Why use maps?
Maps are used to locate the places where your ancestors lived. They identify political boundaries, names of places, geographical features, cemeteries, churches, and migration routes. Historical maps and atlases are especially useful for finding communities that no longer exist.
Before searching you must know
- The names of places where your ancestor lived. Place names change over time. Use a Maryland gazetteer or United States gazetteer to find alternate names of the places where your ancestor lived.
Types of Maryland maps and where to get them
Major collections online
Library of Congress Digitized Map Collection has over 100 Maryland Maps online. A good way to find them is to do a Keyword Search on the terms Maryland Map. On the Search Results screen, click Gallery View to see pages with thumbnail-sized images that will help you quickly select the map you want.
History of Cartography links to sites with over 100 digital maps of Maryland.
Maryland Map Collection from University of Maryland contains over 100 digitized maps of Maryland. To find the digitized maps, do a Keyword Search on .jpg Maryland.
County MapsMaryland County Formation Maps shows every change in county boundries from 1637 to the present day. It shows a map and gives details about each change and the year the change took place.
United States Census Bureau State and County Map from the US Census Bureau is a nationwide county map. You can search for counties by name and can zoom in and see counties and neighboring counties even in other states.
Thorndale, William, and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987. (Family History Library book 973 X2th.) A limited view of this book is online. Includes maps that show the county boundaries for the years the U.S. federal census was taken.
- A helpful historical atlas is Papenfuse, Edward C., and Joseph M. Coale. The Hammond-Harwood House Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982. (Family History Library book Q 975.2 E7p; film 1597909 item 18.)
- Baltimore City ward maps that correspond roughly with the censuses of 1820 to 1900 are on Family History Library film 1377700 and Family History Library fiche 6016568-76 .
- For 7.5-, 15-, and 30-minute topographic quadrangle maps for Maryland published between 1884 and 1972 use the:
- United States Geological Survey. Topographic Maps of the United States. Suitland, Maryland: National Archives and Records Service, 1976. The maps are arranged alphabetically by the name of the quadrangle on the following films:
|Aberdeen-Flintstone||Family History Library film 1433784|
|Gunpowder-Myersville||Family History Library film 1433785|
|Paw Paw-Urbana||Family History Library film 1433786|
|Wyoming||Family History Library film 1433783|
- Film numbers for additional and more recent topographical maps are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - MAPS.
- To see changes in county boundaries, use: Long, John H., ed. Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia atlas of Historical County Boundaries. New York: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1996. (Family History Library book 975 E3L.) This volume is part of a proposed 40-volume reference work under the common title “Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.” It intends to trace boundary changes from the earliest date to 1990, leaving no gaps. It also intends to provide a frame of reference for understanding boundary changes.
- Also see: Maryland, Delaware Atlas and Gazetteer. DeLorme Mapping. 4th ed., Freeport, Maine: DeLorme, 2004. (Family History Library book 975 E7md .)
- The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists more maps under:
- Selected Maryland Out-of-print historical maps can be viewed online at Historical Maps of Maryland.
- MARYLAND, [COUNTY] - MAPS
- Printable maps are also available from the National Atlas of the United States
- Detail of Maryland's regions
Libraries and Archives
Johns Hopkins University libraries, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the University of Maryland McKeldin Library and Hornbake Library, and the Maryland State Archives have large collections of Maryland maps and atlases. The Maryland Historical Trust Library also has a collection of 306 Maryland maps.
Reliability of maps
Early maps are not as reliable as modern-day maps, but reliability of maps improved over time as surveying tools improved. Even though early or primitive maps may not be correct in terms of scale or relative positioning, they are still a good source of the names people used for various jurisdictions and geographic features.
- To see place names in your ancestor's area, search maps that were published as close as possible to the time period when your ancestor lived there.
- Names of places change over time. If you cannot find on a map the place where your ancestor lived (such as a town), check gazetteers published before and after your ancestor's era to see whether the town had a different name.
What to do next
- After locating the place where your ancestor lived, note the jurisdictions which contained it and surrounded it, as well as the jurisdictions that it contained. All of these jurisdictions may have further records of your ancestor.