20 October 2006

Putting history on the (searchable) map

Want to see where your immigrant relatives lived when they arrived in America? Or where their businesses were located?

In Westbrook, Maine, Historic Map Works is betting on the past by scanning historic maps into what its president and founder Charles Carpenter claims is the world’s first database of address-searchable maps from the United States in the 19th and early 20th century.

Carpenter owns some 30,000 antique maps of American cities and towns, and recently bought an atlas company – so now he has more than 100,000 maps. According to this article, Carpenter has the second largest number of county atlases; first place goes to the U.S. Library of Congress.

More than 35,000 maps, searchable by address, can be viewed on the Historic Map Works site and copies can be purchased. Access is free for now but a subscription fee will be required as of January 2007.

I did a quick search and found several maps for Springfield, Massachusetts, where my relative Max Tollin (Mendl Talalay) arrived in 1898. One map was for 1899 and I was able to pinpoint his street.

Maps generally have street indexes indicating which plate to click on, as well as topographic maps for parks and other geographic features.

Some city directories are also searchable on the site, such as 1871 Boston, and more may eventually be available.

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