Over the past several years there has been an enormous increase in the number of historical maps that are available online. These digital collections are a great aid for those seeking to understand the past, whether it is for a scholarly investigation, local history study, or genealogy project. While the maps, many centuries old, have been available in special collections repositories around the nation, the access was limited as trips to widely scattered archives and access rules created obstacles for some researchers.
Here are a couple of general starting points. One of the best is Old Maps Online, an easy-to-use web portal to historical maps in libraries around the globe. It allows the user to search across a number of collections, via a geographical search interface. Another strong one is the Library of Congress. The products can be downloaded and the scans, which are of high quality, can be magnified, in most instances. Some of repositories require you to register to get full access.
These and other research e-resources are truly revolutionizing the way we conduct historical research and are invaluable for those working in the past. Here are some specific online Cecil County resources, which you should find helpful.
- The Library of Congress has Martenet’s Map of Cecil County (1858), It can be downloaded in a large format in order to magnify the product. There is also the Atlas of Cecil County (1877) It also has Fowler & Kelly’s 1907 birds-eye-view of Rising Sun and Elkton.
- The Enoch Pratt Library has a subscription to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. From the 1880s until about World War II, the cartographers for this company visited towns across Cecil County regularly to update drawings and produce sketches at a detailed scale of 1-inch to fifty feet. With these a researcher is able to observe the changes that took place with a dwelling or a community over generations. You need a Baltimore City Library card to access the database online. Here is a link to a union catalog (index) of Sanborn Maps published in Maryland.
- Topo Maps — Historical — This is a collection of historic USGS topographic maps, including those published for Maryland and Cecil County. It includes products from 1898 and 1942.
Check them out the next time you are working on a project, regardless of where your inquiry takes you. You will find many other maps of interest as you start searching these and other databases.