Online Maps and Gazetteers

While many examples refer to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and USA the processes and similar tools are available for other countries (see the last section of this handout for more guidance)

Why use maps and gazetteers?   They can help us add to our knowledge of the lives of our ancestors, and help us analyze data. How far away from the rest of the family is that potential ancestor?  Can we access these tools online or do we need to go to a library?

Maps – all maps may be helpful but distinguish between current maps and historic maps.  Always be cautious about what is free and what is for a fee!

  1. Government Maps.  e.g. 1.  National Atlas of Canada  2.  UK Ordnance Survey Maps – great maps – if you can navigate the site and avoid paying!  – OK to register (free) – then put in place to search – – slow loading?  Often govts want $$ – can see UK maps for free.  Sometimes historic versions of government maps are available. 3. Library of Congress (USA)
  2.   Google maps – but also may be available for the country you are working in e.g.– http:/   – and Google Earth (need to download program from – great for Family History!  3D and street views
  3.   Bing – from Microsoft  – also good maps and images
  4.   Locating maps of parishes.
    1. Phillimore’s Atlas has long been a standard for maps of parishes in each county in England. Now we have  England Jurisdictions 1851 – a real jewel  Either type in or follow the link from to this product. A great tool if you are researching in England.  You can map many types of jurisdictions – parishes, registration districts, poor law unions, and others.  You can ask to see a list of adjoining parishes, and parishes within a specified radius.  It also includes a brief gazetteer entry!  Now includes UK Ordnance Survey maps (older ones!).
    2. Parish Locator in GENUKI –  To get to the Genuki Church Database aka Parish Locator (parishes c1837) – go to click on link to Church Database link (note this is a volunteer project so some areas are more fully documented than others – Barrow in Furness is the model site)

Gazetteers – what is a gazetteer?  An index of place names often with descriptions.  Understanding the jurisdiction names where our ancestors lived is very important.  You can often get this from a gazetteer.  Local directories can also help.

  1.   Imperial Gazetteer  – John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales (1872)  – main gazetteer used in the FHL – search by place – includes a collection of historic maps –     – site also gives access to Frances Groome’s The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1885)  and John Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887).

There is also a collection of gazetteers at including the Imperial Gazetteer.  Search for Gazetteer.

The Imperial and other excellent gazetteers are available at if you have access (or just go to any FH Centre).

  1.   Ordnance Survey Gazetteer – 250,000 British place names – page also has a link to the origin of place names –
  2.   GENUKI Gazetteer –England, Wales and Scotland –  also on the same page  a database of places in the 1891 census .  Can search by partial names.
  3.   Gazetteer of British Place Names – Place Name Index to Great Britain, containing over 50,000 entries –
  4. For Canada – then either go through Map of Canada and subsequent links or go through Provinces to get to maps
  5.   For USA – then select state
  6. For USA – find information by place
  7.   British History Online  –  under local histories for:  1. Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516,  2.Victorian Histories – scroll down to History of (name of county) ,  3. Old OS maps (1:2500 so very detailed or 1:10560),  4.  Topographical Dictionary of England/Wales (click on Source).  Lots of old maps and valuable resources! – e.g. Thoroton History of Nottinghamshire in local history. (Hint:  use the search tool on the Local History page e.g. type in “Thoroton” or “Gazetteer Markets Fairs”)

Other Maps

  1.   Maps of distribution of surnames in 1881 in England – very neat – project originally done by Univ of London –  – note link to a search for other countries.
  2.   Genealogical Atlas of England and Wales –
  3.   Gazetteer for Scotland – maps, timelines, places –
  4. Ire Atlas townlands database
  5.   Place names database of Ireland  – you might want to click on English version!
  6.   Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland  – shows not only townlands, parishes and non- parochial churches but industries, schools, etc
  7.   Modern Townland Maps – Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland –
  8.   Griffiths Valuation online  For those interested in Irish research an important resource has become available online. “The Primary Valuation was the first full-scale valuation of property in Ireland. It was overseen by Richard Griffith and published between 1847 and 1864. It is one of the most important surviving 19th century genealogical sources.” It is available at 

Finding maps and gazetteers for other countries

  1.   Go to and search for maps and gazetteers by country e.g. “Sweden maps” or “Sweden gazetteers.”  Another way to get to maps and gazetteers on the wiki is to go to the page for the country and then look for the link to maps and gazetteers. Maps and gazetteers are important for research in all countries!
  2. Use gateway sites  such as Mary’s  GenealogyTreasures and Cyndi’s list  for more listings of maps and gazetteers.
  3. See what coverage your country has at WorldGenWeb
  4. Use Google search or Bing search
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