Maps

Do you use your phone’s map app or your car’s GPS to figure out how to get somewhere? I know I do. However, there are times when I want a good old fashioned map.

Recently, that was the case when my husband and I were planning a trip to visit the historic marker for the 6th Prime Meridian. Unlike many historic markers, this particular one is not along a highway. Thus, we needed to figure out which were the best roads to get us there. Yes, that is roads as in plural. You see, I live in Kansas where we have north-south roads and east-west roads almost every mile. That means there was the potential of approaching this marker from all four directions.

Hoping to find a paved road to the marker located in Washington County, Kansas, I googled ‘Washington county kansas paved roads‘ and found a county map showing all of the roads and their status published by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The legend indicated that the roads could vary from a minor road made of soil (i.e. a dirt road) to a minor road with stone or gravel (i.e. a gravel road) to a minor paved road. Rural secondary roads are the next level up but they could be unpaved (i.e. a gravel road) or paved.

The Meridian marker is located one mile west and one mile north of the town of Mahaska. Thus we basically had to figure out how to get to Mahaska.

A study of the Washington and Republic county maps indicated that we would need to use gravel roads to get to Mahaska.

In the process of using these county maps to figure out the roads, I discovered that these Kansas maps have a symbol on the legend for the cemeteries.

Curious as to whether other Kansas county maps had cemeteries marked, I looked up the Nemaha county map. And found that the cemeteries are marked on the map.

Further investigation of county road maps revealed that I could also find maps with cemeteries marked for Nebraska and Missouri. However, when I tried to locate maps that included the cemeteries for counties in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, I was not successful.

Even a Google search for “Wapello county Iowa cemetery map” did not quickly locate such a map. One of the results of this search was a link to Find A Grave where the cemeteries in the county were listed. However, a map of those cemeteries was not quickly found.

Knowing that Billion Graves automatically puts a tombstone on a map, I wondered whether I could access a cemetery map on Billion Graves. A cemetery search of Billion Graves for Wapello County Iowa produced a map showing many of the cemeteries.

By paying attention to that legend on the Washington county map, I now know that

  • Many state departments of transportation produce county level maps of the roads
  • County level road maps indicate the condition of the smaller roads in the county
  • Some county maps produced by the state department of transportation include a symbol marking the location of the cemeteries in the county
  • Billion Graves provides a map of the cemeteries in a county

So how can I apply this new knowledge?

  • Combining this knowledge of cemetery locations with land ownership maps, I can figure out which cemeteries were closest to where an ancestor lived and then search that cemetery’s information on sites such as Find a Grave or Billion Graves
  • Combining maps of cemeteries and county roads, I can plan a visit to a rural cemetery

Even though I like my GPS and map apps, these county level road maps are going in my genealogy tool box!