You need maps for many purposes besides finding your way from point A to point B. They provide information of the land and water sources of a given area. The population centers and concentration of communities can be featured on a map. Areas for vegetation, cattle, forests, hills, lakes, etc. can be illustrated using a map. With these and other reasons, the use of maps have been essential throughout history, including for the family historian.
You may learn of an ancestral village, town or county and are not such where it is located or what it near. This is one of the most important purposes for maps in genealogy. The University of Texas at Austin has established a very good and immense workable digital series of maps online.
There are maps of current happenings around the world such as the location of the killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan, the flooding of the Mississippi River or tornado locations in Alabama and Missouri. There are also general maps of the United States, its 50 states and all the continental regions and countries around the globe.
This is extremely important if you find that a great grandfather came from Svitavy near the Svartka River in Vychodocesky in the present-day Czech Republic. Not just location of the town, but population maps of the area, the industry, land use and location of natural resources are all illustrated on these maps. Viewing the historical map provides insight that the Vychodocesky region was part of the Slovak Socialist Republic which was once part of the nation of Czechoslovakia.
The collection of maps, especially the historical ones are scanned from the original maps of the period. If you had ancestors from the Greeneville, Johnson City or Jonesborough region of northeast Tennessee, at one time those communities were actually part of the State of Franklin, which lasted from 1785 to 1789. There are maps of that time period which help display that historical event.
If a relative was part of the Civil War Battle of Stones River (also called Second Battle of Murfreesboro) in Tennessee in late December 1862, there is map of the location and both Army’s movements for that battle. A valuable asset in learning more about your ancestor.
For a family researcher, placing all the pieces together of the family can start with a map.