Webinar~Fire Insurance Maps…Google Maps of their Day! Plus Graduation!

Hosted by: Hamilton County (OH) Genealogical Society (thank you!)

Presented by: Jill Morrelli, CG

First, let me say I *big puffy heart* love Sanborn Fire Maps!  In my humble opinion, your genealogical research is lacking if you do not use this resource.  It is, in a word, indispensable!  So, when I heard about this webinar, I signed up immediately!  Right now, I’m creating a project using a story my grandfather wrote about a typical day in his life in 1933 when he was a high school senior.  He worked for a movie theater in the downtown area of our hometown, and his story is about him running an errand and running all about the downtown area, checking into different businesses and seeing different people.  He wrote this from memory for his 50th class reunion in 1983! I’m using the 1924 Sanborn Fire Map for our hometown to plot these businesses, as well as the contemporaneous city directory.  I’ve even created his avatar who will walk his remembered trail! That is his senior class picture attached to a generic body.  I think he’d approve!

Another way I’ve used Sanborn Fire Maps is to locate where my ancestors lived in Cincinnati prior to the interstates being built.  They lived very near the Ohio River.  I have used these maps in conjunction with Cincinnati’s city directories, which, again, another indispensable resource.  These ancestors rented a building and ran a dance hall out of it; I was able to find that location on a Sanborn Fire Map.  It is yet another structure no longer standing.

A third way I’ve used Sanborn Fire Maps is to find where my early Ohio ancestors lived in Butler County, Ohio, in a town named Darrville.

In Richmond, Indiana, the actual bound map books are at the Morrisson-Reeves Library.  The maps are on linen pages, making the book heavy.  When a new map was published, the old book was supposed to be destroyed but many were not.  If they were, however, the linen pages would be recycled as clothing (!) and the leather binding used on boats.

Public health service (see John Snow’s 1854 cholera map of London)

Purpose for fire insurance maps: Carriers insure for loss; not concentrating the coverage; want to know the risk for a particular building

No owners’ names! Will find building type, address, railroads and viaducts, names of additions, etc.

Map books large and heavy!

Great Fire of London, 1666: The beginning of fire insurance (1710); fire insurance in US by 1728, written in London

1790: First map published in Charleston, SC

1815: Lithographs to produce multiple maps; maps had to be drawn in a mirror image!

1850: Map created of NYC business district (George Hope)

1850: Map standardization with the companies to provide maximum info on the map

Black and white (mostly seen online), colored (usually Sanborn), colored and corrected (have layers of tiny papers when changes were made)

Daniel Alfred Sanborn (1827-1883), did 50+ maps from 1867-68!

A surveyor (“strider”) recorded each building in very fine detail

Maps were colored by hand!

Find digitized Sanborn Maps on Library of Congress website!  Also check Google, local libraries, and Indiana University.

Maps created for fire insurance companies where they had clients so some cities/towns with no clients were not mapped.

Always review the first page of a city’s/town’s map, lots of info!

Read the key for color coding!

Read the key for dwelling types!

Special Risks: Manufacturing

Who uses these maps? Urban historians, writers, architects, historic preservationists, genealogists! Also house historians and collectors.

You can analyze businesses using directories and censuses.

Use Google Maps to compare how neighborhoods appear.

Maps can also be used to analyze disasters (Fall River, Massachusetts, 1928).

So glad I was able to sit in on this webinar!  Now I’m off to check for maps online!

Before I forget, this happened:

Big day for all of us!  We extremely proud of his accomplishments thus far and what his future holds! Way to go Ben!!

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