Outstanding Free Map and Ancestor Search Tools for Genealogists

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I asked my fellow ancestor hunter Randy Majors to summarize all of his tools for genealogists. If you haven’t visited the RandyMajors.com website packed full of map and search tools that genealogists love, this post is a run-down of what you should check out!

Randy tells me that years ago, he started creating these tools for his own genealogy research and love of maps.  He decided to give back to the genealogy community by making them available so all of us can benefit as well.  He says it’s a labor of love, and he’s continuously creating new tools and adding new functionality, while focusing on keeping the tools as simple as possible to use and to help users find answers quickly. I can’t wait to see what he builds next!

Let’s see the tools!


1. AncestorSearch on Google Search is a free search tool that uses Google Search enhancements so that you are much more likely to find mentions of the ancestors (or living people) you’re looking for that are otherwise buried in thousands of Google search results.  Basically, it uses Google advanced search operators behind the scenes so you don’t have to spend time typing a bunch of awkward characters.  Read more Detail and usage tips Here.  Note that AncestorSearch‘s coverage is ALL of what Google Search covers, not just a sub-set of websites.  Many people have left comments about how they uncovered new information about ancestors or even broken through brick walls…and in a matter of minutes in many cases. 

Personally, I just started using this tool a couple of days ago, and I can report that it is outstanding.  It was able to dig up an Oral History mp3 of my Great Aunt and her reflections of living through the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. It is priceless. Thanks, Randy.

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2. Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps is a free tool that overlays any historical dates’ county boundaries on Google Maps.  (As genealogists, we know just how important it is to be sure you’re looking in the right place for the time frame of the records you’re researching, and sometimes not doing so can be a cause for not finding what you’re looking for; Here is a reminder of why this is so important.)  The Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool uses the complete set of data from the Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, but in a much more detailed, quicker and more familiar interface that uses Google Maps.  Just type any present-day address or place in the “Search places” box above the map, then type any historical date or year in the “As of” box above the map.  You will see what county and state (or colony, if you’re going back far enough) that spot was part of as of that historical date, along with details of the statute that triggered the boundary change.  You can also choose to Overlay the present-day county boundaries on the same map to get the complete picture of what has changed. 

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3. Section Township Range on Google Maps is a free tool that overlays the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) data from the BLM on Google Maps.  If you have a property description, for example, from an ancestor’s farm or the BLM’s Land Patent Search website, you might have seen something like “The southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 36, Township 14 North, Range 67 West of the 6th P.M.”  Yes, its a mouthful, and you can Find out more about townships here.  And this tool let’s you see where that location is using the “Find parcel” boxes at the bottom of the map.  Or if you have a present day place, latitude/longitude, address etc., you can type it in the “Search places” box above the map, and the tool will let you know what the Section Township Range is for that location.  Here are Lots of usage tips.
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​TIP:  Be sure and read the quick usage tips and other details below the map on each tool’s page.

4. Create your own custom link to a historical county lines map for any date and state and include it on your own blog or website!  Here’s an example link that shows shows Oregon counties in 1865, along with county name labels on the map:  https://www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html?state=OR&year=1865&labels=show    Full instructions Here for historical counties and Here for present-day counties and ZIP Codes.

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5. There are lots of other present-day map tools that fill in niches that you can’t show on standard Google Maps.  Shown in order of popularity:

6There are also a couple of cool all-in-one map tools that pack in lots of little maps about any U.S. location:

  • Location Explorer on Google Maps (shows City Limits, County Lines, State, ZIP Code, Area Code, Congressional District, Latitude/Longitude, Township/Range, Watershed, National Parks/Forests, Elevation, Slope and Aspect.  U.S. coverage) 
  • Climate Info on Google Maps (shows average high temperatures, low temperatures and precipitation for summer and winter, as well as how much the average temperature and precipitation has changed from historical norms.  U.S. coverage)

7. And finally, a couple of short-cut county map tools:

  • County Maps of all 50 U.S. States (a link to each state’s map; U.S. coverage)
  • What County Am I In? (uses your current location to tell you what county you’re in; try it on your smartphone anywhere in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico or Switzerland)

Beyond uses for genealogy, the website contains lots of other tools whose popular uses include real estate, sales, business planning, field research, sales tax determination, education, routing, travel, entertainment, permitting, grassroots efforts and determining county jurisdiction. Here’s a brief run-down:

Be sure and subscribe to Randy’s tool updates on his Site (the subscribe button is at the very top of the page), as he’s constantly adding new functionality, and you won’t want to miss out!

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Thank you for visiting The Ancestor Hunt!

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4 Comments

  1. WOW! How have I not heard of this resource hub-?! My mother’s family on both sides were very early settlers in New England and PA, then moving west slowly. Clearly I’m going to be busy this coming month digging through the options and resources! Thanks so much Kenneth for Randy’s great resources!

  2. Kenneth, Randy is not the only one who has done monumental service to the genealogical community. I have recommended your website many times – in classes and out. First for newspapers, but you keep adding new information. You are a STAR! Thank you.
    p.s. when do you sleep?

    1. Thanks, Linda for the kind words! I get regular sleep, but I admit I work at this about 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. I love curating all of these links.

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