Can the geography files be used in ArcGIS Online?

I tried to import a layer from a file into ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online did not recognize the zipped shapefiles I tried to import. I was trying to import 1990 block group files. I got the message

It should be possible to use NHGIS shapefiles in ArcGIS Online, but most NHGIS shapefiles exceed the size limit that ArcGIS Online imposes for direct uploads of data.

This Esri FAQ post discusses the size limit. It suggests you could use “feature services” to upload a larger file and provides links to more info.

When I tried to upload an NHGIS shapefile of U.S. states just now, I get a more detailed error message than the one you received. It states:

> “This dataset is too large to add directly to the map. Instead, publish this data as a hosted layer, then add the hosted layer to the map.”

I hope you’ll be able to use either hosted layers or feature services to open the files in ArcGIS Online. If not, please feel free to follow up here.


I’m having this same issue. ArcGIS is also rejecting a geography file as a hosted layer. Do you have any tips? I’d like to import 1950s census tracts.

Thanks very much.

One alternative that may work for you is to simplify the NHGIS shapefile’s geometry, reducing its size, before you upload it to ArcGIS Online. A free and relatively easy way to do this is by using You can upload the 1950 tract shapefile to that site, use some simple controls to adjust the detail in the tract boundaries, and then export the simplified file, which may then be small enough to import into ArcGIS Online.

Thank you. I will try that and let you know.