There are two options for mapping NHGIS data. The first is to download boundary files and use them in a Geographic Information System (GIS). The second option is to create maps using Social Explorer, an online mapping application.
Download NHGIS Boundary Files
The NHGIS data extraction system provides digital boundary data in the shapefile format for historical census tracts, counties, states, metropolitan statistical areas, and several other geographic levels. In order to use these data, the user must have access to a Geographic Information System (GIS) that will read shapefiles.
To browse available GIS boundary files and select any for download, use the NHGIS Data Finder. After you have specified some set of filters, click on the "GIS Boundary Files" tab under Select Data. You can browse and select data without an account, but you must register (at no cost) and login to complete your extract request.
Create Maps Online
Social Explorer is an online research tool that lets users create maps and reports of a wide range of US demographic information, including select NHGIS data. Social Explorer is developed at Queens College of the City University of New York.