Through Locating People in the Past, we ask “Where?” of individuals in the past. This project represents the attempt of Archaeology in Annapolis at the University of Maryland, College Park to use new online mapping tools to find individuals not just in the historical record, but also on the physical landscape. There is great potential in using and combining existing historical datasets in order to create new historic and geographic knowledge in the present.
Here, we take two historic maps of Talbot County—the 1858 William H. Dilworth’s Map of Talbot County; with farm limits and the 1877 Lake, Griffing, and Stevenson’s An Illustrated Atlas of Talbot & Dorchester Counties, Maryland—and combine them with historic United States Census returns from 1860 and 1880. Both of these maps represent remarkable datasets for understanding the spatial distribution of people across Talbot County. However, they do not contain any other demographic data important to historical or genealogical research. While the 1860 and 1880 US Censuses help us to understand historical demographics, they do not contain spatial information that would allow the researcher to map and visualize these data. Through our research, we use new mapping technology to embed census data within these historic maps, breathing fresh life into these 150 year-old historical spaces.
The motivation for this project comes out of Archaeology in Annapolis’ engagement with heritage and landscape on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Archaeology in Annapolis has been looking for ways to use existing historical documentation to investigate the past in novel ways. We have made a particular commitment to enhancing democratic access to information about the past among African American descendants of slavery, as well as among avocational members of the public for whom archaeological, historical, and archival research has traditionally been inaccessible. This project may be considered a continuation of our efforts, which include the searchable online database of an enslaved population on the Eastern Shore called People of Wye House. To this end, we have made our data available through this website so that the larger public can make use of our new dataset.
WebGIS is an interactive platform for presenting and working with maps online. It allows us to present to the public both historic maps and map layers we create ourselves and lets the user navigate through our datasets on their own. Each of our layers can be turned on or off, they can be reordered and displayed on top of each other, and their transparencies can be adjusted. Users can search for specific addresses, pan and zoom as they would other online maps, and even search layers for specific data. Presenting our data in this format allows us to handle the technical problems related to working with historic maps, which removes a significant barrier preventing most people from working with these kinds of sources.
This project has been made possible through a grant from the FIA-Deutsch Seed Grant Competition. Our team of historical archaeology graduate students and art history and classics undergraduate students at the University of Maryland transcribed, analyzed, and made available the demographic and spatial information of these datasets.
Please feel free to contact our team at email@example.com with any questions or feedback.