Old and New Maps for family history

A tweet from the National Library of Scotland this morning reminded me that I had intended to blog about the facility offered by the National Library of Scotland, which allows you to place two maps side by side, for any place in the UK.  Thus you can compare modern and Victorian maps for places that your ancestors lived in, or examine the degree of coastal erosion in some places, for example.

Based on the number of tweets from the specific section at the library, they seem to be adding new maps to their collection all the time.  Follow @natlibscotmaps on twitter to see their latest tweets, and you will find the map facility at the National Library here.  You can choose which maps to display and which location, and it’s great fun.

For those with London ancestors, the copperplate map of the 1550s has been digitized here and makes very interesting reading. To look at a map and see Smithfield when it was a field, and to see fields being worked so far into the centre of London really brings it home…just how much has changed in the course of 500 years.  The background to the map is on wikipedia here.

Also for London research, the London School of Economics has a website to display Charles Booth’s maps of London.  Charles Booth did an enormous amount of research with a team of assistants, trying to establish the economic status of the households in all areas of London.  The map is colour-coded to show every strata of society from the sandy yellow of the wealthy to the lowest criminal class in black.  It is fascinating to look at the areas your Victorian ancestors lived in and work out where in the social categories they might have come. Some of Charles Booth’s notebooks are available on the same site.

The Geograph project aims to photograph every square of the map in Britain and Ireland.  Many of the photographs included in the project are set to a creative commons copyright which allows them to be used with attribution in your family history.  If you need a picture of a particular church or place, it is always worth looking on Geograph, as many people have taken photographs and allow those photographs to be used by others.


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