Throwback Thursday: On the Map

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

When you’re researching your family’s genealogy or digging a little deeper into local history, there’s a number of helpful resources you can reach for: census records, obituaries, city directories, old newspapers . . .

Still, sometimes you need a source that will help you really picture the time and place you’re learning about. To start, you may want to look at some maps.

Railroad Map Hamilton Map

 Plats (or plat books) divide sections of land up into lots, and show property boundaries and, often, who owned the land at the time. We have several DeKalb County plat books here at the Willennar Genealogy Center, going back to 1920.

Like plats, Sanborn maps show division of land, but they generally go into much, much more detail, because their purpose was different: to assess for fire insurance liability in urban areas. Because of this, Sanborn maps often show individual buildings, as well as measurements, information about building materials, etc. They also feature a street index, as well as a map key and color coding.

You can see Indiana Sanborn maps created prior to 1923 here, at Indiana University’s library website.

Other helpful sources are transportation maps, such as maps detailing railroads or interurban lines. These are interesting to compare to modern city maps, especially when looking at interurban history, since many interurban lines are no longer in existence. For example, did you know that Auburn’s Ensley Street is so wide because an interurban line used to run through that area?

Want to see more local history? Click here to browse our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.


About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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