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Genealogy Resources: Using Maps in Genealogical Research

Local and online resources for genealogy researchers

Putting Your Ancestors on the Map through Data Visualization

There are several free online mapping tools available to create maps that can pinpoint locations where your ancestors were born, lived, or are buried. Whether you wish to demonstrate the route one ancestor took across the Atlantic Ocean or the American continent, or if you want to plan a route of your own to visit the various locations in a single city or county where your ancestors lived, it can be done.

Specific address information (house number and street name) can be gathered from:

  • City directories
  • Census records
  • Birth and death records
  • Old letters and documents
  • County land records
  • Personal and family knowledge

Many online mapping tools allow you to block and copy a datasheet (such as an Excel spreadsheet), along with the headers for the data, which contain your compilation of address information. Some of the mapping tools will automatically display the locations you provide; others will require you to add the geographic coordinates for the locations. One way to obtain the geographic coordinates for your locations is to use Google Maps and input them directly into your spreadsheet. The steps are as follows:

  • Type in the address, city, county, and state (example: 702 Planetarium Place, Library, Arlington, Tarrant County, Texas). A pin will appear on the location. (Adding the county will increase your chance of success.)
  • Right click on the location pin and a popup menu will appear.
  • Select "What's this?" and a small window will appear containing a label and geographic coordinates.
  • Copy and paste the coordinates from the box, or click on the coordinates and they will appear in another, larger window in two different geographical coordinate formats from which you can also copy and paste. Most programs readily use the decimal format (for example 32.729958, -97.112894, instead of 32°43'47.9"N 97°06'46.4"W).

Create two columns in your spreadsheet for the geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude and paste them separately into the respective columns.

History Liaison

Leslie Wagner's picture
Leslie Wagner
Room B29, Central Library