Map It Out

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.

This Atlas of Canada map compares how “Canada” as a country changed its boundaries between 1763-1949. Contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada.

This Atlas of Canada map compares how “Canada” as a country changed its boundaries between 1763-1949. Also available as a PDF file. Contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada.

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.

British Isles physical map. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

British Isles physical map shows elevated areas, forests, swamps and even coalfields. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

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.

Central Europe in 1812. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Central Europe in 1812 – a very different landscape. Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

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:

Ontario Map Resources:

World & European Maps

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2 Responses to Map It Out

  1. chmjr2 says:

    I have found that maps have been a great aid in my research. I have a few even in frames and on the wall that show our old family farms.

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