Create a custom Color-Coded map from a spreadsheet containing Counties or ZIP Codes

The Custom Areas on Google Maps tool is being used by hundreds of people per day to create and view custom delivery area maps, service area maps and sales territory maps -- helping many small businesses during challenging times.

But dozens of people have asked if they could color-code multiple areas on the same map.  For example, people wanted to create a color-coded map to show delivery zones, real estate demand, all of their company's sales territories, tax incentive zones, incident case rates, climate/environmental classifications and more. 

Now you can!

Just go to the new Custom Color-Coded Maps tool and use the easy-to-use form below the map.  Using the form, you can map by:
  • County Names + State Abbreviations (2 columns) or
  • 5-digit ZIP Codes (1 column) or
  • 3-digit ZIP Codes (1 column) -- best for very large regional or national coverage
All you'll need to make the map is a spreadsheet saved in Google Sheets containing the geography you wish to map (e.g. counties, ZIP Codes), the data you want to show (e.g. zone name, salesperson) and the colors you want the map to use.  The map is live-linked to the spreadsheet, so if you change the spreadsheet, those changes will automatically be reflected the next time you view the map web page.

Just go to the form and it will step you through exactly how to do everything.  You can have your custom map up and running in as little as a few minutes.

Sample Maps

Click each map to go to the interactive Google Map and explore.

Map of sales territories based on counties:

Custom Color Coded Map using Counties

Map of delivery zones based on 5-digit ZIP Codes:

Custom Color Coded Map using 5-digit ZIP Codes

Map of health or environmental territories based on 3-digit ZIP Codes:

Custom Color Coded Map using 3-digit ZIP Codes

Be sure to read the entire form so you know how to format the spreadsheet correctly and make it available to be viewed by the map tool.

Please feel free to share this tool with others who might find it useful, and leave any comments below.  As with any first version, the tool will be made more powerful with time.  

Happy mapping!

Note:  The Custom Color-Coded Maps tool is available for U.S. locations only.  Other countries may be added in the future.

Auto-checking of all Location Facts in Ancestry Family Trees now available

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

Now, in addition, if you are a Research Hub contributor, the Auto-Checker will ALSO automatically check all U.S. location facts on person profile pages on all family trees! And your MAP links will open into ad-free fullscreen map windows any time you click a MAP link! 

Auto-Check location facts on all family trees

The screenshot above highlights how the tree fact-checking works on any person profile page on any family tree.  A few key features:

  • Quick links to interactive historical county maps for the year of each fact
  • Warnings if the county listed in your fact did not exist for the year of the fact (plus quick links so you can see what counties did exist in that year)
  • For ambiguous place names, possible matches are listed including map links (e.g. if the same township name exists in multiple places in the state, and you didn't list the county)
  • Once you link to the map page, as a contributor, you'll be working with ad-free full-screen maps that you can further explore the dates and places around your area, including both historical and present-day county lines, township boundaries and more.  Details of exactly when each county formed, what counties it formed out of, statutes and more are listed above the map.

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


FREE version:  While using any Search form on or, the Auto-Checker automatically checks that the county existed in the year you are searching, checks for valid places, warns of boundary changes, and links to historical county lines on Google Maps for the place and years you are searching!

CONTRIBUTOR version:  Everything the free version does PLUS checks all of the U.S. location facts on person profile pages on all family trees.  The check includes everything listed in the bullet points above.  Plus you get access to ad-free fullscreen versions of all map and search tools on  NEW:  You can pause tree fact-checking at any time with the "Pause Auto-Checker" button in the Chrome extension popup.  Note: tree fact-checking is not available for FamilySearch family trees.

The Historical U.S. Counties Auto-Checker Chrome extension makes use of the award-winning 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.

Where It's At: Walking the perimeter of this city = Walking from Philadelphia to Denver

If you were to walk the perimeter of this U.S. city's city limits, you would cover 1,562 miles (2,513 km), which is roughly the same distance as walking from Philadelphia to Denver.*

Here's what that distance looks like:

Philadelphia to Denver

And the answer is:

Houston city limits

Well, of course, Houston.  Isn't everything big in Texas?  The city covers an area of 672 square miles (1,739 sq km), and all those little (big) tendrils shown by the dark blue lines above make its perimeter add up to this whopping 1,562 miles!  Want to zoom in and see the details?  Explore the city limits of Houston here.

So, Houston takes the prize for the longest perimeter of any city in the United States.  If you're curious, #2 is Buckeye, AZ at 646 miles (1,039 km), and #3 is Charleston, SC at 619 miles (997 km).

Bonus trivia:  If Houston has the longest perimeter, does it also have the largest area?  

No.   That distinction goes to Jacksonville, FL at 875 square miles (2,265 sq km).  (If you include boroughs in this calculation, the winner is Sitka, AK at 2,870 sq mi of land area (7,433 sq km))

Want to explore your city?  Check out the What City Am I In? tool on this website.

* this is the "as the crow flies" distance from Philadelphia to Denver.  If you were to actually walk from Philadelphia towards Denver along legal routes, according to Google Maps, you'd make it to about the eastern border of Colorado.


NEW: Share your map with one click

Now available on most map tools on, use the "Share Map..." button to create a shareable link that remembers all of the following:
  • which map tool you are using (e.g. City Limits on Google Maps, Elevation on Google Maps)
  • what point you had clicked on the map (or had searched for using the "Search places" box above the map)
  • how far zoomed in or out you want the map to display
  • optionally, a title for your map
Here's an example, sharing a map from the City Limits on Google Maps tool, centered on Ocala, Florida:

Share Map button on City Limits on Google Maps tool

In this example, I have added a map title where it says "title=" at the end of the text box.  This produces the following link (click to see the finished result):

Or, to make it more pretty, you can title the link and embed the link address, like this (again, click to see the finished result):

And here's another example, showing an elevation contours map centered on the Gangtey Monestery in Bhutan:

Share Map button on Elevation on Google Maps tool

Links for this map:

To use the Share Map button:
  1. open the map tool of your choice in the Map Tools menu in the upper left
  2. center the map where you want it either by clicking the map or using the "Search places" box above the map
  3. zoom in or out on the map using the + and - buttons on the map
  4. click the "Share Map..." button on the left side of the map
  5. right-click the link that appears and click "Copy Link Address" (or, if you want to add a custom title, edit the map title after "title=" in the textbox that appears and then copy the text in the textbox)
  6. paste the link whereever you want to share it (e.g. another website, an email, a blog post, a forum, facebook, twitter etc)

Power tip:  To share maps containing more than just a point, check out the map tools in the Custom Map Tools menu in the upper left corner of the website.  For example, create custom delivery area maps using the Custom Areas using ZIP Codes tool

Hope you find this new functionality useful!

Happy map sharing!

Where It's At: Drop nearly 15,000 feet in just over 85 miles in the Contiguous U.S.

Where It's At is an occasional feature that uses maps to show interesting stuff about our world.  At least interesting to map geeks like me :)

For this inaugural post:  Where can you can drop nearly 15,000 feet of elevation in just over 85 miles in the contiguous United States?

A clue:  these two points also happen to be the highest elevation point and the lowest elevation point in the contiguous U.S.

Mt Whitney to Badwater Basin elevation profile map

And here's the elevation profile along that line:

Mt Whitney to Badwater Basin elevation profile

Note that it's not a nice easy descent along that path, as there are mountain ranges in between.  In fact, let's go the other direction:  if you wanted to (theoretically) walk along that 85 mile path from Badwater Basin to the top of Mt. Whitney, your elevation gain would be about 35,600 feet (that's about 23% higher than Mt. Everest's 29,029 foot elevation!)

Has anybody ever done this?

How-to:  The above maps and facts were created using the Elevation on Google Maps tool, which has worldwide coverage.  On that tool, you can draw an elevation profile by clicking the "Elevation Profile..." button on the left side of the map (double-click to finish drawing your path).  

Power tip:  To export the elevation data from the profile, first expand the chart into its own tab by using the button in the upper right of the chart, then click the "Download CSV" button.  I opened the .csv file into Excel to calculate the elevation gain, which is the sum of elevation increases along your path (elevation gain exclude segments of elevation declines).


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!