SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2017 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 13 May 2017.

S451, Sara Anne Scribner, CG®, “The Lay of the Land: Using Maps in Genealogical Research”

By Patricia Lee Hobbs, CG®

Sara Scribner, CG, presented “Lay of the Land: Using Maps in Genealogical Research” at the last session of the NGS conference. Sara ably defined and described various map types and demonstrated how problems can be solved using maps.

Sara Anne Scribner, CG

In their quest for the bare-bones vital data, genealogists often ignore historical context provided by maps. Sara reminded them that genealogy standards require broad-context research including consideration of historical boundaries, migration routes, and sources for relevant times and places. Gazetteers, emigrants’ guides, landowner, and other types of maps are among the sources that provide this content. Topographical and soil maps can help us understand why our ancestors might have lived where they did and defined the type of agriculture conducted. Surveyors’ maps may name neighbors who might turn out to be relatives.


Sara described common map elements and explained common problems. We may not realize that maps may have been created with an inherent bias or agenda. Examples of maps from a variety of online repositories were displayed. One of the most interesting was an emigrant guide which gave stops along a common migration trail with distances and travel times.

Sara Scribner’s session is an important lesson that reasonably exhaustive research is incomplete if we neglect this important resource.

A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from Playback Now www.playbackngs.com.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.