We use lots of maps in tracing the paths of our ancestors. Mapmakers will often place a tiny piece of incorrect information in their maps to prevent illegal reproduction of their work. Called a "copyright trap," the fake text might be a bogus street name or even the mapmakers' initials hidden in the corner of a city park.

Fictitious entries on maps may be called phantom settlements, trap streets, paper towns, cartographer's follies, or other names. They are intended to serve as traps for identifying copyright infringements. 

In 1978, the fictional Ohio towns of Goblu and Beatosu were inserted into that year's official state of Michigan map as nods to the University of Michigan and its traditional rival, Ohio State University.

Mount Richard, a fictitious peak on the continental divide in the United States, appeared on county maps in the early 1970s. It was believed to be the work of a draftsman, Richard Ciacci. The fiction was undiscovered for two years.

Argleton was a phantom settlement that appeared on Google Maps and Google Earth but does not actually exist. The supposed location of Argleton was just off the A59 road within the civil parish of Aughton in West Lancashire, England, which in reality is nothing more than empty fields. Data from Google are used by other online information services which consequently treated Argleton as a real settlement within the L39 postcode area. As a result, Argleton also appeared in numerous listings for things such as real estate, employment and weather, but although the people, businesses and services listed are all in fact real, they are actually based elsewhere in the same postcode district. Google later removed the town from Google Maps.

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Dee Notaro is an amateur genealogist based in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.).  Her own ancestral background is made up of a mixture of cultures, including her Irish forebears who hailed from County Sligo.  Dee teaches classes on genealogical research and is passionate about helping others find answers to their ancestry questions.

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Tags: Ancestry, Genealogy, Maps

Comment by Patrick J. O'Leary on February 7, 2017 at 9:12pm

Based in Atlanta, GA  no less. Ye  of the Rambling Wrecks.and  Yellow Jackets.>>


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