16 September 2018

County Lines on Google Maps adds coverage for Australia

If you're Australian or familiar with Australian government hierarchy (which I wasn't!), the first thing you may ask is what is a "county" in Australia, as it evidently doesn't exist.

According to Wikipedia, "Unlike Canada or the United States, there is only one level of government in each state, with no distinction such as cities and counties."  Instead, Australia uses Local Government Areas (LGAs).

So now the County Lines on Google Maps tool includes all of the Australian LGA boundaries!

Here's a snapshot from the southeastern part of Australia, with the city and state name for the red marker displayed at the bottom of the map:

For reference, the following is a list of the types of Australian Local Government Areas.  All of the boundaries of these Australian LGAs can be displayed on the County Lines on Google Maps tool:

- Aboriginal Councils
- Areas
- Boroughs
- Cities
- District Councils
- Municipalities
- Regional Councils
- Rural Cities
- Shires
- Towns

Hope you find this addition useful!  Feel free to leave comments or suggestions below, and share the tool with your Australian friends.

15 September 2018

Noteworthy enhancements to County Lines on Google Maps tool

I've just updated the new County Lines on Google Maps tool to include a few noteworthy enhancements:

1.  You can now view counties across multiple states at the same time.  This can be especially useful if you're exploring an area near a state line, as shown below.  The county and state name is displayed at the bottom of the map.

2.  Once you've typed in your initial place of interest, you can then click around the map to display other counties, or type a new place if you prefer.  The performance speed for doing all of this has been improved considerably.

And, as mentioned in a recent post:

(If you're looking for Historical U.S. County Boundaries, that tool can be found here.)

Feel free to share with anyone you think would find this tool useful, and leave any comments or enhancement suggestions below.

13 September 2018

County Lines across the pond - UK and Ireland coverage added

Thanks to many of you for the great feedback on my new County Lines on Google Maps tool!

Several of you commented (or lamented) at the UK and Ireland not being included.  So now they are!

Note that in the UK and Northern Ireland, you will see a combination of Counties and Local Government Areas; for Ireland you will see counties.

Here are a couple of screenshots:

As before, to get started just type any place name (just as you would in Google Maps) and click Go!  You can then type another name, zoom in, click in another county, and so on.

I hope you find these additions useful!

Note: Within the UK, England displays Counties, Scotland and Wales display Parliament Electoral Regions, and Northern Ireland displays Local Government Districts.

30 August 2018

Here's how you can see County Lines in Google Maps

I know most readers of this blog are mostly interested in genealogy and historical research.

But did you ever notice that Google Maps doesn't display U.S. county lines at all? Not even current boundaries, let alone historical!

Sure enough, try it...best you can do is to get one county boundary to draw at a time by searching for that county in Google Maps. Like this, where I searched for "Park County, CO":

Well, what if you want to see all of the current county lines in Google Maps?

You can now, by using this free web page that I created: County Lines on Google Maps
UPDATE:  You can now also view county lines in the UK and Ireland in addition to the US and Canada; plus Australian Local Government Area (LGA) boundaries!

You'll see all the county borders for the state you're looking at, drawn on top of a fully functional Google Map! Feel free to share if you find it useful!

TIP: Enlarge the map to full screen by clicking that button in the upper right corner of the map!

Note: US coverage includes all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
For those looking for historical county boundaries on Google Maps, here it is: Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps

06 March 2018

How you may be sabotaging your search for ancestors...and how to fix it!

OK, let's say you're searching in the 1880 United States Federal Census for an ancestor that you know lived in Denver, Colorado at that time.  The ancestor's name is James Smith and you think he was born sometime around 1850.

Navigating to Ancestry.com's 1880 Federal Census search page, you type the above information into the
search form, as shown at right.  As you start typing "Denver" into the "Lived in" box, Ancestry very kindly offers you suggestions.

You think to yourself, "Why thank you, I'll choose the first option, 'Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA'.  Sounds about right."

You click Search and get the results shown below:

7,611 search results!  Ouch.  And that's with the "Exact" boxes checked next to the First and Last Names as shown above.

So you think, "Hmm, time to edit my search and check some more 'Exact' boxes so I can narrow down my search results."  Since you know your ancestor lived in Denver, you check the "Exact to this place" box, as shown at right.  Assuming this should give you what you're looking for, you click Search.

This masterpiece result is what you get in return:

"Wait, how in the world could there be ZERO results?!", you fume.  "And for a common name like James Smith??"

As you're scratching your head and thinking about engaging Ancestry in a Twitter-storm, you remember something about changing county boundaries that some blogger named Randy Majors seems to drone on about.  You think, "Could that be relevant in this case?  I doubt it because I live in Denver and I know that Denver is in Denver County." 

But something tells you to check anyway.  You go to the free Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool found at randymajors.com/p/maps.html.  Pretty easy, just type "Denver, CO" into the first box below, and "1880" for the year/date and click "Go!"  This is what you see:

"Eureka!", you exclaim.  Or actually "Arapahoe!", since that's the county Denver was a part of in 1880, according to the highlighted box at the bottom of the map.  (Learn more about where this information comes from below the map here.)

Armed with this invaluable sliver of wisdom, you return to the trusty Ancestry 1880 Census search form and edit your search.

This time, you start typing "Denver, Arap..." into the "Lived In" box (and you may or may not get an auto-complete suggestion).  Either way, you stubbornly type the whole thing:  "Denver, Arapahoe County, Colorado, USA" and then check the "Exact to this place" box again, as shown here:

You click Search and hold your breath.

But not for too long, as Ancestry quickly returns a truly beautifully manageable quantity of 10 search results:

Happily finding the James Smith you were looking for, you begin your next search: Robert Johnson, who lived in what is now Chicago in around 1830.  That's Cook County, right?  Ah, but now you can't be fooled!

And lest you think this is a limitation of Ancestry's search, try the same thing at FamilySearch and you will get the same ZERO results for a James Smith born around 1850 if you type "Denver, Denver, Colorado" into the Residence Place box, and you will get around 10 results if you type "Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado".

Technical side-note:  My advice about typing the full place name (with the correct county) in the form "Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado, USA" applies across ALL Search forms, whether you do a global search across the entire Ancestry website or a search within a specific Collection.  So even searching within the 1880 US Federal Census, "Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA" will automatically appear as you start typing "Denver" -- even though Arapahoe County was the only county in which Denver, Colorado existed in 1880. 

So in conclusion, is it necessary to know the correct county name for the place and date you are searching?  Asked and answered (hopefully!) :)

Should you check the historical County information every single time you search?  You probably should if it's the first time you're searching in that area in a given year.  But at a minimum, my suggestion is this:

If you check an "Exact" location box when searching and get either ZERO or other very erratic results, it could very well be that you're looking in the wrong county.  And now you know how to quickly find the right county!  Enjoy!

(And be sure to read the "Quick Tips for Using this Tool" just below the map)