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Showing posts from 2020

AD-FREE FULLSCREEN Map and Search Tools Now Available Using Any Major Credit or Debit Card

Now you can get access to ad-free fullscreen map and search tools by making a small monthly contribution using any major credit or debit card.  A PayPal account is no longer required (but you may optionally use one if you wish).

Once you click the "Contribute" button, as shown below, you'll be taken to a page hosted on PayPal to process the transaction:  


On that page, you can either login and pay via PayPal or you can click the "Pay with Debit or Credit Card", shown here: 




I hope this is a useful option for the many people who have asked me about this.

Happy mapping and searching!


Create a custom area map based on a list of States or ZIP Codes

The Custom Areas using ZIP Codes tool has been enhanced so you can also use U.S. States to define your custom area map.

This can be useful to show:
  • service area maps
  • sales territory maps
  • delivery area maps
  • other custom area map of any topic defined by States or ZIP Codes
To build a map based on states, create a URL like the following:

Here's what the above map looks like:

You can take a screenshot of the static map to include it on your own website, and also create a link like this to let your website users go to an interactive Google Map:  Click to see My Business Coverage Area

Of course you can also still define your custom area map based on ZIP Codes


To create a custom delivery area, service area, or sales territory map based on a list of ZIP Codes, use this form:  Custom Areas using ZIP Codes - Create Map Form.  

For easy use, note that you can draw a custom shape on the map to define your custom area by using the option outlined below:
Create custom area using ZIP Codes on Google Maps

Just draw the area on the map above the form, then click the Finished Map Link to see the results.

Happy mapping!

Option to show businesses, attractions and other points of interest on all map tools

The map tools on randymajors.com start with a clean map, such as this from the What City Am I In? map tool, where city names and neighborhood names appear:

What City Am I In map tool

Now you can choose to show points of interest, businesses, attractions and more by clicking the POI button in the upper right corner of the map.  When you click the button, Google's default place listings appear, with attractions typically showing first, as shown below.

What City Am I In map tool with POIs


As you zoom in further, more points of interest, businesses and more will appear.  Current place information (such as temporary closures, etc.) appears with the label.  Click the label for more detailed information and to pop open a place listing in Google Maps.

What City Am I In POIs detail

To get back to a clean map, just click either the Map or Satellite button in the upper right corner.

The POI button is now available on all randymajors.com map tools.


Easier Sign In to randymajors.com Ad-Free Fullscreen Map and Search Tools

Thanks to a suggestion from a user, it is now much easier to login to the Ad-Free Fullscreen Map and Search tools on randymajors.com Research Hub.

Rather than having to hunt for a little Login link at the bottom of each tool, you can simply click the "Sign In or Join" button in the upper right corner of any page on randymajors.com.  It looks like this:


Once you click the Sign In or Join button, just click the "Sign in with Google" button that appears:

After signing in, you'll be taken to the ad-free fullscreen version of the map tool you were currently using.  To use other tools, click the "Map & Search Tools" button in the upper right, or click the randymajors.com logo in the upper left to view posts, tips and other content.

Hope that makes it a little quicker and easier to sign in!

Learn more about the Ad-Free, Full-Screen Map and Search tools hereAd-Free Fullscreen Map and Search Tools here.

Historical US Counties on Google Maps enhanced to match Census dates, adds townships

With Census season upon us, I've made a little update to the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool.

Now, when you search for a year that was also a U.S. Federal Census year (e.g. 1790-2020) , the date will automatically set to the day of the Census that year.

Per the Census Bureau, "From 1790 to 1820, the censuses were conducted as of the first Monday in August (August 2, 1790; August 4, 1800; August 6, 1810; August 7, 1820); the 1830-1880 and 1900 censuses were as of June 1; the 1890 census was as of June 2; April 15 was Census Day in 1910; and the 1920 census was as of January 1. Since 1930, Census Day has been April 1."  Yes, since 1930, Census Day is April Fool's Day...do with that what you will ;)

So, for example, if you're using the Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension for Ancestry and FamilySearch, and happen to search a Census year, your map will open up linked to the correct census date, so you know you're searching in the correct county for that ancestor in that year!

(See Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker overview and complete write-up, and join the nearly 1,000 people who have downloaded it for free here since its release a few weeks ago)

Here's an example searching on Ancestry for a Robert Jones living in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois in 1820.

First, you'll be surprised/indifferent/relieved to see that the Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker correctly tells you that Sangamon County did NOT exist in 1820, together with a handy link so you can see what DID exist! By the way, I didn't type Sangamon County in the Search form, Ancestry's auto-complete menu suggested it.  (see Auto-Checker screenshot below)

Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker 1820 example

Click the "View MAP of 1820 Illinois counties" link in the Auto-Checker, and you'll get a new tab showing you historical counties from that year, centered on Springfield!

First, you'll notice that Springfield was in Madison County, Illinois that year!  (No, Springfield didn't move...the county lines did.)

Next, you'll notice that the date is set to 8/7/1820 since that's when the Census was taken that year.  (see map screenshot below)
Springfield IL in 1820

By the way, of course you can search on any exact date in the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool, but if you just type a four-digit year and it's a federal census year, the date will default to the Census date that year!

And bonus for reading this far:  

In the lower left corner of the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool, you now have a checkbox to "Also show US townships".   Those are present-day township lines, but they often will align with historical township names and provide additional local context.  Here's what it shows if we click around Pleasant Plains just west of Springfield:

Springfield now Sangamon County


As shown above, Pleasant Plains is in Cartwright township.  Also, in the above example, I've checked "Also show present-day county lines", so we can be relieved to see this really is where Sangamon County is today!

Happy searching and mapping!

Have a small business? Quickly create a DELIVERY AREA MAP for free on Google Maps

During this challenging time for small businesses, here's an easy way to quickly create a DELIVERY AREA MAP for free on Google Maps.

Tool just updated:  Now it's easier than ever to create your custom delivery area map based on ZIP Codes by using this simple form found here:

Custom Delivery Areas on Google Maps

Hope this can help a few more small businesses through this time.

Snapshot of the form and map:

Free resource to help retailers, restaurants & small businesses closed due to SaH/SiP

During this challenging time for small businesses, this free online resource may help some small businesses amidst the current Stay-at-Home/Shelter-in-Place orders.

For retailers, restaurants and other small businesses that have had to close due to SaH/SiP orders, delivery of their goods directly to customers is an option many are doing or considering to help them get through this.  But a pain-point can be that communicating to customers exactly where they can deliver can be cumbersome or costly, and small business owners don’t have time right now to deal with this.

Easily let customers know where you can deliver!

To that end, I have a well-established tool that many small businesses are using for this purpose.  The tool enables a business to easily show a custom-defined map depicting a delivery/service area based on a list of ZIP CodesCustom Territories using ZIP Codes on Google Maps.

Here’s an example of one of the small businesses using my tool (I have no affiliation with this business, it’s just an example).  On their website, they show their delivery area:

Example of ZIP Codes based delivery area
In this example, this small business simply created a “Launch Map” button that is a link to my Custom Territories using ZIP Codes tool.  The button is simply a link that includes a list of ZIP Codes and a map title like this

Interactive Zip Code based delivery area exampleNote this retailer decided to include a map on their website, but that is not required…it can be as simple as a small link pointing to a ZIP Code list as shown above.  When the customer clicks the link or button, they get an interactive, zoomable, searchable Google Map like this (click the image to see the interactive Google map):

Without this free resource, the ability to create a ZIP Code based delivery area map can be very cumbersome or costly.  This tool makes it super easy (and free!).

Tool just updated:  Now it's easier than ever to create your custom delivery area map based on ZIP Codes by using this simple form found here:

Custom Delivery Areas on Google Maps 



A lot of people seem to do a Google search for 'Create territory map with ZIP Codes free'.  This is how to do just that!  To zoom to one or multiple ZIP Codes, and optionally show their boundary (e.g. for a service territory, sales territory or delivery area), see instructions here:

Custom Territories using ZIP Codes on Google Maps

By the way, if you or someone you know wants to use this, just do so...no need to ask permission or anything first!  But of course, if you need help, feel free to use the contact form on the lower left side of this website.

During this challenging time, if this free tool helps even one small business maintain customers and keep their business going, my effort to create and maintain this free resource will have been more than worth it.


Let this FREE tool do the location work for you as you search on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org



U.S. county boundaries have changed over 17,600 times since America was settled in colonial times. Don’t sabotage your search for ancestors by not knowing the correct county for the historical years you are researching.

While searching on Ancestry or FamilySearch, the free Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker extension for Google Chrome automatically checks that the county existed in the year you are searching, warns of boundary changes, and links to historical county lines on Google Maps for the place and years you are searching!


Install for free today and never let an ancestor fall of the map again!



For a step-by-step example of how the tool works, check out this post:  Ancestor fall off the map? Use this FREE Chrome extension for Ancestry or FamilySearch to find them!

Note, this is the first version of this tool, so if you find any bugs or issues, please contact me on the form on the lower left side of this page.  And if you find it useful, please leave a rating or review on the chrome web store.



Ancestor fall off the map? Use this FREE Chrome extension for Ancestry and FamilySearch to help find them!

It's been a long time in the making...so I'm excited to finally make this Chrome extension available!  Here's a run-down on what the Chrome extension does and why it's important for your searches on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

Are you unknowingly sabotaging your searches on Ancestry and FamilySearch?

When searching on Ancestry.com, don’t be lulled into complacency by the convenient “City, County, State…” autocomplete dropdown menus like this one:

Searching in Denver County for James Smith b1850 in 1880 US Census on Ancestry

Why?  Because the county listed in the drop-down may not be right!  The county may not have existed in the year you are searching...or boundaries may have changed.  (Keep reading...county boundaries have changed over 17,600 times in the U.S.!)  How can you know if this is a problem you're facing?

SOLUTION:  The new Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension will automatically alert you as you type a place and year.  In the example below, see the warning that Denver County did not exist in 1880!


You can then click the MAP link to determine exactly what County you SHOULD be searching in for the year you are searching.  The map will open in a new browser tab, center on the State you are searching and the historic boundaries for the year you are searching will draw.  Click around the map to explore or use the Search Places box above the map to go directly to a city, such as Denver, CO in this example:


SO, Denver was located in Arapahoe County, Colorado in 1880!

Why does this matter?  Let’s find out:

Search results for James Smith born 1850 in Denver using only Ancestry’s autocomplete dropdown (where is he?!?):
Using the information from the MAP link in the Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension, now go back and edit your search to the CORRECT county (Ancestry’s autocomplete may not show you a hint for “Denver, Arapahoe County…” but be stubborn and type it anyway!):
Search for James Smith in Denver, Arapahoe County in 1880

The Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension now tells you that Arapahoe County is a valid county, formed in 1861 and its boundaries changed 2x between formation and 1880.  (If you’re curious and want to see the boundary changes, just click the MAP link).

Now, click Search and your new results appear (there he is!):


So James Smith born about 1850 DOES reside in Denver in 1880!  We just needed to know Denver was part of Arapahoe County in 1880!


How many times has not knowing the correct county kept you from finding a record for your ancestors? 

Probably more that you thought:  U.S. county boundaries have changed over 17,600 times since America was settled in colonial times.  Don’t sabotage your search for ancestors by not knowing the correct county for the historical year you are researching.

Search with confidence:  The Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension makes use of the award-winning randymajors.com Research Hub’s Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool, underpinned with the complete dataset of the authoritative Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.

With the Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension, now you can easily know about county search errors and explore county boundary changes.  And with that knowledge you may very well find new records that were “hidden” on Ancestry or FamilySearch all along!

Installation Instructions

Click the "Add to Chrome" button to install.  (You may see a standard confirmation window that states that the extension can “Read and change your data on www.ancestry.com or www.familysearch.org”.  Rest assured that the Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension ONLY reads the place and year fields and shows the county information as shown in the screenshots above; it absolutely DOES NOT make any changes to your data whatsoever.  No logins or email addresses are required to use the extension!)  

Instructions are available at both the installation link as well as in a popup that appears when you first install it.  But I think you'll find it incredibly easy to use, as you don't have to do anything different than you normally do when searching on Ancestry and FamilySearch...the county information box just automatically appears as you type places and years in all of the search boxes! 

Note, this is the first version of this tool, so if you find any bugs or issues, please contact me on the form on the lower left side of this page.  And if you find it useful, please leave a rating or review on the chrome web store.

Happy searching!

New map tool shows Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place & Stay-at-Home Orders on Google Maps

In an effort to try to provide useful information during this trying time, I've been working to maintain an up-to-date interactive map showing all Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place & Stay-at-Home Orders on Google Maps in the US.

The map overlays all U.S. jurisdictions with Shelter-in-Place* or Stay-at-Home* Orders currently in effect or imminent due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

Below is a screenshot of the tool, but I encourage you to go to the live map to ensure you're seeing the latest updates.


As with all map tools on this website, you can zoom in and see the relevant county lines, city limits, townships and more.

* While the term "Shelter-In-Place" or "Stay-At-Home" is not precisely accurate, they are the terms being most widely used for jurisdictions where all but essential activities outside the home are currently outlawed.  In general, the exceptions include essential workers, medical necessity, getting groceries and recreational activities such as running, walking and hiking where at least 6 feet social distance is maintained.


If you are aware of an current or imminent Shelter-in-Place or Stay-at-Home order that is not represented on the map tool, please let me know in the comments of this post, along with a link to a reputable government or news website with the announcement.

Please feel free to share if you know of others who would find this useful.

Stay healthy!

New feature: DRAW ANY SHAPE on the map to reveal all of the Counties, ZIP Codes, Cities, Townships and more

With all of the Map tools on the randymajors.com Research Hub, you've always been able to click on the map to know what ZIP Code, city, county or Section Township and Range that you clicked on.

Now with this latest version of the map tools, you can DRAW ANY SHAPE and identify what's there! Here are the simple steps:

    New Drawing Tools button on randymajors Research Hub
    New Drawing Tools on randymajors Research Hub
  1. Click the "Drawing Tools..." button on the left side of the map
  2. Select the shape you want to draw (line, custom polygon or rectangle) in the upper left corner
  3. Draw any shape on the map and double-click the map when you're done 

Here's an example in which I drew a polygon to report on ZIP Codes around Sioux City, Iowa:


See that "Results" box that pops up over the map window?  It reports ALL of the features that the shape you drew touches. So in this example, we have all of the ZIP Codes that my drawn polygon touches.

These new drawing tools work on all of the map tools to select the appropriate main topic of the tool:  countiesZIP CodescitiesSection Township and Rangehistorical U.S. countiesTime Zones, and Area Codes

Copy the Results into another program

If you have some sort of a database, spreadsheet or document, you can easily paste the list of ZIP Codes into that other program.  Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Click inside the Results box that lists the ZIP Codes
  2. Type Ctrl+A to select all of the ZIP Codes
  3. Type Ctrl+C to copy them to your clipboard
  4. Open your other program and either type Ctrl+V or choose Paste from the appropriate menu
When you're done, just click the "EXIT DRAWING" button on the left side of the map.

Create a pdf of your map, including the shape you drew!

Now that you know how to draw a shape on the map, you might want to create a pdf or screenshot of your completed masterpiece.  Let's say you're drawing a parcel of land based on a Section, Township and Range land description.  Follow these steps:
  1. Draw the shape on the map using the Drawing Tools as described above (TIP:  If you need to adjust the shape after you draw it, click the Hand button highlighted in the upper left of the map)
  2. In a few moments, the Results window will appear over the map listing each unique Section Township Range your shape touched.  Click the "CLOSE" button on the Results box so you can see the map.
  3. To create a pdf file of your map, right-click in the light-blue title bar at the top of the map (highlighted below), and choose "Print..." as shown below.
Print a pdf from the randymajors map tools

In the resulting Print preview window that appears, change the "Print Destination" to "Save as pdf".  (If the map doesn't appear quite right, you can try changing from Portrait to Landscape or go back and make your map window smaller and Print again).  

Another option for getting a map into another program is just to click the PrtScr (PrintScreen) key on your keyboard, and then open your other program (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, your blog) and Paste.  That's how I get all these maps in to these blog posts!

Have fun with these powerful new drawing and reporting tools!

Try this one search to find the People Search sites that have YOUR private info, plus links to remove it

Does doing a Google search for your name turn up a ton of results from those annoying people search websites?  Now you can easily find which websites have your private information, and follow links to have your information deleted.  It's easy and it's free.

Just go to PeopleSearch on Google Search, type your name and location (e.g. city or state) and choose "INCLUDE ONLY search results from people search sites" and the click the "Run Full Google Search" button.  The page looks like this:


You can view the full description of the new functionality below the PeopleSearch tool under the heading "NEW!  How to Filter Search Results from People Search sites and Social Media sites".

What People Search sites are searched?

These are the people search sites searched by PeopleSearch, listed roughly in order or traffic ranking according to Alexa:

whitepages.com, beenverified.com, zoominfo.com, mylife.com, spokeo.com, truepeoplesearch.com, instantcheckmate.com, clustrmaps.com, truthfinder.com, fastpeoplesearch.com, peoplefinders.com, rocketreach.co, apollo.io, intelius.com, owler.com, usphonebook.com, peekyou.com, peoplelooker.com, radaris.com, smartbackgroundchecks.com, pipl.com, familytreenow.com, searchpeoplefree.com, checkpeople.com, thatsthem.com, 411.com, advancedbackgroundchecks.com, ussearch.com, anywho.com, zabasearch.com, peoplesearchnow.com, xlek.com, publicrecords.directory, peoplebyname.com, checkthem.com, veripages.com, peoplesmart.com, findpeoplesearch.com, dobsearch.com, people-background-check.com, fullnamedirectory.com, phoneowner.com, publicrecords360.com, backgroundcheck.run, publicrecords.com

For your convenience, I've added links in the "How to Filter Search Results" section of PeopleSearch that will take you directly to the opt-out page of each people search site where you can request to have your information removed


TIP:  You can also Include or Exclude Social Media sites in your search

These are the social media sites searched by PeopleSearch, listed roughly in order or traffic ranking according to Alexa:

youtube.com, facebook.com, baidu.com, qq.com, wikipedia.org, amazon.com, reddit.com, instagram.com, twitter.com, stackoverflow.com, linkedin.com, github.com, whatsapp.com, tumblr.com, medium.com, stackexchange.com, pinterest.com, messenger.com, quora.com, tripadvisor.com, skype.com, yelp.com, tiktok.com, nextdoor.com, wechat.com, snapchat.com, qzone.com


Online privacy is a concern, and I hope this enhancement makes it a little bit easier to find your private information on the internet...and have it removed if you want to.  

Please feel free to share with anyone who might find this helpful, and leave me comments if you feel there are relevant people search sites or social media sites I have overlooked.

Happy searching!

Now AncestorSearch can cut through the muck of all of those annoying People Search sites

Does doing a Google search for your ancestors turn up a ton of results from those annoying People Search websites?  Now you can easily INCLUDE or EXCLUDE those websites from your search based on a new enhancement to AncestorSearch on Google Search!

Now you can filter your AncestorSearch search results to EXCLUDE or to INCLUDE ONLY search results from major people search sites and social media sites.  The options look like this:
AncestorSearch and PeopleSearch Filter Search Results options

You can view the full description of the new functionality below the AncestorSearch tool under the heading "NEW!  How to Filter Search Results from People Search sites and Social Media sites".

What People Search sites are searched?

These are the people search sites searched by AncestorSearch, listed roughly in order or traffic ranking according to Alexa:

whitepages.com, beenverified.com, zoominfo.com, mylife.com, spokeo.com, truepeoplesearch.com, instantcheckmate.com, clustrmaps.com, truthfinder.com, fastpeoplesearch.com, peoplefinders.com, rocketreach.co, apollo.io, intelius.com, owler.com, usphonebook.com, peekyou.com, peoplelooker.com, radaris.com, smartbackgroundchecks.com, pipl.com, familytreenow.com, searchpeoplefree.com, checkpeople.com, thatsthem.com, 411.com, advancedbackgroundchecks.com, ussearch.com, anywho.com, zabasearch.com, peoplesearchnow.com, xlek.com, publicrecords.directory, peoplebyname.com, checkthem.com, veripages.com, peoplesmart.com, findpeoplesearch.com, dobsearch.com, people-background-check.com, fullnamedirectory.com, phoneowner.com, publicrecords360.com, backgroundcheck.run, publicrecords.com

What Social Media sites are searched?

These are the social media sites searched by AncestorSearch, listed roughly in order or traffic ranking according to Alexa:

youtube.com, facebook.com, baidu.com, qq.com, wikipedia.org, amazon.com, reddit.com, instagram.com, twitter.com, stackoverflow.com, linkedin.com, github.com, whatsapp.com, tumblr.com, medium.com, stackexchange.com, pinterest.com, messenger.com, quora.com, tripadvisor.com, skype.com, yelp.com, tiktok.com, nextdoor.com, wechat.com, snapchat.com, qzone.com


TIP:  Concerned about your privacy?  

Use the "INCLUDE ONLY search results from people search sites" option to find our what people search sites have your personal information.  To search, it's typically best to start by typing just First Name, Last Name and Place (e.g. city or state). You can also type a 4-digit year or an age into the Year box, and choose "Exact" if you're getting too many results.

For your convenience, I've added links in the How to Filter Search Results section of AncestorSearch that will take you directly to the opt-out page of each people search site where you can request to have your information removed

Want it all?

And remember, if you want AncestorSearch to give you ALL Google search results, just leave the "Filter Search Results" set to its default setting of "Do not filter search results."


I hope this enhancement makes it even easier to better hone your search!  Please feel free to share with anyone who might find this helpful, and leave me comments if you feel there are relevant people search sites or social media sites I have overlooked.

Happy searching!

Create a link to a map of ANY Section, Township and Range, including your CURRENT location

If you have a website that makes use of legal land descriptions, now you can quickly create a link to a map centered on any Section, Township and Range.  Or if you are traveling looking at large land parcels, you can see what Township, Range and Section you are currently* in.

This is an advanced capability of the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool.

To zoom into a particular Section, Township and Range, create a link such as this:

https://www.randymajors.com/p/township-range-on-google-maps.html?state=CO&s=15&t=4&td=N&r=69&rd=W

Clicking this link takes you to this map:

Map of Section 15, Township 4 North, Range 69 West, Colorado

TIP: copy/paste the link above and customize to suit your needs

The parameters you can use are as follows:
      • state - REQUIRED FIELD.  Expects a two character state abbreviation, such as ?state=CO
      • s - Optionally include a particular section number, such as &s=15 (if not included, the map will center on the entire township and range) 
      • t - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Township number, such as &t=4 
      • td - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Township direction indicator and must be N, S, E or W, such as &td=N
      • r - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Range number, such as &r=69 
      • rd - REQUIRED FIELD.  This is the Range direction indicator and must be E, W, N or S, such as &rd=W
      • 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)
      • title - optionally creates a title for the map, such as &title=Sec+15+T4N+R69W+CO

      To zoom to your PRESENT* Section, Township and Range, create a link such as this:

      https://www.randymajors.com/p/township-range-on-google-maps.html?loc=true&color=00EE00&title=My+Current+Township+Range+Section

      The parameters you can use are as follows:
          • loc - REQUIRED FIELD.  Expects to be set to true in order to use your current location, such as ?loc=true
          • 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)
          • title - optionally creates a title for the map, such as &title=My+Current+Township+Range+Section

          A few important things to make this work:

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

          TIP:  For simplicity, you can drop the https://www from the front

          Your current location is typically more accurate on smartphones and other devices containing a GPS; desktop browsers typically show an approximate location.


          Happy mapping!

          AncestorSearch Alert: Your ancestor is long gone, but Google may find something new tomorrow!

          According to an internet study, Google is adding an average of 68 MILLION new web pages to its search index EVERY DAY!

          What if one of those new pages contains a mention of your ancestor?

          Think of all of the possibilities:  new archives coming online all the time, old books and newspapers being scanned, people writing genealogy blog posts, newly indexed records becoming searchable...and so much more.  So how do you make sure you don't miss something important?

          To make it easier to remain informed about new pages that contain a mention of your ancestor, you can now SET A GOOGLE ALERT in the AncestorSearch on Google Search tool.  After you fill out your search on AncestorSearch, just click the "Set Google Alert" button near the bottom of the tool:


          AncestorSearch on Google Search Set Google Alert

          Here's a quick example

          Let's say you want to be informed everytime someone mentions the marriage of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks.  Here's how to do it:

          1. Fill out the information in AncestorSearch as shown (learn how AncestorSearch focuses your search results):

          AncestorSearch on Google Search Thomas Lincoln example.png

          2. Click the "Run Full Google Search" just be sure your search is behaving as expected.  Close the tab that opened with the search results so that you can go back to AncestorSearch.

          3. If all looks good with the search, now you can click the "Set Google Alert" button at the bottom of the tool.

          4. The Google Alerts window appears, where you can customize the alert options, including how often you want to receive update (as-it-happens, at most daily, at most weekly), search sources (automatic, news, blogs, web, books, discussions, etc), language, region, how many (only the best results, all results), and delivery options (e-mail address, RSS feed).  Here's what the Google Alerts setup window looks like:

          AncestorSearch Google Alerts setup

          5. Once you're done setting your Alert options, just click the "Create Alert" button, and you're good to go!  If you ever want to alter or delete the Google Alert, just go to https://www.google.com/alerts and make any changes.

          Remember, AncestorSearch uses the full power of Google, it's just a timesaver and keeps you from having to type awkward symbols and syntax into Google Search, like this:

          "thomas lincoln"|"lincoln, thomas" "nancy hanks"|"hanks, nancy" 1804|1805|1806|1807|1808 marriage|married|marriages|wedding|wed|marry|intention

          I hope this addition helps you keep uncovering more and more new old information on your ancestors!

          If you find this helpful, please share it with your friends!  And maybe I'll see you at RootsTech 2020 next week!


          Which U.S. states have which levels of local government...and why should I care?

          This topic is more complicated than it sounds, so I'll attempt to keep it high level.

          Whether you're doing present-day or historical research about a place, it's important to know which levels of local government exist in the state you are researching (e.g. counties, cities, townships).  Why should you care?

          • It may determine which place houses the records you're looking for
          • The exact location often determines which local taxes are levied and which local laws are applicable 
          • It determines who has jurisdiction for a given location (e.g. police, sheriff, etc.)
          In addition to providing some definitions, I'll also point you to the Google Map tools on this website that map each level of local government.

          What is Township and Range?

          I'll get this one out of the way first, as it's often a source of confusion. "Township and range" is NOT a form of local government (not to be confused with "civil townships", covered later).  Instead, "township and range (and section)" is used to establish boundaries for land ownership in many states.  "Township and range" may also be called a "survey township", and is part of the Public Land Survey System (also called the Rectangular Survey System).  Use the Section Township Range on Google Maps tool to explore "township and range."  

          Shaded in red below are the states that use the "township and range" system (plus Alaska):
          Map of U.S. states that use Township and Range
          Map of the U.S. states that use Township and Range

          What are counties?

          OK, after that jumble of terms, let's move on to the easiest form of local government below the state level:  counties.  According to Wikipedia, a county is "an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority."  Counties exist in all 50 U.S. states (except it can't be that simple:  rather than counties, Louisiana has parishes and Alaska has boroughs).  

          Use the County Lines on Google Maps tool to see present-day counties or the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool to explore historical county boundaries for any historical date.  Use the What County Am I In Right Now tool to find out what county you're standing in.  

          Here is a map showing all counties in the lower 48 states:
          Map of U.S. showing county lines
          Map of the U.S. showing county lines

          What are townships?

          "Townships" (also called "civil townships") are "a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county. The term town is used in New England, New York, and Wisconsin to refer to the equivalent of the civil township in these states. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state." (Michigan uses "charter townships" instead.)  "Civil townships" are not to be confused with "township and range," explained above.  

          Several tools on this website show "civil townships" by checking the "show townships" checkbox in the lower left of these map toolsCity Limits on Google Maps, County Lines on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps, and Elevation on Google Maps.  Use the What Township Am I In tool to see what township you're presently standing in.  Be sure and read about the "Class Codes" described below the city limits map tool for exceptions to what is shown when you view "townships".  

          Shaded in green below are the states that have active "civil townships" (several other states, not shown here, have inactive townships, meaning they don't serve a local government purpose):
          Map of U.S. showing active civil townships
          Map of the U.S. showing active civil townships

          What is a City and what are City Limits?

          So as to not continue down a rabbit hole, this will be the last form of local government described. 

          Cities typically refer to "incorporated places", which are "a type of governmental unit incorporated under state law as a city, town (except the New England states, New York, and Wisconsin), borough (except in Alaska and New York), or village, and having legally prescribed limits, powers, and functions. Requirements for incorporation vary widely among the states."

          "City limits" refers to the defined boundary or border of a city.  When a city adds new land into the city limits, that is referred to as annexation.  Further quoting from Wikipedia, "property within a city limit is subject to city taxation and city regulation, and expects city services. Areas outside any city's limit are considered to be unincorporated, and in most U.S. states they are by default regulated and taxed by the county. In others, areas outside a city's limit fall within another type of local government, such as the civil township." 

          The main tool to see city limits is City Limits on Google Maps, although several other tools have a checkbox in the lower left to show "city limits".  To check if you're currently standing in the city limits, use the Am I In City Limits tool.  

          Shaded in blue below is a map of all "city limits" (aka "incorporated places" discussed here):
          Map of U.S. showing city limits
          Map of the U.S. showing city limits of incorporated places

          Despite this article being over 800 words long, I've attempted to keep my promise of keeping this high level :)  But it can be a complicated topic:  For instance, as you can see from the above maps, there are many states that have both "township and range" and "civil townships", while there are other states that have neither.  

          There are hundreds if not thousands of details and exceptions to the above definitions, and they vary from state to state.  At a minimum, hopefully this article helps explain which map tools to use on this website to view the various levels of local government (plus township and range).

          Feel free to point out important exceptions to the above definitions in the comments section below.


          So...what is randymajors.com Research Hub anyway?

          "So what is your website all about?"  I increasingly get asked some form of this question about randymajors.com Research Hub.

          A BRIEF BACKSTORY:  Back in 2006-2010, the randymajors.com website was a fairly small collection of blog posts about family history plus some of my photography.  Then, in 2011 I launched the AncestorSearch on Google Search and Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tools primarily aimed at genealogy and historical research.

          FAST FORWARD TO 2018:  I decided to broaden the appeal of the mapping and search tools to a more general audience by launching the present-day County Lines on Google Maps tool.  I continued to get more traction with that tool and added more global coverage.  Then I released ZIP Codes on Google Maps.  Of course, I continue to write genealogy how-to/tips articles as well, and enhance the genealogy tools.

          Finally, in 2019, I opened the floodgates and launched a whole slew of mapping and search tools including:
          In 2019, I also launched the ability to:

          GIVEN ALL THIS, WHAT IS THE COMMON THREAD RUNNING THOUGH THE randymajors.com WEBSITE?

          In a word:  RESEARCH

          randymajors.com Research Hub

          Hence the name randymajors.com Research Hub  


          I created an About randymajors.com Research Hub page to attempt to state my mission and answer the questions I receive most often.  A few excerpts from that page:

          The goal of this website is to make research easier by providing effortless access to publicly available data through familiar, straightforward tools.

          The map tools are built on Google Maps and the search tools use Google Search.  Why?
          They're the world's most popular mapping app and search engine, and so very familiar to nearly everyone.

          Why not use Google Maps itself rather than the map tools on this website?  There are many topics not covered by Google Maps that lots of people would like to see included.  This website aims to fill many of those gaps, such as...

          If the data used by the tools on this website is publicly available elsewhere, why use the tools on this website?  In a word, simplicity.  It shouldn't be so cumbersome to see the map you want and the answers you're looking for.  The tools on this website are built so you can get the answers you're looking for with as few clicks and steps as possible.  In most cases, literally one or two clicks.

          No downloads, no installation, no importing/exporting required.  Just go to the tool you want to use based on your topic of interest (e.g. county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes), and either type a place you're interested in or zoom on the map, and you have your answer.
          A special note to all of my long-time users doing genealogy, ancestry and historical research:  NO WORRIES. THIS RESEARCH FOCUS IS VERY MUCH INTENDED TO INCLUDE A FOCUS ON YOU!

          Thanks for your supportive comments and excellent suggestions over the years.  And thank you for sharing the tools with your friends, colleagues and family!



          Now you can get access to an AD-FREE version of AncestorSearch on Google Search too!

          Back in December, I announced a way to get access to all of the map tools AD-FREE and FULL-SCREEN.

          I'm pleased to announce an AD-FREE option is now available for AncestorSearch on Google Search as well!

          The functionality is identical, but with no ads:

          The ad-free versions of the map and search tools are formatted to work equally well on your smartphone or tablet too!

          All the details are on this page:  NEW:  Enjoy ALL of the map and search tools AD-FREE and FULL-SCREEN!

          GOOD NEWS:  If you have already signed up for access to the ad-free map tools, you now automatically have access to the ad-free search tools as well!  Just look for the "Login to Ad-Free Version" link in the lower-left corner of each map and search tool.

          Use your smartphone to instantly know what City, Township and County you are currently in

          Have you tried the What County Am I In? tool?  Using your smartphone, it quickly lets you know what county you are currently in...as in where you are standing or sitting right now.

          And now, the What County Am I In? tool has been enhanced to also let you know what city you are in (if you are inside incorporated city limits), and what township you are in (if you are in a township).

          When you go to the tool's web page (https://www.randymajors.com/p/what-county-am-i-in.html), you'll see a map like the following, and the listing of the city, township and county you are presently in:
          What County Am I In?

          In the above, county lines are also shown, and if you check the options in the lower left, you can also see the township boundaries and city limits on the map:
          What Township Am I In

          What City Am I In?


          When you first use the tool, you will likely get asked for permission to use your current location, like this:

          For the tool to function, you must allow permission to know your location.  (Note, your location is not stored by this website, but only used once to determine your city, township and county.)

          There are a number of reasons why knowing your current county (or city or township) may be useful, including:

          • determining if you're in your county-based sales territory (or city or township)
          • recording city, township and county information when conducting field research
          • performing volunteer/emergency work
          • determining jurisdiction
          • calculating the correct sales tax
          • noting the city, township and county when doing various hobbies such as geocaching


          This is evidently a pretty popular question, as Google search console shows thousands of people seeing this website listed in their search results when they search for:

          • what/which county am i in
          • what township am in in
          • what county am i in now
          • am i in the city limits
          • am i within the city limits


          Details:  The location is based on your smartphone's GPS location, and will typically be more accurate when you have both cellular service and WiFi turned on.  Of course, the tool should not be used for legal or land survey purposes, but it's a quick and easy way to check jurisdictions with reasonable accuracy.