Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Another online resource has come to our attention, this one via the Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History News e-newsletter.

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries was created by the William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture at The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. The result of years worth of work, this online atlas shows the historical creation and changes of every county in the United States of America, no small feat considering there are currently over 3,000 counties and quite a number of counties have gone extinct over time.

The Atlas, which is free to peruse, contains both text and maps showing the fluidity of county boundaries between the early 1600s and the end of 2000. The Atlas was created using “the session laws of the colonies, territories, and states that created and changed the counties.” (You don’t get more primary than that when looking at research resources.)

An unusual feature of the website is that it is considered complete as it is. At the top of the “About the Project” page, the following line appears:

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries project was successfully completed in June 2010. No further updates from the project are anticipated.

Because definitive dates (from the formation of the first county through the end of 2000) were chosen for the map project, once the data had been gathered, digitized, and uploaded to the internet, the website could be declared finished once the project parameters had been achieved. That’s not typical for most websites.

Navigating the Atlas is fairly intuitive, so have a look around and enjoy seeing how the counties’ boundaries have changed. (Of course I’ve looked up Morrison County already. Fascinating, just fascinating.)

I’ve added a link to the Atlas on our Online Resources page, under the Federal / National Information Resources heading.

– Mary

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