[APG Public List] mapping and research

L. Boswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Nov 1 12:42:27 MDT 2010

but I think it takes a creative and imaginative approach to using the new 
digital mapping environment to really appreciate how useful these could be. 
 They're just "numerical names" attached to text names.  As precise or general 
as is possible (or necessary).  Used to mark even approximate locations so as to 
make them available to a wide range of analytical tools.

Why would you set coordinates for the corners?  That to me would be a waste of 
time.  Why would you even attempt that for an 18th century Virginia patent 
unless you had enough information to find an approximate location?  I'd employ a 
bit of caution and use more general, approximate coordinates for that!  I think 
if you misused the tool in trying to make less precise information fit "precise 
coordinates" you'd be using this digital reference tool based on centuries' old 
mapping techniques in a way that wouldn't give back any benefit.  It would be a 
fabrication, nothing more. You have to be as selective in employing this type of 
tool as you would anything else.  

It's tool, and what's interesting is that it takes a traditional mapping tool 
and makes it into something that is extremely powerful.  Used right it generates 
information quickly that would otherwise take days or weeks to compile.  But to 
go into that would take too much time, and just this basic discussion on 
coordinates has exhausted my interest in trying to pitch this tool. Stick with 
the time tested methods works for me too in many things, but anything that can 
be converted and analyzed digitally simply shouldn't be rejected out of hand.  

You don't use this tool, that's fine.  But I'm willing to bet that at some point 
you will be using it because more and more it's being built into even gen 

wow, I'm surprised at the resistance to these suggestions but I'm willing to bet 
most of the resistance comes from those who have never used this type of tool. 
 Those who use it begin to see the potential and the power contained in it.  Not 
everything is in the records, but when you can computerize information from 
multiple sources in a digital environment, information emerges that would 
otherwise not be attainable.  And that's beyond just the idea of translating 
locations between historical and modern maps.  We've been talking here at a very 
elementary level about what this tool can do, but this isn't the list to go into 
any depth on such things.


From: Michael John Neill <mjnrootdig at gmail.com>
To: Michael Hait <michael.hait at hotmail.com>
Cc: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Sent: Mon, November 1, 2010 1:20:51 PM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] mapping and research

I am with Michael on this one. 

I also use a variety of historical maps and also plat properties from metes and 
bounds descriptions and use rectangular survey descriptions as well to determine 
properties' relative locations to each other. Often I, like others, plot metes 
and bounds descriptions of properties from a series of deeds in chronological 
order hoping to infer relationships from various property descriptions and 

In the analysis of these records having a general idea of the property's 
location is helpful. But for the determination of family structure and other 
relationships (as Michael pointed out), pinpointing the property is not 
necessary and not always a good use of my time. This is particularly true for 
historical properties where I do not have a chain of title to the present 
date and am not certain who owns the property today. 

If the farm is one whose location I know, then I could easily see using 
coordinates to indicate the corners of the property and keeping that information 
for future generations. In my case, I could easily do this for my parents, 
grandparents, andn several sets of earlier generations where the property 
purchased 100 or 150 years ago is still in the family (my personal knowledge of 
the locations would be my "reason" why I "marked" certain corners). I'm not 
certain how helpful it would be to spend time trying to find relatively precise 
corner call locations for the 18th century Virginia patent for an ancestor. It's 
going to be awful difficult to locate all those trees (grin!). Might there be 
the occasional case where this could be helpful? Yes. But that's something I 
would determine on a case by case basis and would not do in every situation. 

I use all the technology at my disposal every day--I just don't use the same 
tools on every problem--even when one problem may appear similar to another.
Michael John Neill
Casefile Clues
On Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 12:04 PM, Michael Hait <michael.hait at hotmail.com> wrote:

I use historic maps in nearly every project.  But these historic maps do not 
have latitude/longitude on them usually.  I also use land records in nearly 
every project, which allows me to place the land on the maps (at least in a 
general sense).  My point is that discovering the general location (especially 
when dealing with a 200-acre farm) is an important step, but pinpointing the 
exact longitude/latitude seems like an extraneous step that does not add 
anything to the research.
>I look at it this way – location of a piece of land is important for the 
>following reasons:
>- records jurisdiction
>- relation to topographical landmarks
>- distance to county courthouses
>- distance to nearest town
>- location of nearest church
>- identities of neighbors
>- identifying possible migration routes (through relation to bodies of water, 
>historic trails, etc)
>- (and of course other more creative uses I am sure)
>All of these tasks, however, can be completed using historic records and 
>historic maps, including identifying topographical landmarks, etc.  But how does 
>taking the extra time and effort to pinpoint a precise latitude/longitude 
>provide additional USEFUL information, not covered by the historic records/maps?
>Michael Hait
>michael.hait at hotmail.com
>From: L. Boswell 
>Sent: Monday, November 01, 2010 12:50 PM
>To: Michael Hait ; apgpubliclist at apgen.org 
>Subject: mapping and research
>sorry, forgot to change the subject in that last one. 
>Good point John, and GPS coordinates mean much the same thing (I just like to 
>remind people that this isn't based on something new!)
>Michael, got to thinking here.  How important is mapping and the use of maps to 
>you in your research?   I barely move without referring to a map when I working 
>on a file.   More likely multiple maps.  If your answer is "pretty important" 
>than the use of coordinates is simply going to be a good tool to have on hand.  
>If you never work with maps, then I can see your point.  But I don't see how I 
>could do effective research without referencing things to a location on a map of 
>some sort

Michael John Neill
Casefile Clues-Genealogy How-Tos
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