Create Custom Maps With National Atlas

Note: NationalAtlas will become part of the National Map site effective September 30, 2014. It looks like it will lose a lot of features once the move is complete, so take advantage of those features while you still can.

Would you like to include maps in your family history projects, but can’t find anything that isn’t copyrighted? Take a look at the National Atlas. It’s a map-making platform sponsored by the federal government that lets you build your own maps.

Once you’ve zoomed in on an area you want to map, choose from the display elements available on the right to display water elements, roads, boundaries and other features.

National Atlas example

Build your own map at National Atlas

You can print your maps, email them or save them in the Map Maker so you can return to them whenever you want. Here’s another way you screen capture app will come in handy to capture just the area you need for your project.

Sample customized map

Use screen capture to grab just the area you want for your project.

If you don’t like the color scheme, you can always do a bit of photoshopping on your copy. I took this one and reduced the saturation until it was a grayscale image then added some of my own points. I then made it a semi-transparent overlay on a background of my choosing and the result is a custom map that works with the theme of my project.

Farm Map 3

Tip: Leave off county names when you build your map. The text is too small and placement is worse (see Chattooga and Floyd in the map above). You can put them in yourself – where you want them and in a font that gives them presence.

NationalAtlas gives us a lot of flexibility for creating custom maps to use in our family history projects and it doesn’t take much effort to jazz them up to work within your on storytelling projects.