Mapping the ancestors

Randy Seaver’s blog pointed me to a new collection of maps on Ancestry.com: “U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918“. The same, or similar maps are sometimes available in used and antiquarian book stores, and in libraries. The maps are often removed from the atlas and offered for sale individually- the Ben Franklin Bookstore in Worcester has some in its print section.

It’s nice to be able to view these maps online- unfortunately, the quality leaves a lot to be desired. These are black and white microfilm images, rather than the high quality color scans used in, for example, the UNH topographic map collection.

On some of the maps, the colors used to shade various towns and villages show up as almost solid black, making it impossible to read any detail. And the resolution of the maps is very low- fine print, especially in densely settled areas can be unreadable.

Having said all that, the maps can still be really useful. This image is from the map covering Jaffrey and Rindge. This map was published in 1877, three years before the 1880 census which showed Daniel Dunn living on the farm of Frederick Spaulding as a hired laborer. Daniel’s entry is followed by those of the Bakers, Ballous, Underwoods and Goffs, all names visible on the map to the right of the “FSpaulding” label.

On the census form, the next name after Kendall Goff’s family is Leonard O. Smith, followed by Etta, Lucy Cogswell (Leonard’s widowed mother in law), and Mary Alice. There’s also a ‘boarder’, the seventeen year old Ella M. Allen, occupation ‘schoolteacher’. The Smiths don’t appear on the map, so it might be that their move from Peterborough, where they lived when the 1870 census was taken, hadn’t yet occurred. The residence labelled ‘C.A.Johnson’ on the map may be where the Smiths lived in 1880. It’s in the right spot in terms of the census form’s order. It also ties in with the address information in the 1885 Cheshire County Gazetteer, which has Frederick Spaulding listed as a farmer on road 28, while Leonard and his son Charles are listed as farming the property at the corner of roads 28 and 29. And just down the road, across from the pond, is the school where Ella probably taught.

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