Dear Readers, Let me call your attention to an Atlas of New York State that I feel is perhaps not as well known as the various County Atlases that we use so often.
“Atlas of the State of New York,” [by] Joseph R. BIEN, E.M., Civil and Topographical Engineer, from the Original Surveys and Various Local Surveys Revised and Corrected, based on the Triangulations of the U.S Coast and Geodetic Survey, U.S. Lake Survey, and the N.Y. State Survey. – Published by Julius Bien & Company, New York – 1895.
This a large folio heavy atlas. The maps are either single leaves or in some cases two leaves opened together to display a very large map. The lithographed maps have a pleasant beige color scheme and all land divisions and items of interest are very well defined.
Here are some of the features that I think are extremely useful. When you are working with deeds and land records, no matter if in olden days or modern, you will find references to the original land divisions and patents or tracts from the time that the land was first surveyed and divided. Those descriptions carry down even to today’s land records.
This atlas goes into great detail about these land divisions. In the colonial times the Crown of England granted rights to the Colonial Governors of New York to issue Letters Patent for a myriad set of reasons and circumstances. Individuals, or groups of individuals could apply to the governor for huge chunks of free land, or perhaps the lands were awarded for service in the French and Indian Wars, or merely as political favors. Whatever the case, these Patents were given a name and property borderline descriptions were defined.
Bien’s Atlas has a double page map of the whole state on folio page 3, that shows all of these Patents and Tracts outlined in red and in relation to each other. There is also a columnar list on the right hand side of the map that names and numbers these 226 parcels. In the north-east you will note where some of the colonial New York grants and patents extend over into what is now Vermont, and you will start to understand why the border wars known as The New Hampshire Grants occurred.
Then once you have seen the tract of interest and get an idea for where it lies, you can then go to the county map needed to study this area even closer. Pay particular attention to the little red numbers. Not every lot has a red number but if you count in between you will determine the correct lot number for your parcel. These are the Lot numbers for that particular land division, and they are the same today as they were when first divided. It is very important to be able to place your ancestors in a physical location!
Some of the counties have their own individual map sheet but most of them have two or more counties on one map. In either case they still display excellent information.
My first discovery of this lovely atlas was about twenty or so years ago at the Syracuse University Library (SU,) in the open stacks. The copy that SU owns has now been separated into individual leaves and they have been cleaned and encapsulated in mylar and are very handy to use or to make photocopies from. I used to travel there often to use it.
In the past few months the Onondaga County Public Library (OCPL,) has hung an individual framed sheet of the Onondaga County Map from this atlas, and after I pointed out some of my favorite features of this map, one of the librarians rummaged through the back room compact shelving and came up with the full book in all its glory! So I went right to the card catalog and guess what? They had it all along! Check the card catalog boys and girls. Incidentally, the framed individual plate that they hung on the wall is not out of this particular complete book, but an extra map that someone donated years ago.
Now along comes the Internet. I have written about the David Rumsey Collection before but lets go over it again. www.davidrumsey.com has a gigantic collection of gorgeous old maps from all places and eras that they have digitized and have made available for free access on the Internet, all in living color!
You will LOVE this site! It has some annoying features that my AADD syndrome does not particularly enjoy, but all of the waiting is definitely worth the cost. You will need a high speed connection, very high speed is better, and then be patient. These maps are extremely detailed and to be able to enlarge and pan the full maps takes a lot of bandwidth and processing. Their imaging process is through lumaimaging and the results are superb!
Once you have seen the section you need and are through oohing and aahhhing, then you can use your screen capture of choice to select all or parts of the maps to download or print from your own computer. Can it get any better?
I hate to mention any specific software because every time I do I get answers back from readers, “oh yeah, but THIS program is better.”
Yes, I know…
So I’ll tell you what I use anyway. First of all I presume everyone in the world uses WINDOWS. “What about MAC or LINUX?” I have absolutely NO idea! The program I use to capture screen images with, is a little freeware program that you can Google and find quite easily, it is called MWSnap. It runs in the background and when you call it up it goes in your toolbar. When you have an image, of any kind, that you want to capture, then you click on MWSnap, and either print/save the whole screen or you can mask and clip just the parts that you want.
Incidentally, this feature works on ALL kinds of documents, data, images, whatever is on your screen can be captured and saved the same way. If it is on your screen you can capture it. So if you have any proprietary software that won’t let you download or print from their operating screens… Well you get the idea.
Here is a link to the Bien’s Atlas:
Here is a link to describe the collection: http://www.davidrumsey.com/index4.html
Now when you get a minute, or an hour, or a day, or the rest of your life, keep checking around davidrumsey.com to see what else they offer. Drool.
Dick Hillenbrand – Upstate New York Genealogy – www.unyg.com