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Find a Location

Methods – Online Tools, Gazetteers and Map Indexes

There are several ways to find a location in the world. For current locations such as addresses and cities, the internet comprises many tools that will quickly find one address or fifty. Additionally, many of these tools can locate specific points when provided with geographic coordinates. This page includes an abbreviated list of online locator tools. While these online tools help find places based on current names, researchers sometimes need to find a place based on an historic or obsolete reference. In this case, gazetteers are the reference of choice. Often found included in an atlas, gazetteers are geographic references which match place names and locations; gazetteers are also commonly referred to as geographic dictionaries. When searching for an older place name (for instance, Leningrad instead of Saint Petersburg or Persia instead of the Islamic Republic of Iran), a period gazetteer will give the historic name a location. Gazetteers are not limited to history research; current gazetteers provide quick, credible location information for place names. The third way to pinpoint a location is by using a map index. When one knows the general area but not the specific point desired, a small-scale map index allows the researcher to “home in” on the location. A map index is essentially a mosaic of reduced maps from a set. For example, a topographic index of South Carolina shows the state’s major features as well as sheet names for large-scale maps contained within the area. As long as the user knows the place’s location in relation to a few major features, it is a simple task to locate the appropriate map sheet.


Online Locator Tools

Batch Geocoder  This simple tool quickly converts a group of addresses into a set of points.

ePodunk  Highlighting the “power of place,” this site provides profiles on 46,000 locations across America.

Google Earth  A more advanced version of Google Maps, Google Earth has the same locating and routing abilities with enhanced navigation.  Google Earth can also locate points according to UTM coordinates as well as latitude and longitude.

Google Maps  Google Maps will find a location or driving directions based on a street address, intersection, place name or latitude & longitude coordinates.

Latitude- Longitude This page allows you to find the exact lat-long coordinates for millions of locations.

Live Map  This example of the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform has capability to find points and routes with addresses, intersections, place names.

MapQuest  MapQuest locates points and directions on roads from addresses, intersections, place names and coordinates of latitude & longitude.

Melissa DATA: Lookups  Although it requires registration, this site provides data tools for finding information about ZIP codes, addresses and even campaign contributors.

National Geographic Map Machine  This ESRI-powered tool allows users to select points on a world map and display physical, road, satellite and other features.

National Map  The United States Geological Survey’s National Map gives topographical information for the extent of the United States.

Rand McNally Maps & Directions  The tools available from this leading map producer include directions and detailed trip planning.

USC WebGIS Geocoder The University of Southern California has created a website that allows you to geocode address data free of charge.

YAHOO! Local Maps  Yahoo locates points and directions and distances on roads from addresses and business locations.

Map Library Gazetteers

The USC library catalog lists gazetteers until the subject headings “Gazetteers” and “Geography – Dictionaries.”  Some notable examples in the collection include:

Columbia Gazetteer of the World (paper) 1998

Dictionary of Geographical Literacy (paper) 1993

Lippincott’s Gazetter of the World (paper) 1886

Omni Gazetteer of the United States (CD-ROM, online, paper)

Place-name Changes 1900-1991 (paper) 1993

** Please note that the Map Library includes hundreds of atlases, and a great many of these include gazetteers.  The following links lead to some online gazetteers:

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names  This Thesaurus provides the user with linguistic and temporal place-name alternatives.

World Gazetteer  This online gazetteer provides information such as pronunciation and population for cities and towns around the world.

Map Indexes

United States Geological Survey Topographic:  The Map Library’s extensive collection of USGS topographic maps includes map sheet indexes.  These indexes help the user find which map sheet covers a particular large feature (e.g. a town or mountain).  The indexes are available for public viewing in the Map Library.

Aerial Photograph Indexes:  The Map Library has a collection of over 130,000 aerial photographs of South Carolina.  Because aerial photos are organized differently than maps, indexes are a must for locating features on the ground.  These indexes are mosaics of all the photos in a given set (i.e. county & year).  The index is often available for sets even when there are no available photos, and in these cases the user can use the index itself for interpretation.  The indexes and are available on request at the Map Library reference desk, and they are also currently undergoing conversion to digital format for online viewing.

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