Maps are a valuable asset to anyone carrying out research into their ancestry. They show use what we can no longer see.
For anyone interested in a particular area an old map can be invaluable. The census records are a fantastic source of information to us as it tells us exactly where our ancestors live. But that’s all it does do. If you don’t know the area it really means nothing to you. So this is where maps come into play. Now in some cases using online maps such as Google Maps is great as you may be able to find the street your ancestors lived on and using Street View you might even be able to see the house they lived in. But what if the area has changed? Then what, well this is where old maps come in. By looking at the old map you might be able to see the street they lived on and then can compare it to a modern map and find you where the street used to be.
But you might say where can I see old maps. Well there are some websites that sell old maps and I have to say I use the Alan Godfrey collection (www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk). This site sells maps for most regions of the UK and range from one inch to the mile and much more detailed where you just buy the one for the area of the city you want. So for Sheffield there are 24 maps covering the areas of the city. If you don’t want to purchase a map then your local library probably has them for your town or city.
Another way maps can assist you in your research is by allowing you to plot where all the members of your ancestor’s family lived. This can show where families lived in relation to one another and can demonstrate how families stayed in similar areas and probably worked in similar places which may also be on the map. I know within my own ancestry many families stayed closed by each other with children marrying and living on the same street. So by plotting this on a map you can have a visual representation of where everyone lived. You could even annotate the map by putting names of ancestors on it.
Another great benefit of using maps is that they can show how an area changes over time.
If you look at the map of Sheffield from 1822 and then compare it to the map of 1905 you can see how much the city grew. On the 1822 map you can see field near the town centre where as by 1905 the field are now built on. Show this demonstrates that the lives of anyone from Sheffield must have change. So in near 90 years, which is approximately 3 generation any Sheffield ancestors will have gone from living in a small town to living in a city. So my 5 times great Grandparents would not recognise the Sheffield my Great Grandma, who in turn would probably not recognise the Sheffield of my childhood, although at least some of the same building would have been present. So it gives you a good idea of how places evolved over the years and show how you ancestors may have moved around the area they lived in to follow the work.
All in all I find maps a great source of information. They seem to put life into where your ancestors lived and gives you a true insight into their lives especially if they can be used with modern maps and road views so you can even see the homes they lived in.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!