Good ideas often come from networking
By Nina Brawn
I love getting together with other genealogists. Not only do their eyes not glaze over when I start talking, but I nearly always learn something. I’ve been at this a while (all right, a long while) but I don’t expect, nor hope, to live long enough to know it all. (Please don’t tell my family I admitted that I don’t know it all.)
So, even though I am supposed to be the teacher, in my latest class, one of my students gave me a great idea. It surprised me because I thought I had already considered all the many ways that maps can be put to good use in genealogy. In fact I recently attended a workshop about the subject at the MGS (Maine Genealogical Society) Fall Conference.
I met this student at the Washington County Conference in Machias, so when she said she was interested in taking my adult ed. class in Dover I really never expected to see her. Lo and behold however, Rose French drove all the way from Enfield for my evening class, bad weather, deer, and moose notwithstanding. Now that’s a dedicated genealogist!
Anyway! It turned out that one particular weekend, more than half the class had been out “cemetery-hopping”. I thought that was an odd coincidence until one of my students reminded me that this is Maine, and good weather is disappearing. We were discussing everyone’s adventures and Rose mentioned that she and her husband didn’t know this one town they were going to be exploring. Being a weekend, they couldn’t ask at the town office, so they searched out their 1946 Maine General Highway Atlas, and there, they found all the cemeteries marked! Fabulous! I never even considered it!
That got me thinking of other things which no longer exist – clearly marked on old atlases. The great thing about locally produced road maps is 1. how frequently they were produced compared to other maps; and 2. how much more locally accurate they tend to be! Lots of bonuses in this hint. Thank you Rose!
Now I have something new to look for when I go to flea markets, stop at yard sales, or browse Ebay. Old road atlases can show you lots of landmarks in your ancestor’s hometown that have long since disappeared. It may solve for you the mystery of why your ancestor built in a now deserted area, when you see that there “used to be” a bridge, church, road or other structure which would have made the area appealing at the time. The other thing is, sometimes with more recent ancestors; their “history” is too new for anyone to have yet bothered to write. There is also usually more competition in the “road atlas market” so the companies which produced them had incentives to try to add a lot of interest to their own particular map.
Old road atlases will allow me a new way of exploring old territory. All-in-all, many very good reasons to consider looking to an “old” road map for a new idea. Once again thanks to Rose and all the others who share their clever ideas!
Editor’s note: Columnist Nina Brawn of Dover-Foxcroft, who has been doing genealogy for over 30 years, is a freelance genealogy researcher, speaker and teacher. Reader e-mails are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Aroostook County Genealogical Society meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Cary Medical Center’s Chan Education Center, 163 Van Buren Road, Caribou, at 6:30 p.m. Guests and prospective members are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.