Maps, we can’t find our destination without them. But they can also be helpful when figuring out where our ancestors lived.
Maps Assist With Genealogy Research
Maps can provide clues as to the size of town our ancestors lived, the county name and the surrounding communities. Knowing the right county can help in your search for local records.
Try to find historical maps from the era of your ancestors – this will show you what the different boundaries looked like at the time. Municipal and territorial lines change, so older maps could provide clues on where to find other family records.
Maps can also show the terrain. Take into account the physical features of the area – mountains, rivers, lakes. Plus maps often illustrate where churches, cemeteries and schools are located. Looking at these landmarks in context of where ancestors lived may reveal other nearby towns that could store important family documents.
There are even historical land ownership maps that can show the parcel of land and who owned it. If you are fortunate enough to come across one, be sure to look around at the other names too because families may have lived close to one another. I came across an old survey map from before my grandparents owned the family farm – it contained many familiar last names from in the community.
I have come across many map resources on different government and library websites. Try doing a Google search on the area you are interested in. Try searching for the city’s archive or library – they may have old records and maps available.
Here’s some more information to get you started:
Using Maps in Genealogical Research is an informative article about how to use maps and what kind of information you can discover.
Canadian Map Resources:
- Atlas of Canada offers different Canadian maps.
- The Online Historical Map Digitization Project has many western Canadian maps.
- Here is a list of Canadian Fire Insurance Maps by province. Many do not appear to be available online, but hard copies are available.
Ontario Map Resources:
- Here is an article on Ontario Land Records. If you scroll down to the very bottom there is a listing of various counties in Ontario and links to old county maps from the late 1800s – some are even searchable by surname. They are also available at the Canadian County Atlas Digital Project.
- The Changing Shape of Ontario offers maps from the Archives of Ontario and explains how boundaries and names have changed over the years.
- City of Toronto Archives map collection.
World & European Maps
- Euratlas historical maps.
- The University of Texas Libraries offers a variety of different historical maps from around the world that cover a very wide time frame.
- David Rumesy Map Collection.
- A Vision of Britain Through Time offers different maps which allows you to easily search by city.