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In Need of a Local Map

This week I wanted a map of the Nebraska area where my great-grandparents lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They homesteaded northeast of Palisade in Hayes County. I needed something that would locate their farms and provide some surrounding context.

My road atlas provided a political map with towns, roads, and county boundaries, but I was hoping for even more information. I remembered that I had once attended a seminar on using maps for genealogical research. Perhaps the instructor had offered some suggestions on where to look for the type of map I envisioned.

I pulled out his handout from 2014 (yes, I saved it!). I saw that he had given us a list of major map websites.

After seven years, I wondered how many of these could still be viable. I did recognize a few such as the USGS topographic maps, the David Rumsey map collection, and the Library of Congress map collection. I decided against starting with these.

The topo maps on the USGS site show only topographic information. I find the Rumsey site and the LOC site cumbersome to use. It takes me a long time to find what I am looking for, and I have a hard time trying to print what I need. I wanted a faster result.

The seminar handout listed another site that I decided to try. I was delighted to find that it still exists. It is called the National Map (, and it is maintained by the United States Geological Survey. As a government service, it is free to use.

The home page has a link to the National Map viewer. You can zoom in to any location in the United States. The resulting map of the Palisade, Nebraska area was exactly what I sought.

My map includes so many things of interest:

  1. Political entities like the town of Palisade, its nearby highways, and the Burlington Northern railroad line,
  2. Land survey section lines and numbers for the surrounding area,
  3. Waterways like Frenchman Creek and the Culbertson Canal,
  4. Places like the local cemetery, a dam, and a gravel pit,
  5. Topography lines to help me understand the elevations of the land.

My map is wonderful, exactly what I needed. The National Map website is simple to navigate, and it is easy to print a map.

I plan to return to this site to find other locations from my family’s history. Maps provide a great way to visualize the places they lived.

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