Monday, May 23, 2011

Gazetteers and Genealogy - From Ireland to Vermont

World, State, and Town Gazetteers
1808 World Map
Names change, boundary lines shift, and the maps are re-drawn.  Towns and even countries disappear.  Some suggest this practice merely keeps cartographers in business and is intentionally done to ensure genealogical brick walls.  But even this wall, with the correct tool, can be scaled.  Amanda of Geni blog asked if we have used a gazetteer in these types of searches?

To summarize, a Gazetteer is a great geographical genealogical tool offering family researchers historical places and place names assisting the family researcher in finding that allusive ancestor. There are a variety of Gazetteer categories based on your needs, but I find the geographical ones to be most helpful in my early searches.

Take the year  1808, a pivotal year in shaping maps and boundaries, and who can keep it straight? France turned on Spain, there was the Napoleonic Wars to include Britain and France War, 1803-1814 and the Peninsular War 1808-1814 to name a few. And of course the Russo-Swedish War.  This is when Gazetteers can help determine jurisdiction of the land allowing the researcher to pinpoint areas, locations of records, etc. 

World Gazetteers
There are World Gazetteers like that offered by Apple Manor Press. World Gazetteers give listings of countries and helpful statistics.  An 1808 World Gazetteer offers descriptions of empires, kingdoms, states, provinces, cities, etc, with government customs, religion of inhabitants. And a great help to pinpointing lost landmarks by using the longitude and altitude coordinates. As written on Geni blog, these details are great resources to the genealogist. 

Apple Manor Press, dedicated to assist genealogists, reprints books of yesteryear and specializes in "classic local history and genealogy books."  A reprint of the 1808 edition of The New General Gazetteer can be purchased on line.  

State Gazetteers
Like World Gazetteers, State Gazetteers offer the genealogists a great way to pinpoint an ancestor's whereabouts.  The popular and well-known Hemenway's Vermont Historical Gazetteer (1860-1892) references a comprehensive listing of Vermont towns. A few of the towns were excluded like those of Windsor County. This resource offers the researcher hints to churches, schools and jurisdiction of records for given years.  This can be useful in locating vital records or maybe even immigration and naturalization records.  Remember Gazetteers are not limited to the USA.  Recently in trying to resolve an Ireland parish, I stumbled upon information on The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland.

Town Gazetteers
There are times the researcher needs specific town information.  Another great tool for the genealogist - Gazetteers at the town level.  This is often useful for church searches, as well as identifying town name changes (to list a few uses). A quick search on the Apple Manor Press' website uncovered the title The History of the Town of Montpelier, Including That of the Town of East Montpelier, for the First One Hundred and Two Years.  The content within was extracted from Vol. IV, of the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, 1882, by Abby Maria Hemenway.  This useful tool may narrow the genealogists' search, again, giving the genealogists hints as to an ancestors' home-place. And there's probably a Gazetteer chocked full of data on your town of interest. 

How to Use Gazetteers for Genealogy
1) determine where your ancestor's lived
2) identify jurisdiction of vital records and state or county naturalization papers
3) reveal older communities and town names
4) specify religious jurisdiction
5) pinpoint today's locale on the map

Kathleen Brandt

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these links Kathleen...I love "looking" at I need to start using them! :)