Every time I drive home to Charlotte my visual impression is dominated by the expanding skyline. It’s cool! Charlotte, like most towns and cities, is growing at rapid pace. The landscape is quickly changing to a point I’m now loosing my way around. My phone is my map and my own memory is no longer needed. It’s deeply sad to see the old maps disregarded and even being destroyed as a result of the computer age.
As an arm chair history buff, the evolution of one type of map scares me. Looking at old land grants and deeds, I like to compare their old surveys to present day property tax maps. Finding some of the original boundaries, it’s a fabulous tool for connecting ancient landholdings to the modern world. But the end is in sight, the resource is disappearing and the blame is twofold.
Can you imagine using today’s county tax maps to find the original land grants as they were once located in what’s now downtown Charlotte? There’s no source for doing so as the degree of urbanization makes it impossible. But joy-joy …out in the rural areas old farms and forests are sometimes bounded by survey lines rooted in the original land grants. Highly valuable, these too are disappearing as urban sprawl invades the “country.” Just last week I heard folks talking about the town of Locust and how you’d better buy up land now as it was disappearing fast! hmmmm…
Along with the urbanization of rural lands, we’re also more efficient in how land is recorded. No longer do we have the old hard-copy books filled with plats and no longer do we have a hard copy county tax map. Plats are updated online as land is bought, sold and developed. It’s ever-changing nature destroys memory just as does an eraser on a chalk board. Does an annually published county tax map census exist? Maybe, but I question access and whether or not those in charge understand and support the public need to explore our past. GIS is a powerful tool, I just hope for a governmental act requiring an annual census of county tax maps.
Years ago my fear led me to visit local court houses in order to copy tax maps in the areas I research. Take a look, this may be of help to you!