[APG Public List] APGPublicList Digest, Vol 12, Issue 38

L. Boswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Nov 1 10:42:42 MDT 2010

Depends on the landmarks, and whether or not the location is needed.  I use 
landmarks all the time in London, UK research.  And pinpointed closely using 
coordinates, but then London has some very accurate historical maps.  It's being 
able to move between different maps through different periods, and translate 
into digital locations simply makes life easier.  I don't much care if the house 
or location is under a modern freeway.   I want to know all the changes that 
came to that location, as that will tell what I need to know when I move to the 
"record creating/jurisdictional "landscape" to find who may have created 
records, and over time track where those records might have been shifted as the 
jurisdictional hierarchy shifted over time.

I can plug in coordinates associated with family, extended family, associates, 
friends, work locations,  and understand why I should also check a parish 10 
miles north of London.  I can compare where children were born between censuses. 
 I could do all that by recording "named locations" (which I do anyway, names 
applicable to a location are always associated with the same coordinates).  I 
could say X is baptized in St. Leonards, Shoreditch, Y in Andrews, Enfield (and 
a dozen others besides) but instead I have them marked by coordinates that 
transfer between various digital mapping tools, including topographical maps. 
 "Social" maps like Booth's in London.   It's a mapping tool, but a very 
powerful one whose potential we're barely tapping into yet

In rural Vermont, New York, and so on, yes deeds etc are 20 feet from the oak at 
the bend in the Oxbow River.  I've stood at that bend in the Oxbow and by using 
surviving landscape clues pretty much know I'm close to the land being 
described, if now exactly on it.   Pop out my GPS, and mark that spot.  Take it 
home and transfer it to Google Earth (and other digital mapping resources, as 
well as historical maps).  Now when I refer to the property months later, or 
haul out the file, I have a starting point to refer to.  I can zoom in to the 
neighbouring areas, see who else is farming nearby, zoon out to a modern 
contemporary map to see locations of churches, small libraries, local history 
societies, major repositories, modern jurisdictional authorities who might hold 
records, and so on.

without that you're always back to late 1700s means of recording your locations. 
 By the oak two meters from Jed Clawback's farm, where the bend in the Oxbow 
River turns left before the rapids.  No, I'll pick up the coordinates and within 
seconds be reminded of what location I'm dealing with.   And I can shift and 
refine those coordinates as I realize errors, or new information surfaces

and that bend in the Oxbow I mentioned just put a fraction of the farm under 
consideration into a neighbouring jurisdiction that you might have missed if you 
assumed that the boundary followed the river (which it did except for this 
little loop of land that projected into the next one, though it was on the right 
side of the river to be assumed as part of the properties on that same side).   
Eventually sanity (and several petitions) put the projection of land into the 
same jurisdiction as all the others on that side of the river, but before it did 
records were created in the other one, where they remain today).

Michael it just rationalizes location in a form appropriate to digital realities 
and tools


From: Michael Hait <michael.hait at hotmail.com>
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Sent: Mon, November 1, 2010 11:53:45 AM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] APGPublicList Digest, Vol 12, Issue 38

I don’t see how latitude/longitude coordinates help in any way to discover  the 
physical location in relation to historic boundaries.  The historic  boundaries 
were established using landmarks, and in years of research, I have  yet to see a 
single deed, plat, or boundary-changing law that included  latitude/longitude on 
it.  All of the historic records I have seen used  landmarks to denote 
location.  The best that we can hope to “pinpoint”  locations no longer in use 
would be through the use of these historic records,  and the historic landmarks 
they note.  How does taking the time and effort  to “pinpoint” the coordinates 
of a town or even a house help at all, when that  fact will not appear in any of 
the other records that will be researched?   Would this approach necessitate 
similarly “pinpointing” the coordinates for each  of referenced landmarks?
I have used historic maps in my research in many ways, and have even played  
with superimposing them onto Google Earth, for exactly the reasons that you note  
in terms of the topography.  But exact coordinates would not be enough  
additional help to make the process worthwhile, in my opinion.  I can look  at a 
historic map that shows an ancestral county and see, for example, if a  river or 
a mountain range is there.  Deeds will nearly always mention if  the river--or 
even a small creek that may no longer exist--ran directly through  a specific 
piece of property.
In most of the places that I currently research, the topography has  physically 
changed dramatically even in just the past 100 years.  Most of  Prince George’s 
County, Maryland, for example, is now paved, covered with  housing complexes, 
highways, office buildings, shopping centers.  At the  time of the Civil War, 
much of this same land was covered with small farms or  large plantations.  If I 
am researching the colonial period, the changes  have been even more dramatic.  
So how would the coordinates of a location  provide insight into the historic 
topography that no longer exists today?
So, in other words, my question remains:  how do the exact coordinates  add in 
any way to the research that historic maps, plats, and deeds (and other  
historic records) would not cover?

Michael  Hait
michael.hait at hotmail.com
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