Best Websites for Putting Ancestors on the Map in 2016

By David A. Fryxell Premium

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Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

This Newberry Library website is the go-to destination for figuring out where your ancestors were, county-wise, and when—and thus where their records ought to be.

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States

This University of Richmond site takes Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright’s classic historical atlas, first published in 1932, and brings it to life with 21st-century technology. All the original nearly 700 maps are online, made clickable to view the underlying data or animated to show how your ancestors’ America changed over time.

Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records

Your ancestors’ federal land records live here, with access to more than 5 million land titles dating from 1820, plus images of survey plats and field notes as old as 1810.

David Rumsey Map Collection

This handsome historical map collection boasts more than 67,000 images, ranging from rare 16th-century maps of the New World to current cartography. Viewing options include Google Maps, Google Earth and a new Georeferencer tool that lets you overlay historical maps on modern maps or other old maps.

Historic Map Works $

This site can unlock ancestor answers with more than 1.6 million historical maps, accessible either by pay-per-view or for $124.99 a year. New, downloadable UK and Irish maps make it even more worth the splurge.

HistoryGeo $

Another subscription site ($59 a year), HistoryGeo now boasts an interactive map of 12.3 million early landowners in 30 states, drawing on more than 4,000 antique maps.

Oregon-California Trails Association

Retrace your ancestors’ journey along the Oregon and California Trails, learn about the historic trails and discover opportunities to share and preserve this migration heritage. Its Paper Trail offshoot <> lets you search the pioneers’ writings.

US Geological Survey

New satellite images add to the “wow” here, complementing the National Atlas, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and National Map. Find your ancestral places, no matter how obscure, and then see them on historical topographic maps.