Posts

New Tool shows Elevations on Google Maps, all over the world

With the new Elevation on Google Maps tool, you can find the elevation of any place worldwide.

Use the "Search places" box to type an address, city or other place, and see it's approximate elevation, or just explore by clicking around the map.  In addition to elevation, the tool will also display other information about your chosen location, such as city, county, state, country and latitude/longitude.

Here's an example showing the historic center of Mexico City at about 7,359 feet:

Elevation on Google Maps tool showing Elevation of Mexico City


Want to see an elevation profile along your path or route?

Just click the blue "Elevation Profile..." button on the left side of the map.  Then, slowly draw the path by clicking along your desired route, then click "Stop Drawing" when you're done. (You can also just draw a straight line if you want to see the elevation profile across a whole state, for example).  Here's an Elevation Profile across Colorado:
Elevation on Google Maps tool showing Elevation Profile across Colorado

Want to use the metric system?  You can also change the units from feet/miles to meters/kilometers by clicking the "Use m/km" button.

One more cool feature:  Ever been curious about other places that are the same elevation?  For instance, if I search for Madrid and check the "Show similar elevations" (then zoom the map out), I get a map showing a set of contour lines representing all the places within +/- 50ft elevation (or +/- 50m):

Elevation on Google Maps tool showing similar elevations to Madrid
 
If you're any kind of card-carrying map geek like me, you'll find that feature pretty fun to play with! ;)

For a more complete understanding of the capabilities, be sure and read the QUICK TIPS and the COVERAGE NOTES below the Elevation on Google Maps tool.

Please feel free to share this tool with your friends, and leave any comments below!

Enjoy!

Create a custom County Lines map or ZIP Code-based Sales/Service/Delivery Territory map on the fly -- overlaid on Google Maps

I've had requests from several people to add the capability to create links on their website that would open up the County Lines on Google Maps tool already focused on their region of interest.
Several have also wondered if there is a way to create a ZIP Code-based Sales/Service/Delivery Territory map on the fly.

Now you can!  Here's how it works:

Create a map zoomed to a State and show County Name labels

To simply zoom to a state and optionally show county name labels and a map title, create a link such as this:

https://www.randymajors.com/p/countygmap.html?state=CT&labels=show
TIP: copy/paste the links below and customize to suit your needs

The parameters you can use are as follows:
  • state - expects a 2-character state code as used by the USPS, for example, ?state=CT
  • onestate - optionally shows ONLY the counties in the state specified by the state parameter by using the word show, as in, &onestate=show (in other words, this will hide the county boundaries that are outside of your state of interest)
  • title - optionally give your map a title (use the + character to represent spaces), for example, &title=Connecticut+Counties
  • labels - optionally shows county labels by using the word show, as in, &labels=show
  • color - optionally choose the color used for the Map Title, expects a 6-character hex color code without the leading # character, for example, &color=00FF00 would create a green map title (free tools are widely available on the internet to find your hex color)

Create a map zoomed to ZIP Code(s) and optionally show the ZIP Code Boundaries and add a Title

To zoom to one or multiple ZIP Codes, and optionally show their boundary (e.g. for a service territory, sales territory or delivery area), create a link such as this:

https://www.randymajors.com/p/countygmap.html?zips=10023,10024,10025,10026&zipboundary=show&title=My+Service+Territory
TIP: copy/paste the links below and customize to suit your needs

The parameters you can use are as follows:
      • zips - expects a comma-separated list of one or multiple 5-digit U.S. ZIP Code(s) (do not use spaces between the commas), for example, ?zips=10023,10024
      • zipboundary - optionally shows a merged overall boundary based on the zips (e.g. for a service territory or delivery area) by using the word show, as in, &zipboundary=show 
      • title - optionally give your map a title (use the + character to represent spaces), for example, &title=My+Sales+Territory
      • color - optionally choose the color used for the Map Title and the ZIP boundary, expects a 6-character hex color code without the leading # character, for example, &color=00FF00 would create a green map title and ZIP boundary (free tools are widely available on the internet to find your hex color)
      • labels - optionally shows county labels by using the word show, as in, &labels=show

      Maps created from the above two examples

      The first example links you to a County Lines map centered on Connecticut, showing you the county lines and labeling the names of the counties on the map:
      Google Maps with County Boundaries example from Connecticut including county name labels


      The second example creates a Service Territory Map based on a list of ZIP Codes (10023,10024,10025,10026) and creates a title for the map:
      Create a custom County Lines map or ZIP Code-based Sales/Service/Delivery Territory map on the fly, overlaid on Google Maps


      A few important things to make this work:

      1.  You must use the question mark ( ? ) right after .html, as shown above and below
      2.  Do NOT use spaces anywhere in the URL or query parameters
      3.  You must separate query parameters using the ampersand ( & ), as shown above and below
      4.  User the + character to represent spaces in the title parameter

      TIP:  For simplicity, you can drop the https://www from the front and just create the link as:

      With this functionality, you can feel free to create links on your own website that open a window to the County Lines on Google Maps tool, already zoomed into your area of interest OR showing a ZIP Code based sales territory, service territory or delivery area!

      Feel free to share this with others who may find this functionality useful!


      NOTE:  The above article relates to PRESENT-day County Lines.  Here are the instructions for linking to HISTORICAL County Lines.

      How to link to an HISTORICAL County Lines map for any Year and Geographic Area of Interest -- overlaid on Google Maps

      NOTE:  This article relates to HISTORICAL County Lines.  Here are the instructions for linking to PRESENT-day County Lines.

      If you have a website or blog and want to create a link to an HISTORICAL county lines map for ANY YEAR and ANY US STATE,  this article is for you!

      Using the instructions below, you can create a link to Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps for any historical year already zoomed into a particular State, and optionally display the labels showing the county names as of that historical year.

      Here's how it works:   

      To create a map zoomed into a state for a given year, create a link such as this:
      https://www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html?state=CT&year=1788

      To create a map zoomed into a state for a given year, and show county name labels, create a link such as this:
      https://www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html?state=OR&year=1865&labels=show
        TIP: copy/paste the above links and customize to suit your needs

        To explain the above example links, there are three words (called "query parameters") you can use to create a link.  Note, they must be specified in the order shown. 
        • state - expects a 2-character state code as used by the USPS, for example, ?state=CT
        • year - expects a 4-digit historical year, from 1629 through 2000, for example, ?year=1788
        • labels - optionally shows county labels by using the word show, for example, &labels=show

        Here are the maps produced by the two examples above

        The first example links you to an Historical U.S. County Lines map centered on Connecticut, showing you the county boundaries as of 1788:
        Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps example from 1788 Connecticut

        The second example links you to an Historical U.S. County Lines map centered on Oregon, showing you the county lines as of 1865 and labeling the names of the counties on the map:
        Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps example from 1865 Oregon with county name labels

        A few important things to make this work:

        1.  You must use the question mark ( ? ) right after .html, as shown above and below
        2.  You must separate query parameters using the ampersand ( & ), as shown above and below
        3.  You must specify the query parameters in order: state, year and optionally labels

        TIP:  For simplicity, you can drop the https://www from the front and just create the link as:


        With this functionality, you can feel free to create links on your own website that open a window to the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool, already zoomed into your area of interest and showing county boundaries as of the year you're interest in!

        Share this with others who may find this functionality useful!


        No more bouncing maps and evasive red dots!

        Just a brief note here to let you know of a fix to an issue that has been reported by a number of users of all of the randymajors.com map tools (such as the County Lines on Google Maps, Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps and all the others).

        The issue was related to the maps "bouncing" and the red dot (shown below) moving even though the user didn't intend for it to move.
        Red dot that shows current location on all randymajors Google Maps mapping tools

        In particular, if the user was panning around the map (e.g. dragging the map with their mouse) in order to see something just off the edge of the map, prior to this fix, the red dot moved and the map bounced (changed center) as you panned.  Basically, it was taking whereever you ended the drag of the mouse and making that the new map center.  Furthermore, it would take that new center point represented by the red dot's new location and then update the information pane above the map based on that new location. 

        Several people found that behavior to be in the range of unexpected to annoying.  

        An example may help further explain the issue:  If you searched for Phoenix, Arizona using the "Search places" box above the map, then once the map appeared with the red dot on Phoenix, you panned (or dragged) the map in order to view what is southeast of Phoenix.  In the past, the County Lines on Google Maps tool would move the red dot to where you ended the "mouse drag" and change from reporting the name as Maricopa County (where Phoenix is) to reporting it as Pinal County or Pima County, depending on how far your dragged the map.  

        Also, just single-clicking the map would re-center the map where you clicked and update the information panel.

        All that (bad) behavior is gone now!

        So, with the new behavior, here's a run down of what does and does not move the red dot (and update the information pane above the maps).

        Moves the red dot and updates the information pane:
        • Typing a new place or address into the "Search places" box above the map
        • Single-clicking the map to "explore" the place you clicked
        Does NOT move the red dot nor update the information pane:
        • Panning the map by dragging it with the mouse (or using two-fingers to move the map on iOS) 
        • Zooming in or out using the "+" or "-" buttons in the upper left corner of the map (or pinch-zooming on iOS)
        These last two changes enable you to explore around the edges of the map view by dragging the map around WITHOUT changing the red dot's location and information pane.  

        And you can now single-click around the map to see information about where you clicked WITHOUT the map center "bouncing" around and changing unexpectedly.

        Using the same example above, now if you search for Phoenix, Arizona using the "Search places" box, the red dot will appear on Phoenix and the information pane will report Maricopa County.  Now if you drag the map to the southeast to see something on the edge of the map, the red dot will stay put in Phoenix, the map won't bounce, and the information pane will still report Maricopa County.

        That was a bit more wordy than I intended it to be, but bottom-line: just view the four bullets above and you should understand the new map behavior.

        Or even easier:  The click and pan behavior now operates like the Google Maps you know and love.

        And hopefully this new map behavior is in the range of expected to enjoyable :)

        Happy mapping!

        Why have all the map tools changed...again?

        If you've recently used any of the map tools on randymajors.com (such as Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps or County Lines on Google Maps, etc) you may have noticed some changes.

        So why fix it if it ain't broke?!

        The biggest reason is that all the map tools were about to break due to Google shutting down their Fusion Tables technology, which is what I had been using to draw all of the maps.  So after some very, very heavy-lifting for many weeks (just ask my wife!) I was able to move all of the map tools to another Google technology.  Hopefully it's mostly transparent to you, the user, as the new tools still use a Google Maps-based map.

        But some things have changed.  The biggest difference you may notice is how you search for a place (e.g. a city, address, etc.).  To search for a place, all map tools now have a "Search places" box above them, like this (outlined in red here to highlight it):
        Search places on Google Maps with Historical County Lines

        The cool thing is that as you begin to type a place or address, it will help you autocomplete what you're looking for and you can just click the choice you want from the drop-down list that appears.

        The other biggest change is based on lots of feedback that people wanted the map to occupy more of their screen.  I moved the website over to a new "responsive" template, which is a fancy-techy term for a website that works to optimize itself for all different screen sizes and devices.  The new layout of the site enables the website to occupy the entire width of your screen, which in turn makes the map bigger.  Also, instead of the "information boxes" appearing within the maps at the bottom of the screen like this...:
        Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas

        ...now, you'll see the same info just above the map, like this:
        Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas now at top of the map

        With the change to the new website layout, the listing of tools are now on the upper left side of the page , like this:
        Links to most popular tools on this website including Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section
        If you DON'T see that list of tools on the upper left side of the page, it means that you are likely running on a lower resolution or smaller screen, and so you get this little "hamburger menu" instead in the far upper left corner of each page on the website:
        Menu button to expose links to Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section
        Just click it and the left menu bar will appear, including the listing of tools.  This is done so that the left sidebar doesn't take up valuable space on your screen.

        There is also a change in behavior when you click the maps.  Now, the place you click on the map is always marked by a red dot so you know where you clicked, and the information pane above the map is updated based on the location of the red dot.

        Also new:  MOBILE!  The map tools should now also be usable on high end mobile devices as well.  You'll get the same basic layout, like this (from iPhone) with the added benefit that the text should now be readable (it really wasn't before):
        Mobile version of Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section

        I hope these changes are on-balance good for you.  At a minimum, they're at least better than the website getting shut down because of the Google Fusion Tables sunset :)

        With so many changes, no doubt some will take some getting used to.

        And I likely didn't get everything just right, so please please let me know what is and isn't working for you in the comments below, or in the "Get in touch with Randy Majors" form in the very bottom left of each page.



        Happy Independence Day! Enjoy This Historical County Boundary Animation

        In honor of this 4th of July, here's an animation of county boundary formation in the United States starting in 1629 up through the present day, derived from the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool:
        Animation of Historical U.S. County Boundary formation

        And here's a close-up focusing on the northeastern U.S.:
        Northeastern US animation of Historical U.S. County Boundary formation

        Explore all of the historical county boundary lines in your area of interest in great detail using the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool.  I'll leave you with this example centered on Independence Hall in Philadelphia, 4 July 1776:
        Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps showing Philadelphia on 4 July 1776 including details from the Newberry Atlas

        Wishing you and your families and friends a happy and peaceful 4th!


        Show me ALL of the names!

        You've always been able to search or click on the map and have information about the ONE spot where you clicked appear at the bottom of the map, like this:
        Newberry Atlas historical U.S. county detail shown at bottom of map

        "But wouldn't it be nice," many people have asked over the years, "to see ALL of the names of the counties on the map rather than just the one that I clicked?"  Or something to that effect.

        Now you can.  Just go to the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool and check "Show labels..." checkbox in the lower left corner of the map, and your map will be pleasantly filled with the historical county names as of the date you typed, like this (click the image below to enlarge it):
        Ability to show historical county name labels from Newberry Atlas of historical U.S. county boundaries

        This new functionality to add names has been added to the following tools:  Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps, County Lines on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps and Area Codes on Google Maps.

        Here's an example of the labels on the County Lines on Google Maps tool:
        Ability to show labels of County Names and ZIP Codes on Google Maps with County Lines and Google Maps with ZIP Codes tools


        Look out in future updates for new drawing tools as well!

        Thank you for the feedback! Now, what have I done with it?

        Thank you to the 182 people that provided valuable feedback via the user survey I had running over the last 30 days on the randymajors.com map and search tools.

        This post provides a brief summary of the feedback, as well as a handful of enhancement ideas that came from the surveys.

        First, what are people using the tools for?
        Google Maps county lines, ZIP codes and city limits tools being used for business planning, general interest/entertainment, determining jurisdiction, real estate, education, sales planning, field/scientific research, travel/route planning, volunteer work and sales tax determination
        Given the history of this website, it's no surprise that the largest proportion of users use the tool for genealogy purposes, especially the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps and AncestorSearch: Google Custom Search tools.
        However, it was quite interesting to see the diversity of uses for the other tools, especially the present-day County Lines on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps, City Limits on Google Maps and Township Range on Google Maps tools.  The list runs the gamut: business planning, general interest/entertainment, determining jurisdiction, real estate, education, sales planning, field/scientific research, travel/route planning, volunteer work and sales tax determination.

        Another question asked how often people use the tool:
        Google Maps tools with county lines, ZIP Codes, city limits and township range are being used many times per week by most repeat users
        I was surprised to see just how many people (nearly 60%) were discovering the tool for the first time!  Those that already knew of the tool(s) seem to use them quite a lot, with about 18% using the tools several times per week (with many people commenting they use the tools several times daily).  The next highest slice being users that use the tool a few times per month (14%).  Only 9% use the tools once per month or less.

        Another sign of user engagement could be gleaned from the question asking how long users typically spend using the tool:
        randymajors map tools have very high engagement with 35 percent using the tools for over 15 minutes per session, and 37 percent using the tools for 5 to 15 minutes per session
        35% of people use the tool(s) for over 15 minutes per visit to the website, and 37% use them for 5 to 15 minutes per visit.  Only 6% of respondents typically use the tools for less than 1 minute per visit.  I was very happy to see these engagement numbers, as the average "time on site" according to many sources is 2 to 3 minutes.  Those same industry average surveys show that only 20% of websites have average visit times of over 5 minutes, and only 3-4% of sites have visit times of over 15 minutes.  So apparently, you're finding the tools to be quite useful!

        The final question I asked was "Overall, how satisfied are you with the tool?"  I was very pleased and humbled to see that by far the vast majority of users gave it a 10 score of "Extremely satisfied" or close to it:
        randymajors map tools user satisfaction shows users rated the tools a 10 for extremely satisfied, followed by 9 and 8
        I also asked an open ended question about ideas for improvements to the tools.

        One idea that came up several times was the ability to show townships and township/range/section.   As a result of that idea, I've added both townships to several tools and created a new Township Range on Google Maps tool, discussed here.

        Another idea that came up several times was to make the map window larger.  Since hearing that feedback, I've enlarged the maps considerably.  First, the map tool pages on the website now occupy the full width of your screen (the higher your screen resolution, the more you'll see).  I've also increased the height of the map to go to the bottom of your screen view, which for higher resolution screens, this nearly doubled the height of the map.  Finally, I added an " expand" button in the upper right of most map tools to fully enlarge the map window to your screen width.

        The final idea that was mentioned more than once was the ability to show your current location.  I've added that functionality to most of the maps as well:  just click the " Locate" button in the upper right of the map.  (I wrote about these last two enhancements here.)

        Well, that concludes the user survey and summary of the feedback from it.  But you can always provide feedback via the "Help improve this tool" link found at the bottom of each tool's page, or you can provide feedback directly only to me by using the "Get in touch with Randy Majors" form found on the bottom right of every page on the website.

        Thank you again for the excellent feedback, and I hope to keep improving the tools and adding new ones in the future as well!

        See for miles and miles...or at least a few more inches

        Probably the most common request I hear is something along the lines of "can you make the map window larger?"

        Well the wait is finally over.  All of the randymajors.com map windows are now optimized to fill more of your screen, no matter what your screen resolution is.

        This update applies to County Lines on Google Maps, City Limits on Google Maps, Township Range on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps, Location Explorer on Google Maps, Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps, Climate Info on Google Maps, Time Zones on Google Maps and Area Codes on Google Maps.

        For those on slightly lower resolution screens, your map window was likely already filling a decent amount of the screen, but for those on higher resolutions, the map window may have been taking up only half of the screen height.

        I've also made the header and top margins smaller on the website, and made the map tool pages fill up the entire screen width.  Hint:  if you want to map even a little larger, you can click the 'expand' button in the upper right of most map windows.

        And finally, on an unrelated note:  In the spirit of a little fun and continuing to expand our geographic horizons, you'll notice that the map tools all open to a different random location each time you go to a tool.  For example, the first time I opened the County Lines on Google Maps tool, it randomly took me to Franklin County, Massachusetts.  The next time I opened it, the map was focused on Thurston County, Washington:

        I thought this would be a fun way to learn about areas we may not be familiar with.

        As usual, once the map opens, you can then go to your place of interest by either typing a place or address in the "Search places" box above the map, or use the zoom tools and explore.

        Also, if you're using the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool, you can now see across multiple state lines at the same time!  The tool will also let you if there is ever an overlapping jurisdictional claim.  Here's the Utah/Colorado border area in 1880:


        Enjoy!





        Are you talking about townships or townships?

        You're in luck either way:

        If you want to map Township/Range/Section, I've just released a new tool called Township Range on Google Maps that maps them all the way down to the quarter quarter section. These townships are part of the Public Land Survey System found in roughly 30 states in the U.S. (which you can read about here).  You can search by address, place, GPS coordinates, or do a reverse find by Section, Township, Range.  They look something like this:
        Section Township Range grid on Google Maps example


        Using the Township Range on Google Maps tool shown above, you can:
        1. Search by address or place using the "Search places" box above the map
        2. Use the "Find parcel" tool on the left side of the map if you have a known Section Township Range you want to map
        3. Just click around the map to see which township, range, section and even quarter and quarter quarter section you clicked in  


        On the other hand, if you want the other type of townships (e.g. the level between county and city in many states) discussed in my last post, they can be found on both the City Limits on Google Maps tool and the County Lines on Google Maps tool by checking the box in the lower left corner of the mapHere's an article on this type of township.  This is an example of this type of township on the map:
        city limits and township boundaries on Google Maps example

        Be sure and read the coverage notes and usage tips below each map tool.

        Hope these are useful in your research!  Feel free to share with anyone you think may find the tools useful.