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, and other historical information. Road maps provide details on highways, rivers, and town size. Other types of maps include parish, county, topographical maps, enclosure, civil district, and church diocesan.
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 Ordnance 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).
Use maps carefully because:
- Often several places have the same name. For example, there are many references to Glasfryn (Green Hill) or Bryn Hyfryd (Mount Pleasant) in Wales.
- The place-name on the map may not be spelled as expected (names were often spelled as they sounded).
- Parish boundaries are seldom indicated; however, the larger scale ordnance survey maps do show parish boundaries.
Finding the Specific Place on the Map
Because many localities have the same name, you may need some additional information before you can find on a map where your ancestor lived. Learn all you can about the area, including:
- The parish and county in which the place is located.
- The civil registration district that served your ancestor’s parish (after 1837).
- The names of the churches and chapels.
- The size of the town and parish.
- The names of other villages in the parish.
- Your ancestor’s occupation (this may indicate the industries or the size of the area).
- Nearby localities, such as large cities.
- Places where related ancestors lived.
- Nearby features, such as rivers and mountains.
- The area’s industries.
Finding Maps and Atlases
Maps and atlases are available at historical societies, county record offices, and public and academic libraries. The earliest large-scale ordnance survey maps not only show the churches and chapels in each parish but also the name and denomination of each. The 6 inch scale maps also show parish and township boundaries. The 6 inch ordnance survey maps are ideal for doing research in rural Wales because of their detail.
You can get a catalog of available modern ordnance and survey maps from:
Ordnance Survey Office
Romsey Road, Maybush
Southampton S09 4DH
Information is also accessible through the GENUKI website at:
You can get photocopies of early editions of the ordnance survey maps from:
National Library of Wales
Maps and Prints Department
Dyfed SY23 3BU
You may also gain access to some maps through the GENUKI sebsite at:
Some maps at the Family History Library are:
Ordnance Survey. Scale 1:50,000. Rev. ed. Southampton: Director General of the Ordnance Survey, 1972. (FHL map 942 E7me.) The 1-inch-to-the-mile edition contains nine sheets covering most of South Wales.
Ordnance Surveyors’ Drawings, 1790–1840. On microfiche, 2- and 3-inches-to-the-mile. (FHL fiche 6066967.) There are 425 microfiche in this set, and the first three fiche are an index to the set. The first ordnance survey maps were made from these ordnance survey drawings. They are very detailed, and represent the best maps in the Family History Library for Wales.
Gardner, David E., et. al. A Genealogical Atlas of England and Wales. Scale (est.) 1:300,000. Provo, Utah: Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, 1974. (FHL book 942 E3g 1974.) This is a reprint of 1840s Samuel Lewis maps with an index to parish churches. It shows just over 5 miles to the inch.
Humphery-Smith, Cecil R. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Chichester, Sussex, England: Phillimore & Co., 1995. (FHL book 942 E7pa 1995.) This work includes an indexed parish boundary map and general topographical map for South Wales, Mid-Wales, and North Wales.