Aerial Photos and Maps

A variety of extremely helpful maps and aerial (satellite) photos have become available on the internet of varying degrees of freeness. These can display, for very specific locations, an overall map showing location in relation to major roads and landmarks and zoomed in to show details of roads within a cemetery. The forms include topographic maps with roads identified and satellite photos with road paths and names overlayed. Resolution and detail have become quite remarkable.

This is a very dynamic and developing area, so the selection and availability of mapping tools are continually changing. Today's state-of-the-art tool may be old news tomorrow, so this page may already be obsolete by the time you are seeing it.

The following are sources that provide free maps, including aerial photos, that are particularly useful for locating rural landmarks such as cemeteries. (I am not including services like MapQuest her that are based on urban street addresses.)

These sites may be searchable by place-name or coordinates of latitude/longitude. Consequently, I am listing GNIS first which provides a mechanism for finding those coordinates from place-names.

My newest discovery (April, 2009) is Acme Mapping which is a reverse-search of sorts. One manipulates and drills down into a global map to find the coordinates for a point on that map.

As of this update (April, 2009) Google maps seems to have surpassed its older rivals. It also remains free. Those older sites may still be useful, however, and may also offer a user interface that is preferable. It does appear that at least one charges a subscription fee.

Special Notes


Topozone is easier to use when looking up specific place-names. It can zoom in on the topo map. However, while Topozone's topo maps are free, they require a paid subscription to access aerial photos which are probably the same as TerraServer. (And probably given to them by the Federal government we paid for.)


Terraserver can search on a street, city and state; on coordinates or on a "place" which is a city or town only. I don't see anywhere to search on county or a place-name. Consequently, if you are searching rural areas that don't usually have a street address, you need coordinates to use TerraServer. Unfortunately, the USGS and similar lists show probably about 1/3 of the rural cemeteries, so obtaining coordinates may be difficult. Also, with Terraserver: 1) Coordinate boxes are reversed, 2) it is necessary to enter minus sign in front of Longitude, 3) enter coordinates to three decimal places and 4) no N or W.

   Example: Greenwood Cemetery at Clarksville, Missouri

      Latitude:   39.356_N
      Longitude:  90.910_W

      Enter as:

         Longitude      Latitude
          -90.910        39.356 is my latest finding (March 2007). Unlike Topozone and TerraServer where the user must enter coordinates, a name or a street address, SatelliteViews can search from a pre-programmed list of place-names displayed in addition to geographic coordinates. The geographic coordinates search box is displayed unobtrusively at the very top right-hand of the main web page as "Lat - Long." With SatelliteViews, the user does not have the option to enter a place name or street address. Be forewarned that its list of available place-names is not complete. The list appears to have have been derived from GNIS, since it has exactly the same name and number of items for the particular Feature-Class. Also, its drill-down sequence is state, then Feature-type first (i.e. cemetery), then feature name alphabetically OR, alternately, county. That may be a little awkward if one is concentrating on just the county. Except for that minor limitation, however, I find this service significantly superior because:
  1. Resolution, detail and clarity look much sharper, at least to me.
  2. Maps are in color.
  3. Zooming in appears to go one step closer-in than the others. One can almost identify individual gravestones.
  4. The selected Feature item is marked by a red pointer. That pointer is generally very accurate and precise and makes navigation easy.
  5. The satellite photos can be overlaid with colored-in routes and names of roads. That is extremely helpful. It is the "Hybrid" option which appears by default.
  6. Navigation within the photo can be done with a hand-tool and movement appears very smooth and seamless.
  7. It is easy to set hyper-links to features.

This site's place-name list seems to correspond with GNIS. Consequently, note that when looking for cemeteries associated with or attached to a church, they will NOT be included in the listing of cemeteries, so check the listing of churches. Examples include New Liberty, Corinth, Asbury and New Salem in Lincoln County, Missouri. Also, GNIS does not list all known cemeteries.

Other usage notes:

Aerial photos probably come from the government, poss. USGS.

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