Best Genealogy Photo and Mapping Websites of 2013

By David A. Fryxell Premium


We counted more than 80,000 uploads to this free photo-sharing site tagged “genealogy,” plus nearly 232,000 photos in the graves and cemeteries group. Who’s sharing here? Besides individuals, Flickr has streams from the National Archives, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Smithsonian, Archives of Florida and more.

Historic Map Works
Geocoded to modern maps, this database now tops 1.6 million historic maps. Browse by state or country or search by modern address, latitude and longitude, keywords, town names, mapmakers’ names and year of creation. “Historic Earth” overlays Google maps on more than half the historic ones. Subscribe at $124.99 a year or pay per use.

Linking family history and geography, this site places more than 2.6 million landowners on almost 40,000 old maps. Once you’ve found the old homestead, you can add markers, annotate maps and save to your personal collection. Try a free basic surname search to see if it’s worth the recently reduced $59 a year.

Join in the history and geography fun at this free site, which invites users to add to its collection of more than 254,000 old photos “pinned” to Google Maps. The Library of Congress and the National Archives are among the more than 47,000 users and 1,187 institutions participating to date, building a global look at how today’s places looked back when.

New York Public Library
Although there’s much more in this collection of more than 700,000 images and documents, don’t miss the innovative projects at NYPL Labs. These include more than 16,000 digitized restaurant menus; Direct Me NYC: 1940, which invites users to construct targeted searches of census data via addresses found in 1940 New York City telephone directories; and the Map Warper, a tool suite, used by library staff but also open to the public, to align historical maps to digital maps of today.

Perry-Castañeda Map Collection
Now topping 250,000 maps, ranging from old highway maps to battlefields, this University of Texas library site also has a terrific links collection in the unlikely event you can’t find what you’re looking for here.

New at this visually oriented social media site are hidden “boards” that only you can see, as well as group boards, so whole families can pin to a shared board. Pinterest is perfect for saving and sharing your online research finds, which you can annotate but which retain clickable links to their original locations, as well as uploading family photos.

US Geological Survey
More than 140,000 historical topographic maps are now available for download here. Or you can search for obscure ancestral places in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) or National Atlas, then find their modern location on the customizable National Map.

What Was There

Another site combining Google Maps with old photos, What Was There invites submissions tagged by location and year. The goal? “Weave together a photographic history of the world (or at least any place covered by Google Maps).