Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Finding the Simon Gates 1803 Home Farm Using Historic Map Works Overlays

After working on finding where Simon Gates home farm was in Farm-Spotting: The Simon Gates Home Farm in Gardner, Massachusetts (9 January 2015), reader Brad emailed me saying:
"I know of a neat website for historical maps.  You might have seen this and perhaps even written about it as I read about it on a genealogy blog.  I'm not sure where. The site is free to browse. The coolest thing about it is the ability to very rapidly overlie Google maps, including the satellite feature to see exactly where a site is.
"You can zoom the maps a lot to see great details.  You can use the scroll button on your mouse to magnify and click and drag on the map to move around quickly. Looking at this map in detail there are a couple of more Gates in the immediate area of H. Gates--a Mrs. L. Gates and D. Gates just northeast of H. Gates.  I assume relatives. Once magnified to the site of interest, go to the bottom of the page and click "historic earth basic".  That overlies Google maps on the historic map automatically.  One can choose street map, satellite map, or hybrid map to overlie the historic map.  Then use the map opacity slider to see exactly where the historic map property is relative to the current map.  around 30% opacity is a good place to start with the overlay. In the case of the H. Gates' property one can really zoom in on the satellite map at 0 % opacity and see that the exact home site sits right next to the perimeter paved road along the east side of the correction institute. I can even see some big rocks where the home site was if I zoom in enough.  I don't see any remnant of a house.  Looks like your "red dot" is very close but not quite where the home was.
"The website has many maps that actually show the old property lines with names too.  If you get lucky you'll find maps with your ancestors on them.  Many town maps with streets are available in addition to county maps.  One thing that I've found interesting is that when viewing the satellite map overlay there is often the ability to see the actual cleared property lines with surrounding forest where an old farm once sat.  Mapping is a lot of fun and this is a neat site to use for it."
I worked through this today, and it was pretty much a piece of cake!  Thank you, Brad!  Here is what I did:

1)  On the Historic Map Works website, I found the 1870 map for Gardner, Worcester County, Massachusetts (two screens below):

There's the historic map, and the link for "Historic Earth Basic" is below the orange pricing button.

2)  I clicked on the "Historic Earth Basic" button and the Google Map appeared on the screen with the historic 1870 Gardner map overlaid. 

To the right of the overlaid map is the "Change Map Opacity" slider (set to 75% on the screen above).

I zoomed in (using the zoom controls, or my mouse wheel) to the area of interest and reduced the opacity to 50%:

And then to 25%:

If I change it to 0% opacity, I get the Google Map; if I change it to 100% opacity, I get the historic map.

3)  The user can select either Google Hybrid (streets and satellite), Google Satellite or Google Maps. I changed it to "Google Satellite" and zoomed in some more and can now see the home farm location at 50% opacity:

Zooming in a bit more shows me that the home farm was inside the current correctional facility perimeter:

I guess I won't be going to visit my ancestral home farm any time soon.

4)  Using Historic Map Works for this task is very easy, but it does require that there be a historic map to overlay on a Google map.

A close look at the roads on the historic map relative to the Google map shows many are in the same location, or have been slightly modified.  There are also more modern roads since 1870, of course.

Do you know of a cadastral map ( showing home locations with owner names) showing your ancestor's town and farm?  If it's on Historic Map Works, you can do this too!

This was cool, fun and instructive - thanks Brad!!

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copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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