Posted in Forts, Land and property, Maps, Texas, Texas Land Grants

Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists

I am on my way home from a research trip to the Texas Hill Country to find the land my Gooch ancestors occupied from the late 1840s at least through the 1880s.  I know Texas would rather consider itself part of the South than part of the West, but that’s where my folks were before they moved to Arizona, and if a trip through the county roads of central Texas is not On Granny’s Trail, then I don’t know what is.  Besides, any state with the amount of cacti and roadside taxidermists I saw surely qualifies as “Western.”

My specific goal for this trip was to locate my ancestors’ original land tracts on a modern map, so I could drive there and take pictures of the surroundings.

This post recounts the steps I took in the research process and the fun surprise ending. I plan to follow up in the future with some helpful advice for planning a research trip but I couldn’t wait to share what I found, because it involved what I call Ninja Genealogy and some delightful serendipity. The post is long, but not nearly as long as the 25 year journey I took to this particular tract of land. Continue reading “Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists”

Posted in Maps, Migration trails, National atlases, Pioneer Overland Travel, Railroad maps, Websites

Tracks West: Railroad and migration maps for you

I like to collect maps to help in my research and often create maps to suit my needs.  Today I am posting a few maps that help in my understanding of migration into the western states.  Every western states researcher should have a sound understanding of migration routes, railroads, and rivers that affected the movement of emigrants and influenced settling patterns.  You can create your own maps using templates found at by looking under “printable maps”.

Here is a map I marked with the major overland migration routes west, with key cities or forts that were either stopping points or final destinations. Continue reading “Tracks West: Railroad and migration maps for you”

Posted in Maps, Timelines, Websites

Google Earth and time travel

Pick a date.  Now pick a state. Pick a date and a state and I will show you the state and county boundaries on that exact date using Google Earth.   I know you’ve heard of Google Earth and have probably used it.  You may have heard of the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (AHCB) and, if so, have probably used it.  Have you used them both TOGETHER?  Until today I didn’t know it was possible.  Very cool! Continue reading “Google Earth and time travel”

Posted in Maps, Websites

Historical Map Archive: How come I didn’t know about you sooner??

How come I didn’t know about the Historical Map Archive sooner? It is a collection of online maps from various Alabama repositories which is simple to use, and has a wide variety of historical maps for the whole world. It is found at the University of Alabama website at

Maybe word got around about the awesome University of Texas map site and a rivalry was born. You know there is more to these Southern rivalries than football.

I was interested to see what it offered in the Western States region, and was happy to see it is possible to search by individual state or individual region.   Continue reading “Historical Map Archive: How come I didn’t know about you sooner??”

Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Immigration and Naturalization, Maps, Research tips, Timelines, Websites

Animated Atlas American History Timeline, and Other Interesting Timeline and Map sites

The most popular post on On Granny’s Trail concerns the Animated Atlas American History Timeline, so I thought it would be worth revisiting. I’m also posting links to a few other animated maps and timelines, and mapping sites with a twist, like the New York Times Immigration Explorer,  History Pin, and Timeline of Events in the West, There are lots of these kinds of timelines out there, so find one you like and put it in your genealogy toolkit–handy sites that help you organize and interpret your research.  I like the Animated Atlas American History Timeline:


It is user-friendly and easy to take in visually, with 8 layers that illustrate when states and territories were created, U.S. Presidents in office, major events in society, Native American, the world, science and culture.  New layers available are women and labor.  A handy slider at the bottom zips you through the years.

Having a historical timeline in your toolkit will help you understand the events that affected your ancestors’ lives, and can give you clues about what kinds of records to search.  Was there a war going on? Did the creation of a territory provide opportunity for free land?  Did world events stimulate immigration from certain countries?

Along with historical timelines for the nation, consider finding or creating state and county timelines, and always create a timeline for a family.  That should be one of the first things you do as you begin your research, but it can also be something that will help you when you are well down the road in your research and may have come to a dead end.

Integrate your family timeline with county, state, and national timelines and you may be surprised at the new ideas that emerge for your research.

TIP:  Keep your genealogy toolkit handy by creating a “Toolkit” folder on the “favorites” or “bookmark bar” in your internet browser, or create a  “Toolkit” folder in the Evernote program.