary changes that have occurred in the area you’ll be searching. Highlight the same landmarks, towns and other items as you did on your contemporary map and compare them also.

Of course you’ll want to focus mostly on any boundary changes that you spot, as it could make a big difference as to where you look for the documentation required for your free ancestry reports.

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There are rare instances when records are transferred to completely new jurisdictions which could hamper the search for records for your free ancestry reports. New counties or parishes may have been created, so it is important to keep that in mind when inquiring about the availability of records for your free ancestry reports from the original government offices.

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