10 best free historic map sites

By steveharnell, 12 March 2014 - 1:53pm

Editor Sarah Williams gives us her rundown of the 10 best free historic map websites

Thursday 13 March 2014

Sarah Williams, editor
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I’ve got a soft spot for historic maps. My house is full of them and I think they add an interesting dimension to family and local history. You might think that your ancestors lived in the middle of suburbia, only to find, looking at a map, that they were on the very edge of town, just a stone's throw from fields.
Maps are also useful for finding relevant parish records or possible places of work. When historic school records go online, maps will be vital for checking that entries are relevant to your family, especially with a common local name.
However, I don’t just look at maps for research. Sometimes, I just like looking at maps. I like looking at where I live and how that has changed over the years, I like to show my children what used to be where their school now stands and how old the local park is. When Bristol released its map project, Know Your Place, we discovered that our offices used to be a chocolate factory.
And so, with the release of the Library of Scotland’s digitised collection of OS maps for England and Wales, I thought I’d share 10 of my favourite, FREE websites.
1) Know Your Place (maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace) – Bristol historic maps. I’ve lived in Bristol for 15 years so this comes in at number one for me!
2) National Library of Scotland (maps.nls.uk) – Scotland. Although the NLS has now digitised OS maps for England and Wales as well as Scotland. This site, that currently just covers its Scottish holdings has a lot more than OS maps on it.
3) NLS OS six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952 (http://maps.nls.uk/os/6inch-england-and-wales/index.html).
4) Vision of Britain (visionofbritain.org.uk) – Although map coverage is variable, there is an interesting variety here.
5) Old Maps Online (www.oldmapsonline.org). This is a gateway to historic maps from libraries around the world, so you may find yourself looking at maps from the British Library or even back at the National Library of Scotland.
6) Charles Booth Online Archive (booth.lse.ac.uk). Anyone with London ancestors should visit this site. It’s good for dinner party conversations, too. I find there’s nothing people like more than being told that their street used to be inhabited by a vicious, semi-criminal underclass.
7) Tracks in Time (www.tracksintime.wyjs.org.uk) - Leeds tithe maps. Although we’re very excited by the addition of tithe maps to TheGenealogist next year, in the meantime, if you are searching in West Yorkshire, this website is definitely worth a visit.
8) Cheshire tithe maps (maps.cheshire.gov.uk/tithemaps). More tithe maps, freely available.
9) Cymru1900 (www.cymru1900wales.org). Get involved in a project to tag place names using digitised OS maps of Wales published between 1899 and 1908.
10) Griffith’s Valuation (www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml). Place your Irish ancestors on the map with this Irish census substitute.


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