Geography matters in genealogical research. No one lives on a flat piece of white paper.

It never really clicked that my Rampley family all lived along Bear Creek in Hancock County, Illinois, until I was tracing where the creek emptied into the Mississippi River. When I traced the creek through Walker Township using an 1874 plat map, there they were: every member of my Rampley family. James and his sons all owned at least one piece of property through which Bear Creek flowed at least in part. Based upon the map, they also tended to favor land that contained a fair amount of timber.

I need to look at the locations in Ohio (where the family lived before they moved to Illinois) and Maryland (were the father, James Senior, was born) and compare the terrain. People tend to settle in an area where there is some familiarity.

Have you given thought to your ancestor’s sense of geography?



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