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Maps are an important source to locate the places where your ancestors lived. They help you see the neighboring towns and geographic features of the area your ancestor came from. Maps locate places, parishes, churches, geographical features, transportation routes, and proximity to other towns.
Maps may be published individually or in bound collections called atlases. Maps may also be included in gazetteers, guidebooks, local histories, and history texts.
Different types of maps can help you in different ways. Historical atlases describe the growth and development of countries. They show boundaries, migration routes, settlement patterns, military campaigns, and other historical information. Road atlases provide detailed information about the Czech road systems. Other types of maps include county atlases, and topographical maps. Ordinance survey maps show land plats in great detail, sometimes up to one-half an inch to the mile. City street maps are extremely helpful when researching in large cities, such as Praha (Prague).
Here are some useful maps for general reference:
Maps must be used carefully for several reasons:
- Several places often have the same name. For example, there are over 100 places in the Czech Republic called Nová Ves!
- The spelling and even names of some towns may have changed since your ancestors lived there. Some localities have different names in different languages. For example, the town presently known as Karlové Vary was named Karlsbad.
- Place-names are often misspelled in American sources. Difficult names may have been shortened and important diacritic marks omitted. For example, Štěpánov may be found as Stepanov.
- Political boundaries are not clearly indicated on all maps.
Finding the Specific Town on the Map
To do successful Czech research, you must identify the town where your ancestor lived. Because many towns have the same name, you may need some additional information before you can find the correct town on a map. You will be more successful if you have some information about the town. Before using a map, search gazetteers, histories, family records, and other sources to learn all you can about the following:
- The district/county the ancestor came from
- The name of the parish where your ancestor was baptized or married
- Towns where related ancestors lived
- The size of the town
- Your ancestor's occupation or names of relatives (this may indicate the town's size or industries)
- Nearby localities, such as large cities
- Nearby features, such as rivers and mountains
- Industries of the area
- Other names by which the town was known
Use gazetteers to identify the district/county your ancestor's town was in. This will distinguish it from other towns of the same name and help you find it on a map. See the "Gazetteers" section.
Finding Maps and Atlases
Collections of maps and atlases are available at many historical societies, public and university libraries and on the Internet.
The Family History Library has an excellent collection of Czech maps and atlases. These are listed in the catalog under CZECH REPUBLIC - MAPS.
A good auto atlas with major city plans at the Family History Library is:
Autoatlas Česká republika 1:100 000. (Auto Atlas of the Czech Republic). Praha: Geodézie ČS, 2006. (FHL book 943.71 E7a).
Military detail and topographical maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire:
Militär-Landesaufnahme und Spezialkarte der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie. (Detailed Map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Wien: Das Institut, 1875-1918. (FHL film 1045395).
Old Czech Maps - Contains 1st, 2nd and 3rd Military Survey and Muller Survey going back to mid 18th Century