image of map image of map

Census 2000: Working with Maps

A Horse of a Different Color:
Census 2000 and Creating Customized Tables on the Web
GODORT Federal Documents Task Force
13 June 2002
Georgia State University
Pullen Library Seminar Room
9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Barbara Levergood
Former Electronic Documents Librarian, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


This is a hands-on workshop in which you will learn how to read, find, and customize Census 2000 maps. We will first cover the basics of Census 2000 geography. We will do some exercises on how to read a print census map. After some background on American FactFinder's mapping portals, we will use one of those portals, Thematic Maps, to create a map on the web. We will learn how to find ready-made maps in PDF format available for download on the web and how to order print maps from the Census Bureau. We will learn some techniques for customizing a PDF map to print out legibly. Finally, we will learn how to find out what census geographic areas an address is in using American FactFinder's Reference Maps. (American FactFinder is the U.S. Census Bureau's premier vehicle on the web for Census 2000 data and mapping. It is freely available on the web at

On the agenda

Return to top

Maps for Census 2000: A Summary of Options

For the rest of us ...

Possibilities for referrals

For the high end ...

Return to top

Basics of Census 2000 Geography

Census 2000 image from Census Bureau

Return to top

How To Read A Print Census Map

An example of a subset of a PDF map

Example of a subset of a PDF map

Return to top

How to Find These Maps in PDF Format or
Order them from the Census Bureau

Exercise: "I would like to see (on the computer screen) a PDF map for the census blocks in census tract 86.01 in Fulton County, Georgia."

  1. Go to the page providing access to maps in PDF format: Map Products
  2. Click on "Census 2000 Block Maps". Choose Georgia. We would like to see all of the maps for Fulton County, so choose "County", then choose "Fulton County".
  3. If there is more than one file in the list, then the first one should be an index file and it should end with "000.pdf". Click on that index file ending in "000.pdf".
  4. If you are asked: "What do you want to do with this file?", choose "Open it".
  5. Adobe Acrobat Reader should be invoked to view the file. Use the zoom tool (it looks like a magnifying glass) to zoom in. Figure out which other file you need as follows:
    "The county index map will show the county boundaries and the boundaries of any places within the county. It also will have an overlay of a grid of squares. Each square represents the area covered by one of the maps for that county. Using this grid, you can determine which map or maps cover the area of interest. At the center of each grid square you will find a map sheet number. This number is also a part of the file name for the PDF file of the map(s). It is in the last three positions before ".pdf"." For example, CBC13121_027.pdf is sheet number 27, shown in grid number 27 for Fulton County, Georgia. "With this information you can download or view the appropriate maps(s)."
  6. There are two potential ways to return to the list of PDF files, depending on how the software is set up. If there is a "Back" button near the top left corner, click on that to return to the list of PDF files. If not, click on "Index of /pl..." at the bottom of the screen to return to the list of PDF files.
  7. The problem is that you do not know which file to choose if all you have is a census tract number in Fulton County. Using this method, you would have to go through all of the files to find it. I have done that for you, and can tell you that you need grid 27 for census tract 86.01, so please choose CBC13121_027.pdf.
  8. Again, if you are asked: "What do you want to do with this file?", choose "Open it".
  9. You might not know exactly where census tract 86.01 is on the map. To find it easily using Adobe Acrobat Reader, click on the binoculars. Type in: 86.01. Click on "Find".

Exercise: "I would like to download a PDF census map."

You can also save these PDF files by right-clicking on the link to a file within Netscape or Internet Explorer.

Exercise: "I would like to order a census map."

The Census Bureau sells full-size Census 2000 maps. Maps are 36" x 33" and color. They are $5 each, with a minimum order of $25. PDF versions are also sold on CD-ROM/DVD.

Return to top

American FactFinder image from Census Bureau

American Factfinder Portals for Mapping

For more details, see also A Guide to American FactFinder Geography and Functionality.

Portal Strengths Weaknesses
Reference Maps

You can create maps down to the block level.

Maps are customizable.

It does not do thematic mapping.

Basic Facts - Maps

It does thematic mapping.

It is good for novices. It is good for when you aren't sure what dataset you need to use or when you don't know the terminology.

Counties is the smallest level of geography you can get.

Maps are not customizable.

Thematic Maps

It does thematic mapping.

You can create maps down to the block level.

Maps are customizable.

A little more difficult to use.

Return to top

Icon for Thematic Maps from Census Bureau

How to Display Data on a Map Using
American Factfinder's Thematic Maps

Exercise: "I would like to see which areas of Fulton County, Georgia, have the most Hispanics. It would be great if I could display the data on the map by block group."

  1. Go to the Census Bureau home page then to "American FactFinder".
  2. From American FactFinder's front page, choose "Thematic Maps".
  3. The (current) default is "Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1)". If this dataset is the one chosen for you, continue on to the next step. If not, or if you are otherwise confused, choose "Change Selections/Dataset", choose "Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1)", and then click "Next".
  4. Under "Select a data set and click 'OK'", highlight "Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF1) 100-percent Data". Click "OK".
  5. Next to "Select the type of area", choose "County". (Eventually, this choice will allow us to display the data by block group. FYI, if you wanted data displayed by block, you would choose "Census Tract" instead; however, only one tract at a time will be displayed.) Next to "Select state", choose "Georgia". Next to "Select county", choose "Fulton County". Click on "Next" or "Show Map".
  6. If you get a map with data already on it, choose "Change Selections/Theme" to make your own choices. If not, continue on.
  7. Next to "Search", note that the default choice is "show all themes". This can be a very long and confusing list to look through. To simplify somewhat, choose "by subject" instead.
  8. Under "Select a subject and click 'Search'", choose "Hispanic or Latino (Including Types of Hispanics)" and click on "Search".
  9. Under "Select a theme and click 'Show Map'", choose "Persons Who Are Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 2000" and click on "Next" or "Show Map".
  10. Note that the default does not show the data by block group. To change this choice, next to "Fulton County, Georgia by" choose "Block Group".
  11. You can further customize your map. Click on "Options/Data classes". Change the "Number of classes", the "Color scheme", and/or the "Classing method". Click on the "Features" tab and uncheck the "Feature" and "Label" boxes for "Stream, Waterbody". You can also customize the title if you wish. Click on "Update" when you are done. Note: the streets and street names may not be visible until you zoom in further.
  12. You could now Print/Download the map. The legend must be downloaded separately.

An example of a map and legend from Thematic Maps

Example of Thematic Map Example of Thematic Map Legend

Return to top

Working With PDF Maps in Adobe Acrobat Reader and
Customizing the Size, Extent, and Display Resolution of Your Map

Using Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the PDF maps, one can zoom or pan, copy, and search for text (except street names). However, these maps were designed to be printed out at their full, 36" x 33" size. One cannot print out an entire legible map on one sheet of letter, legal, or tabloid (11"x17") paper. In order to make these maps usable at other sizes, one can

Exercise: "I would like to view a PDF census map (by first saving the file to the hard disk)."

We will save the PDF file to the hard disk and open it using Adobe Acrobat Reader. This will give us access to all of Reader's tools for manipulating the PDF file.

  1. Go to the page providing access to maps in PDF format: Map Products
  2. Click on "Census 2000 Block Maps". Choose Georgia. We would like to see all of the maps for Fulton County, so choose "County", then choose "Fulton County".
  3. Right-click on the file CBC13121_027.pdf. Choose "Save link as". Save the file and make a note of where you saved it.
  4. Start Adobe Acrobat Reader. Choose File/Open. Navigate to the directory in which you saved the file. Highlight the file you just saved and click "Open".

Exercise: The Basics of Adobe Acrobat Reader

PDF icon
  1. Zoom in and out using the magnifying glasses. Click on the magnifying glass with the plus sign in it. Click on the map and drag towards the bottom right corner to choose the area you want to zoom in on. To zoom out, click on the magnifying glass with the minus sign in it and then click on the map. Alternatively, choose View/Zoom in or View/Zoom out.
  2. Use the pan tool (the hand) to find the legend (in the top right corner of the map). Click on the hand. Click and drag the map to pan.
  3. Choose View/Fit visible to see the entire map again.
  4. Choose View/Actual size to see the map at actual size.
  5. Don't actually do this; it will probably take a very long time to print! Choose File/Print to print the entire map. If the image is bad, try choosing the "Print as image" option. Note that the map is not fully legible.
  6. To search for numbers or names (but not street names) on the map, choose Edit/Find and type in a census tract number, block number, city name, etc. Choose "Find".

Exercise: "I would like to print out a subset of a map -- with the map extent and display resolution that I want."

This technique allows you to fix the map extent and display resolution. The map size will be determined by MSPaint.

Software needed: Adobe Acrobat Reader, MSPaint. (Get a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. MSPaint is usually installed when Windows is installed.)

  1. Start with the map open in Reader.
  2. Zoom in or out using the zoom in tool, the zoom tools on the "View" menu, or the magnification button until you see on the screen the map extent that you would like to print.
  3. Use the "Graphics Select Tool" within Reader to select the map extent that you would like to print.
  4. Zoom in or out until you find the display resolution that you want. The amount of detail that you want to see on the map, such as street names, will limit how much you should zoom out. If you want to print out the map on the fewest number of sheets of paper possible, this will limit how much you should zoom in.
  5. Choose "Edit"/"Copy". This will copy the selected area, retaining both the map extent selected and the current display resolution.
  6. Paste into MSPaint. If asked whether you would like the bitmap enlarged, choose "Yes".
  7. Use "Print Preview" to view the result. If you are unhappy with the map extent, the display resolution, or the number of pages that will be printed out, start over.
  8. Use MSPaint to print the map. Based on my testing, if the pasted map is too large to fit onto one page, MSPaint will print out the map across two or more pages.

This technique is modified from Census Bureau's Printing From the PDF Map Files in order to provide more control over the display resolution. Printing From the PDF Map Files provides detailed instructions for how to use Adobe Acrobat Reader to display and print maps. How to Print out Census 2000 Maps in PDF Format provides techniques for printing out these maps on the paper of your choice, providing flexible control over map extent, display resolution, and map size. Census 2000: A Workshop on Maps in PDF Format is a workshop based on these guides.

An example of a subset of a PDF map

Example of a subset of a PDF map

Return to top

Icon for Reference Maps from Census Bureau

How to Find out What Census Geographical Areas an Address is in
Using American Factfinder's Reference Maps

Exercise: "I want to find out what census tract, block group, and block I live in and make a map that includes that block. No, I don't need to display data on the map." Alternatively, find this information about the address for Heatherwood Apartments, 5931 Providence Road, Charlotte, North Carolina, 28226. (Answer: Heatherwood Apartments is in Mecklenburg County, census tract 20.04, block group 3, block 3002.)

Note: There are other ways to find this information, but using this technique in Reference Maps seems to provide the most flexibility in displaying the map.

  1. From American FactFinder choose "Reference Maps".
  2. If you get a map of the U.S., choose "Change Selections/Geography" to reset. If not, continue on.
  3. Next to "Choose a Selection Method", click on the "Address search" radio button.
  4. Enter the address. Click on "Go".
  5. You will get a list of "Geographies Containing" the address. Write down the county name and the census tract, block group, and block numbers.
  6. Highlight the line with the block number on it. Click on "Show Map".
  7. Look for your street name with associated census tract, block group, and block numbers. If you do not see the street name, try zooming in.
  8. Optional: If you want to clean up the map a little, choose "Options/Boundaries". Under "Choose a survey instance and select a group of boundaries", make sure that "Census 2000" and "Census Block Hierarchy" are chosen. Uncheck the "Boundary" and "Label" boxes for "2000 Place" and for "1990 Urbanized Area". Click on the "Title" tab. Give the map a title. Click on "Update".
  9. You could then choose "Print/Download".

An example of output

Example of output

An example of a map and legend from Reference Maps

Example of Reference Map Example of Reference Map Legend

Return to top

Some Useful Web Pages



Return to top

Where to go for Help with Census 2000 Data or Maps

Return to top Updated 4 June 2002