CUTLINE: 007 DISTANT PAST. Detail of a 1688 map of the Great Lakes by Italian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli is part of a travelling exhibit from the Minnesota Historical Society titled "Minnesota on the Map" that is currently on display at the Sherburne History Center in Becker. Without access to aerial views, the map-makers skill is remarkable.

Maps hold many clues at Sherburne History Center

Contributing Writer
David Hannula
To celebrate the arrival of an exhibition titled “Minnesota on the Map” from the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, the Sherburne History Center also hosted a program called “Mapping Your Family History,” presented by Exec. Director Mike Brubaker.
The map display, which stands in the lobby near the main doors of the exhibition hall at the center, includes an interactive touch-screen which will take the viewer through a series of maps and illustrations that outline the history of Minnesota from the earliest days of the French voyageurs.  A number of display maps are also hung on metal standards near the screen, allowing for a leisurely perusal of each document.
One of the most interesting of all is a striking yellow map that displays the area in and around modern-day Lake Superior.  The original was created by the renowned Italian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, and bears the title: “Partie Occidentale du Canada on de la Neuvelle France; on sont les Nations des Illinois, de Tracy, les Iroquois, et plusieurs autres peoples.”
Mapping Families
Brubaker’s presentation included a discussion of political maps and road maps as tools to gain a general picture of a particular community, state or region when seeking information about distant relatives.  
Another very informative source cited are the “Sandborn maps” that were first published in 1867 by the fire insurance industry as a way of retaining information in the event of a catastrophic fire in an urban area. They show industrial areas, residential and commercial areas in a given metropolitan area, and can provide clues as to economic status as well.
Plat maps are another vital item in the researcher’s arsenal, as they show land ownership, and the ownership of nearby parcels, often providing a link to family histories.  After the Land Ordinance of 1785, plat maps showed township, section and range numbers for all surveyed properties.
Other great sources of information include city directories, telephone books and census maps, which often include specific details about individuals such as their line of work as well as the specific area in which they lived.
Good places to start include the Learning Center, the Government Land Office and Bureau of Land Management Records offices and the Library of Congress map collections, Brubaker said.


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