Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mapping Our Ancestors

There is nothing I enjoy more than working with maps.

When my sisters and I are on a genealogy trip through Virginia and Kentucky, it is not unusual to find us all spread out on our beds in the evenings as we peruse maps of the area we are in.  Many of those maps are the type you can pick up at the local Chamber of Commerce or public library for no cost at all.

Those maps can take us into every little nook and cranny and hill and holler of these ancestral places.

Once, while giving a genealogy class on maps, a man raised his hand and mentioned that I needed to get some Hildebrand maps.  Okay.  What's a Hildebrand map?  He told me to just call the public library in Roanoke, Virginia and they would point me in the right direction.

So, I did.  And, they did.

Apparently, J. R. Hildebrand was a cartographer who meticulously drew maps of several Virginia counties.  It was hard for me to find out any more about him, as most google hits took me to a race car driver of the same name.

These maps are wonderful!  One map of Franklin County, Virginia has at least a dozen of my ancestors on it.  It covers the time period 1786 - 1886, includes the owner's name on each parcel of land, and the year he first appears in the county.
I realize this may be a bit difficult to view in this venue, but these maps are quite large (card table size) and easy to read.  My sisters and I would be lost without them, for we use a yellow highlighter each time we make a new discovery.

We ordered the entire set, which came to $96.  Here is a list of the maps available:

  • Roanoke Farms
  • Fincastle County
  • Wythe County
  • Town of Salem
  • Original Grants, Roanoke
  • Beverly Patent, Orange & Augusta
  • Borden Grant, west of Blue Ridge
  • Pulaski County
  • Rockbridge County
  • Franklin County
  • Augusta County
  • Botetourt County
  • Bedford County
  • Montgomery County
And I ordered them from:
Roanoke Public Library
706 South Jefferson Street
Roanoke, VA   24016

Ask for J.R. Hildebrand Settlement Maps.  If they don't have them anymore, they can point you in the right direction.

My father taught me how to read maps.  He felt it was important, since neither of his parents or his 10 siblings could read a map.  In turn, when my own family traveled, my husband would outfit each of the kids with their own atlas and quiz them on how far it was to the next exit, the next rest area, the town we would be stopping at.  They were all excellent with maps and geography in high school, and when three of the four would enter the U.S. Army, their orienteering skills were impeccable.

Gotta love maps!


  1. Thank you for telling us about these. I saw you recently in Ohio at the OGS conference where you shared a map. I was in Roanoke last week and stopped in to pick up my own set. I asked if they were indexed and they said only one. Do you know of any comprehensive index? I volunteered to do an index, but don't want to duplicate efforts. Ginger Goben Weisbarth

  2. Ginger! How exciting!! I am so happy you were able to pick up a set for yourself. Mine are getting pretty ragged, so I have had some of them laminated.

    I don't know of any comprehensive index that has been done. My goodness, that would be valuable!!! I know that several times, just when I think I've looked over every inch of the map, sure enough I'll find a new name that I hadn't seen before.

    I think it's a wonderful effort.

  3. Found some individual JR Hildebrand maps for sale, in case someone only needs one or two and not the whole set: