03 April 2014

Overlaying historic maps on modern maps is always neat! There is now a tool that makes it easy peasy!

Diane's first map using the NYPL Map Warper, http://maps.nypl.org/warper/maps/9667#Rectify_tab

I think I’m finally starting to wear off on my husband genealogy-wise.  No, he’s not yet traipsing around cemeteries or helping me transcribe/abstract records.  Nor is he (like he usually does) making sure I’m armed with a working laptop or netbook and camera. 

Yesterday, he actually sent me a link to a neat article The New York Public Library Has A Brilliant New Mapping Tool That History Fans Will Love about a historic map website! 

Wow!  The wow is both that he sent me something genealogical (usually it’s business or economic news) and my reaction to checking out the website.

The New York Public Library has a collection of digitized historical maps.  Part of this collection has been “rectified.”  You can access these rectified maps. For any maps not yet rectified you can participate and help get them rectified using the NYPL Map Warper.

The NYPL Map Warper is a tool for digitally aligning ("rectifying") historical maps from the NYPL's collections to match today's precise maps. Visitors can browse already rectified maps or assist the NYPL by aligning a map. Play the video above to tour the site and learn how to rectify a map yourself.

There is a 3 ½ minute video on how to use this tool.  It uses control points to connect the historic map to a modern map.  If you’ve ever overlaid historic maps on Google Earth, you know it can be challenging to get the overlaid map to be the correct size and orientation to correlate to the underlying modern map.  The use of control points allows this software to make those adjustments!  As my kids would say ... “sweeeet!”

I actually tried it out on a 1794 NC map and I used 8 control points. Check it out. After I created the snapshot shown above, I did go in and crop the image.  As you can see, the overlap isn’t great and we are mapping a 1794 map to a 2014 map.  Mapping technology is one of the many things which has improved in the last 200+ years!


Not only was this “relatively” easy to do, it has now linked a historic map to a modern map which will help myself and others researching pre-1800 North Carolinians get a spatial perspective on where were they living and what were considered the major waterways and towns of the time period.

Though this collection is housed at the NYPL, it is an international collection!

When you have a few minutes, do check out the map collection and possibly even “rectify” a map.  We will all benefit!




P.S. By the way, I had to laugh when I realized that my husband was keeping to form since the article mentioned above was published in the Business Insider.  It is nice though when his interests in business and economics overlap with my genealogical ones!




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