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!!

2015 Family Reunion

I planned our 2015 Family Reunion, and it occurred a couple weeks ago.  This year, Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana, was the setting.  It was a beautiful day, plus we had our own mascot!

Ballard groundhog

He’s a new honorary member of the family, mainly because he would not leave us alone and had no fear as far as begging for food!  I had a cousin ask me about our grandmother’s roots in Richmond, Indiana, and that planted the seed for the 2016 Family Reunion.  I’m hopefully going to reserve a shelter house at Glen Miller Park and I’m putting together a PowerPoint plus driving instructions for folks to drive around Richmond, Indiana, as some of our ancestral sites are still standing! Also, I have to share this, all in good fun!



Seriously, a great group of people and lots of fun was had by all!

Casper Zeph

Mr. Zeph is not a relative of mine, that I know of. He was, however, part of Paul Mayer’s FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors). When Paul Mayer was enumerated on the 1860 census in Richmond, IN, he was living in a household with the following:

Gasper Seff, age 32, born Württemberg

Elizabeth Seff, age 32, born Württemberg

Mary Seff, age 4, born Indiana

Paul Myre, age 23, born Württemberg

Drapert Fullhart, age 16, born Württemberg


In trying to figure out any of Paul Mayer’s German relations, I looked at Elizabeth Seff, age 32. A sister, perhaps? Well, Seff is a surname that appears exactly nowhere else in Indiana hardly ever! As it turns out, while doing research at the Indiana State Archives, I was going through the 1862 draft registration book for Wayne County, IN, and stumbled upon a “Casper Zepf,” age 34!

With that clue, I immediately checked more censuses but came up empty handed. The Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, however, has some newspapers indexed online so I checked those and this is what I found:

Murdered; Richmond Weekly Telegram (RWT) 13 OCT 1866, page 1, column 5

Hmm…no wonder I couldn’t find him on the 1870 census. However, I don’t know where he is buried either.

I found microfilmed early Lutheran church records at the same library, not indexed, and began going through them, page by page. Much like the 1862 draft registration list, I stumbled upon this:




The baptismal record of the son of Casper Zepf, Heinrich Casper Zepf born in 1862, sponsored by one Paul Meyer [sic]. I pulled up the 3 newspaper articles regarding the murder of Casper Zepf, 2 written at the time of the incident in 1866 and 1 written in 1867. As it turns out, Casper Zepf owned a tavern in Richmond, IN, refused to serve three men on a Sunday, and the three men beat him to death, cause of death: a brick to the skull. However, about 6 months later, an article appears in the newspaper stating that the body of Casper Zepf had been disinterred because of suspicion that he might have been poisoned and they wanted to check his stomach contents. This raises a number of questions for me: Suspicion must’ve been high to actually exhume this man’s body 6 months after his murder so there should be some sort of court record? Did they embalm bodies in the 1860s? If not and the stomach and its contents were left intact at burial, could they even be reliably tested 6 months later looking for poison? Who suspected him of being poisoned and by whom? I’m going to need to research court documents for more answers. Regarding the baptismal notation above, my guess is Elizabeth was not a Mayer. Interestingly, I found who I think is her listed on the 1880 census, remarried and living in Wisconsin, with son Casper Zepf and daughter Mary Zepf who is 2 years younger than Casper on that census, plus an older son with a different surname.

My question is: Do I continue to pursue this? Maybe Casper Zepf was just a friend of Paul Mayer’s? Maybe they met on whatever ship they sailed on to get to America? Maybe Paul Mayer just boarded with them? I imagine I’ll check the court records about the whole murder and then exhumation issue. There is also the question of Drapert Fullhart. I can’t find him at all after the 1860 census. I see in my future many hours spent at the Wayne County Courthouse!

From the Richmond Palladium, 11 Oct 1866:


From the Richmond Weekly Telegram, 13 Oct 1866:



From the Indiana True Republican, 27 Jun 1867:


My apologies for the quality of photos; the microfilm printer was broke the day I visited the library, so I took pics of the screen.

Spur of the Moment

Ran over to Richmond again today on the spur of the moment to squeeze in a little more research. Today, I visited the Morrisson-Reeves Library. I reviewed the oldest directory, 1857, and the next few, plus some of the older plat maps. My big find? In the 1863 directory, I found a listing for a ‘Mary Brenker’.


No other Brenkers before or after in the directories I checked. In my post about Paul Mayer, I noted his second wife was Mary Breiker. Her last name, however, is illegible on both her headstone (due to age and wear) and on their marriage license and Breiker was the closest I could get. Could this be the Mary who Paul married? It is of note that I placed her address on an 1854 map, and it is equidistant from where Paul lived and worked. Interesting!

ETA: I also checked for similar spellings of the surname, especially Brinker. Out of the directories I checked during that time frame, I found one Brinker in 1870, none before. Her surname on both the headstone and marriage license appears to have an ‘i’ in the middle so I am leaning toward her surname being Brinker and the Brenker in the directory was a misspelling. I can’t even begin to count the number of ways that Paul Mayer’s surname was spelled in the directories, the censuses, etc.!