Maps can help you find where your ancestors lived. There are many types of maps. Each can help you in a different way. Historical maps describe economic growth and development, boundaries, migration and settlement patterns, military campaigns, transportation development, effects of plagues, and other historical information. Road maps provide details on highways, rivers, and town size. Other types include parish maps, county maps, topographical maps, enclosure maps, civil district maps, and church diocesan maps.
Maps are published separately or in bound collections, called atlases. You may find maps in gazetteers, guidebooks, local histories, directories, or history texts.
Since 1800 the Ordinance Survey has been the major source of topographical maps. English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish maps are available in 1, 6, and 25 inches to the mile. The series has been revised and published at different dates. There are also Ordnance Survey maps of greater detail (up to 10 feet to the mile).
City and street maps are helpful for research in large cities. A partial list of such maps available at the Family History Library is:
- Rural and City Maps.Typescript. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985. (FHL book 942 E73c.)
Use maps carefully for the following reasons:
- Several places may have the same name. For example, 100 places are called Mount Pleasant in England.
- The place-name on the map may not be spelled as expected, because names were often spelled as they sounded.
- Parish boundaries are seldom indicated.
Finding a Specific Place on the Map
To do successful research in English records, you must identify where your ancestor lived. Because many localities have the same name, you may need some additional information before you can find the correct area on a map. Search gazetteers, histories, family records, and other sources to learn all you can about the area, including the following:
- The parish and county where the place is located
- The civil registration district that served your ancestor’s parish (after 1837)
- The names of the churches
- The size of the town and parish
- The names of other villages in the parish
- Your ancestor’s occupation
- Nearby localities, such as large cities
- Places where related ancestors lived
- Nearby features, such as rivers and mountains
- The area’s industries
This information will help you distinguish between places of the same name and help you locate the correct place on a map. See England Gazetteers for more information.
Finding Maps and Atlases
Collections of maps and atlases are available at historical societies, county record offices, and public and university libraries. Major collections for England are at the British Library (see the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for address) and the Bodleian Library at Oxford:
- Bodleian Library
Oxford OX1 3BG
The Family History Library has a good collection of English maps and atlases. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under one of the following:
GREAT BRITAIN - MAPS
ENGLAND - MAPS
ENGLAND, [COUNTY] - MAPS
ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - MAPS
Some helpful maps at the Family History Library are:
Humphery-Smith, Cecil R., The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Second Edition. Chichester, Sussex, England: Phillimore & Company, 1995. (FHL book 942 E7pa 1995.) This includes an indexed parish boundary map and general topographical maps for each county.
Mason, Oliver, comp. Bartholomew Gazetteer of Places in Britain. Scale 1:300,000. Edinburgh, Scotland: John Bartholomew & Son Limited, 1986. (FHL book 942 E5bb, 1986.)
Landranger Series. Southampton, England: Ordnance Survey, 1987–89. (FHL map 942 E7lan nos. 1–204.)
National Map Series. Scale 1:100,000. Various editions. Edinburgh, Scotland: John Bartholomew & Son, 1978–81. (FHL book 942 E7bm.) These are detailed, modern sheet maps, roughly one inch to the mile.
The Old Series Ordnance Survey Maps of England and Wales, Scale 1:64,000. Lympne Castle, Kent, England: Harry Margary, 1986–. (FHL book Q 942 E3os.) These original-release, one-inch-to-the-mile maps (published from 1805 to 1873) have been republished in ten volumes.
Other useful publications on maps include:
Harley, J. B. Ordnance Survey Maps: A Descriptive Manual. Southampton, England: Ordnance Survey, 1975. (FHL book 942 E3osa.) This explains the history of and detail on ordinance survey maps.
Hindle, Brian Paul. Maps for Local History. London, England: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1988. (FHL book 942 E77h.) This explains types of maps and contains a bibliography.
Watt, Ian, comp. A Directory of United Kingdom Map Collections. London, England: McCarta, Limited, 1985. (FHL book 942 E74w.) This is a brief description of map repositories (including county record offices) that describes the holdings, hours, and copying facilities.
Contact your local bookstore to order maps of England, or you may purchase maps by writing to either of the two following places:
- John Bartholomew & Sons, Limited
12 Duncan Street
Edinburgh, EH9 1TA
- Ordnance Survey Office
Southampton, SO9 4DH
Old Maps of the United Kingdom
Providing access to Britain's most extensive digital historical map archive, jointly owned by the Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency is this website:
To locate a map, enter a place name, address or coordinate (OS Grid Reference) then click the Search button.
Cost is free, with an option to purchase decorative maps. All information contained on this site is subject to copyright and/or database right. Any reproduction, duplication, copying, sale or resale or exploitation for commercial purposes of any information held on or accessed via this site is expressly prohibited.
Village by Village Maps in the United Kingdom and Ireland
Village by village maps and message boards in the United Kingdom and Ireland available on the internet.
You can search this website either by village, surname, or browse all villages by county. Each village page includes links to historic maps as well as a message forum where people can post messages about things relating to that village, family history questions, tips, requests or look ups.
Each village webpage might include:
- Historic map of the village
- Street map of the village
- Maps of surrounding area
- Message board for each village
Or search on www.google.com for villages United Kingdom genealogy.
Cost is free with added features if a membership is purchased.
- You must join as either a free or paid member to post messages.
- One person of each message correspondence must be a paid member, therefore if you are a free member you can only contact paid members, and only paid members can contact you.
- Cost for membership is an annual fee.
- To use the “Search Surname” feature, you must be signed in as a free or paid user.
- To search for villages you do not have to be signed in.
Information is also accessible through the GENUKI Internet website at:
Many Web sites have maps. The following links are a few of the sites on the Internet.
- http://freepagesgenealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genmaps/index.html - This link on Rootsweb provides map links for the various counties of England, Wales, and Scotland dating back to the 1600's. This is a great site.
The Family History Library at www.familysearch.org has a collection of maps for England. Use the Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog for a locality and the topic of Maps.