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* GIS (Geographic Information System): GIS Data Sources

This guide can help in getting started with GIS, finding data, and getting help.


This page lists some of the most common places University of Rochester faculty and student researchers locate spatial data.  This is not a comprehensive list and focuses on the ones that are used most often.  Many of these links also have a "Teach Me" link that links to a tutorial or more information about that source.  Often these tutorials link out to content created by other institutions.

Local Area Data

The resources below are the most commonly accessed sites to get GIS data for Rochester, Monroe County and NY State.

  • DataROC: "... is a public clearinghouse for information about the City of Rochester. The site features spatial and non-spatial data in a variety of formats including tables, feature layers, applications, story maps, documents, and web maps."
  • Rochester Data Hub: this resource was created by the University of Rochester library and includes GIS data provided by local governments, georeferenced historical maps and other commonly used spatial data as webservices and downloadable layers
  • Monroe County GIS: this is the landing page for Monroe County GIS and includes downloadable GIS layers as well as interactive mapping applications
  • Cornell University CUGIR: CUGIR, the Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository, provides free and open access to geospatial data for New York State, as well as worldwide geospatial data created by researchers at Cornell.
  • NYS GIS Clearinghouse: "Through the collaboration of many government agencies, non-profit organizations, and academia, the NYS GIS Clearinghouse is an evolving searchable repository of GIS data and mapping resources available to all users – from GIS professionals to the general public." 

Historical Maps

Historical maps are often used in research projects and can be used as is or can be georeferenced and layered with other GIS content.  Here are some common places to get digital versions of historical maps.

  • Rochester Area Data Hub Maps: this resource was created by the University of Rochester library and includes a collection of georeferenced maps from University of Rochester's Rare Books and Special Collections, Monroe County Library and the City of Rochester.  These maps are ready to be used in GIS software.
  • David Rumsey Map Collection: "The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 35 years ago and contains more than 200,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, globes, wall maps, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children's, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from around 1550 to the present."
  • NYPL Digital Maps Collection: NYPL has a large collection of high resolution digitized maps and atlases that can be downloaded and used in your mapping projects
  • Library of Congress Digital Maps: the library of congress has huge collections of digital materials including over 50,000 maps that can be downloaded
  • Monroe County Library System Maps: Digitized maps help by the Monroe County Library System, mostly of New York and heavily focused on upstate

General Data

These sites are commonly used to access data for base data and content for the United States.

  • US Census bureau: create custom tables and maps using US Census Bureau's decennial census and American Community Survey data.  For ease of use we recommend NHGIS listed below.  
  • IPUMS National Historical GIS:  "...provides easy access to summary tables and time series of population, housing, agriculture, and economic data, along with GIS-compatible mapping files, for years from 1790 through the present and for all levels of U.S. census geography, including states, counties, tracts, and blocks."  This is the best way to get census data and mapping files ready to be used in GIS and mapping software. 
  • The National Map: "As one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) National Geospatial Program, The National Map is a collaborative effort among the USGS and other Federal, State, and local partners to improve and deliver topographic information for the Nation." 
  • Natural Earth: "Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales. Featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with Natural Earth you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software."