Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Find County Boundary Changes in "Atlas of Historical County Boundaries"

This week's Tuesday Tip is to:  Find U.S. county boundary changes in the Newberry Library's "Atlas of Historical County Boundaries."

Knowing which county a family resided in at a specific point in time is important for all researchers because the County government is usually the repository with land, tax, vital and probate records - all record types that help us define the life events and history of a person and family.  Life events were usually recorded in the county with jurisdiction over a location at the time of the event.

The Newberry Library's "Atlas of Historical County Boundaries" provides this information for researchers.  The web site describes this project as:

"The Atlas presents in maps and text complete data about the creation and all subsequent changes (dated to the day) in the size, shape, and location of every county in the fifty United States and the District of Columbia. It also includes non-county areas, unsuccessful authorizations for new counties, changes in county names and organization, and the temporary attachments of non-county areas and unorganized counties to fully functioning counties. The principal sources for these data are the most authoritative available: the session laws of the colonies, territories, and states that created and changed the counties."

There are directions for using the atlas here.  I wrote a fairly extensive article about it in Exploring Newberry's Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.  The system is not easy to use, but it is useful once you learn how to manipulate the different features.

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