Saturday, March 04, 2006

1866 Tompkins County Land Ownership Map with Index

Our friend Bill Hecht has been busy as usual scanning and putting wonderful items on the web. He recently put up the large Tompkins County Land Ownership Map for 1866. He does this on his own initiative and it is a tremendous service for researchers. These huge wall maps are extremely rare and if found today they are usually in very poor condition. Most of the ones that are extant are in libraries, historical societies, and county clerk's offices. They show the roads of the day with all of the properties named by the owner or occupants. When they were created the individual towns were canvassed by men who actually walked the roads, measured them with distance wheel measuring devices, and interviewed the owners and researched property records to attempt to be as complete and accurate as possible.

These maps are remarkably accurate considering the time period and methods used to make them, (no satellite photos here,) and then they had to be engraved on stone and printed, then hand colored to delineate the individual towns. I have written about these land ownership maps many times before, and they are all available on microfiche from the Library of Congress, but the ones on fiche are in black and white reproduction. The maps that Bill posts are in original "living" color! They are a treat indeed and give you a rare opportunity to locate the actual property and house that your ancestor lived in and to observe the names of their neighbors. You will often find that your ancestor's spouse lived in the house very near by. Remember, before the 20th century, most all roads were nothing more than dirt paths, and with wagons creating ruts in them, the only good passage was in the summer. The rest of the time you had ruts of mud or snow and ice. Most guys did not go too far off the farm to find a bride.

It is fun to view the maps and then search the adjacent years census reports. You almost can figure out the route that the census enumerator walked. They also show the various business places, mills, blacksmith shops, churches, cemeteries(!!!), rivers, lakes and many other items of interest and importance. Step back in time to a hundred and fourty years and see what your homelands looked like, and enjoy!

You will find the complete list of maps at:
Here is the index for Enfield:
Her is the index for Lansing:

Incidently, Bill has asked for volunteers to index the individual towns and he will post the index on the web as well. I just completed the index for the Town of Lansing, and I know that Carl Hommel created the index for the Town of Enfield. I would encourage any of you to participate. It does not take too long, and is not hard to do. I just set up a very simple spreadsheet in excel and did each Military Lot Number one by one, in about three days of off and on work it was done! C'mon, jump right in and join the group, it won't hurt and you will be helping many researchers for many years to come.

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy (UNYG)

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