Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Using Maps to Paint a Picture

One of the things I've been doing to better visualize what our area used to look like is using the 1903 Plat book and current day Google Maps to find where the homes/schools/post offices, etc of the day were on a modern day map. It helps to paint a picture of which people were neighbors, which landmarks they lived near, and where they would have gone to school and conducted business.

This week, in my Bell frenzy, I started a map showing what Presque Isle Township looked like in 1903. I will publish the link when I have more done, but here's the basic idea:

The colored rectangles are the acreage owned by the residents and the house icons are their homes. When you click on an icon, the description will pop up - the Bell School is selected for example. Upon zooming in, you get very detailed aerial shots and are able to see the exact locations of homes, outlines of old roads, and clearings where buildings used to stand. This tool has proven most useful in providing me with a picture of what the community was like over 100 years ago.

I'm also working on a broader map of Presque Isle County which includes churches, cemeteries, schools, lumber mills, and other landmarks. The focus of this one is more on landmarks and less on land ownership because it is so big. The map does however include photos of almost every schoolhouse, church, and cemetery left standing among other landmarks, thanks to BJ over at Presque Isle County GenWeb who is taking photos for me in my absence. I hope someday to plat out the entire county.

The process of creating these maps can be tedious and time-consuming, but it's well worth it to me because it makes it easier for us to relate to the people and places of the past when we're able to compare them against modern-day landmarks.