News flash: Photos aren’t the only kinds of images that belong in a family history! We’re huge fans of including maps to help tell your story in a deeper and more meaningful way. Read on to discover how maps can connect family and history.
At RLM, we recommend using maps to represent two kinds of information: locations and journeys. The former illustrates a moment in time in a specific place, like a hometown or ancestral region. Seeing the same region over time—perhaps changing hands politically or changing borders—can be the proverbial picture worth a thousand words. And of course, seeing an unfamiliar location from a bird’s-eye view can tell modern-day readers a lot about their families’ origins.
Maps that reflect journeys will necessarily tell a very different kind of story. For projects that reflect immigration patterns, especially multigenerational ones, there’s nothing like a custom-made map to illustrate what can be a complicated backstory.
The Great Migration—the movement of Black communities and families from the rural South to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West throughout the 20th century—is a classic American family story. In Michelle Obama’s recent memoir, for example, her ancestors’ decision to move north influences and inspires her tremendously. Imagine a map that shows the progression of various branches of a family, united by an awareness of its history even though individuals might find themselves thousands of miles apart.
Another iconic American narrative involves the wave of Jewish migration from Central and Eastern Europe. (Through the production of a custom map for a project last year, we discovered, astonishingly, that a client’s forebears hailed from a town just down the road from Samantha’s grandmother! That was a crazy day, in the best possible sense of the word.)
But for every family that made the well-known journey from, say, Minsk to the Lower East Side, there were others that navigated through Mandate-era Palestine or Africa or Argentina or Cuba or China or the deep South! Just a glance at these unexpected journeys will spark wonder—and the desire to learn more.
We’re proud to be able to offer this storytelling option, specific to each family’s experiences and lovingly detailed and designed by our expert colleagues. Larger versions of commissioned maps can be framed to create a unique and deeply meaningful gift.
If you’re interested in making maps part of your family’s story, please take a moment and reach out to us! We’d love to brainstorm ways to pass along the history that connects the people closest to you.