I have two Excel spreadsheets I'd like to make into shapefiles, or some equivalent. I have access to ArcGIS at work and want to try using GRASS as well. I have seen the help on doing so, but only if I have Lat and Long.

What I'm trying to do is create a shapefile from an old, 1870s, map that has property owner names on them. I've warped the map and I have an Excel file that has all the names already in it. I'd like to just be able to select a name and put a point where it would be on the map.

I also have a list of cemeteries, some with coordinates, that I'd like to map out. But since not all cemeteries have been located I don't have good GPS.

My question is, can I do this? Can I just make empty Lat/Lon columns? Should I put a 0 value in each cell? Or is this not going to work at all?

edit: The maps are in no way georeferenced, they are not that well done either, at least cartographically. They are useful if you know the road name and one can get an idea of where the property used to be. There are some 6000+ properties shown, I basically wanted to remake the map to make it easier to find the properties.


is what one of the maps look like. They are all for one county in Maryland. I already have the county outline, roads and other features. I also have a spreadsheet with all the names typed out, I just didn't want to have to retype 6000 names.

2nd edit: I guess I'm confused as to why it seems so difficult, what I was hoping to be able to do is just select a name and say, place a point here. I understand that the program wants a GP, but I would have thought it was possible to add them later.

As for the maps, they do not warp well at all. They are not the type of map that was surveyed at all. When I went to warp them it didn't work out at all. It works locally, but on the whole it doesn't. The exact placement isn't the point, just a general idea of the location. So I planned on warping as best as possible and then shifting the raster map around. The roads from then pretty much match the roads now so getting a general location is easy enough. It's just I'd rather not retyp3 6000+ names if at all possible.

  • 2
    More information is needed. Is your 1870 map georeferenced. is this just one location? The way I see this working is to create a relationship between a point file and your spreadsheet. Then as you edit (add points) you give it an ID (from the spreadsheet) which completes the relationship record to record. But you don't make it clear if you have all of the same data for all of your locations.
    – Brad Nesom
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 16:03
  • 1
    edit the original question. add screen shots, etc. Keep your question straightforward and you can get some good answers.
    – Brad Nesom
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


What I'd probably do in ArcMap:
Create a new feature class and start adding new features. As you place each point on the map, and note in your Excel file what the OBJECTID for the point is. Then, once you are done creating points, Join the Excel file to the feature class and the property owners can be copied over to the feature class.

Another way in ArcMap:
Find a central lat/long value (say, a road intersection) while you have the map open in ArcMap. Add that lat/long to every single farm in Excel, and then import the Excel file as an XY Event Layer. Save it as a new feature class, turn on Labels for the points and set it to display the property owner name, then begin editing and drag each point to their appropriate location. (This method also works if you have GPS data of unknown or inconsistent quality.)

The reason I suggest finding a location near to your farms is that if you just put in 0 for both latitude and longitude, you will probably need to drag the points quite far to get them to the correct location. This isn't necessarily worse, it's just an extra step and involves more zooming and panning; may as well start with them in the general vicinity and avoid the hassle!

  • I'd also recommend georeferencing so you can create/move points with your county maps as a base layer, just because it seems simpler than glancing back and forth between the two. However, it certainly isn't required.
    – Erica
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:59

I would do it with Spatialite-gui. The steps are:

  1. Create an empty Spatialite DB with Spatialite-gui
  2. Import Excel file with "Import Excel" tool (Excel 2003 format or older)
  3. Create geometry column (POINT) with desired SRID
  4. Populate geometry column with dummy points "geomfromtext('POINT 1 1')"
  5. Open the Spatialite table with QGIS. Move dummy points to their correct locations. Alternatively you can export the layer into shapefile with Spatialite-gui and continue with your favorite GIS program.

Little old but mostly valid tutorial is at http://www.surfaces.co.il/spatialite-and-excel-on-talking-terms/


Please see http://support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/27589

Although I don't know ArcGIS at all well, I've done the exact same thing with other tools. However since you have the big guns, why not use them...

  • Cool map though! Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:19
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    The knowledge base article doesn't address what to do if the Excel file has no lat/long.
    – Erica
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 19:00
  • Yes, I have no lat/lon, I have already done that with no problems. I also have a second file with half of the data having lat/lon.
    – Bryan
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 19:14

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