Beyond the Internet: Week 31 Maps and Gazetteers

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 31 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Maps and Gazetteers. This is part of the Archives and Libraries section of the series. Please do join in and write comments or posts on your experiences with these.

In Week 28 of this series I talked about the importance of place in your family’s history and what records you may also find to add to your knowledge of their lives. Today I want to talk about the specifics of the place.


Apart from having a general map obsession personally, maps really are the gateway to understanding the places where our ancestors lived: the topography, geographic layout, hills and mountains, rivers and streams.  All these physical factors affected how our families lived. It may have determined where their marriage partners came from or where they took their produce to market. It may even have affected their route to migration.  That’s a lot to gain from a piece of paper when it’s all said and done.

These days access to maps bridges the online and offline world. Major libraries are offering more and more maps of different vintages and mapping scales. Finding one that fits your family’s timeline in that place is particularly important, as much can change over time and the more the scale lets you zero in, the better. For example some of the streets where my great-grandparents lived in Glasgow c1880-1910, no longer appear on internet maps, or current street directories. However even street directories from 20 years ago will show them, enabling me to locate the place in real-time.

Similarly if your ancestor lived in a small village or hamlet, it may not be found when searching online maps. However with the aid of research, such as following the census pages around your village, you should be able to locate the nearest larger village. By then enlarging the image, you may find your place is actually on the map after all. My Scottish ancestors lived in a hamlet or clachan called Drimuirk in Argyll. Searching the National Library of Scotland gave me a zero response.  I knew what was close by from other research and from more modern ordnance survey maps so I kept at it until I located a mapwhich listed Cladich then kept zooming in, until lo and behold there was Drimuirk.

The stones are all that remains of the small settlement of Drimuirk by the shores of Loch Awe in Argyll. © P Cass 2010

Another challenge with old maps is the slight name changes and spelling variations. There’s really no simple way to get around this, other than to read what you can about the place; if searching permits, to use wildcards; try a neighbouring place with a less ambiguous name or zoom into the relevant area on the map (but first you need to know where that is).

Tithe maps, valuation maps and the like can provide wonderful insights into your family’s place of residence.  Try searching the local archive or library catalogue and see what maps they have available. If the maps aren’t available online and you can’t get to that archive/library, it may be worth your while to pay for a copy. In the UK use Access to Archives as well, because your map may be in an unexpected archive.

Other maps which can be utterly invaluable are land selection maps available through the archives. If you’re lucky these will show the selector’s name on the map giving you a broader understanding of the people who lived near your ancestors. Why does this matter? Well apart from building up your local knowledge there may be completely unexpected insights. For example the selection map for the Fifteen Mile near Murphys Creek in Queensland listed selectors with names familiar to me from my interest in the Dorfprozelten emigrants. Further research revealed that his small isolated pocket of settlement contained several families whose linkages back to Germany were unknown to their descendants –they had thought it was merely a neighbourly relationship. Well it was really –it’s just that the original neighbourhood had been tens of thousands of miles away in Bavaria, and quite a number of years.

In Week 3 I also wrote about the usefulness of survey maps when newer areas were opened up eg when suburban sub-divisions commenced. Similar survey maps may be available from the early settlement of rural areas. I was very fortunate to be given an early survey map for my Kunkel family land by the current owners. This was particularly lucky because I’ve found nothing similar in the archives. I’d love to show you these but they’re under copyright and I don’t have permission to reproduce them here.

Land purchase documents may also provide mini-maps of your ancestor’s land –where the house was built and where the outbuildings were located, as well as the cultivated areas of the land.

Maps really are a critical asset to our research.

Extract from The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland c1850 on the parish and town of Stachur, Argyll.


Gazetteers are complementary sources to the maps you’ll find, or it may work in reverse and they’ll lead you to the maps.  Gazetteers will tell you more about your place of interest, rounding out the details of its environment, people, industry etc.  I still remember my pleasure, and astonishment, at being able to borrow the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, circa 1850s, from the bookshelves in The University of Queensland library. That information formed the basis of my family history research way back when I first started on this journey.

Using the same search example as above, the Scottish Gazetteer now online does not give me any information on Drimuirk, but does provide links and a map for Cladich. Similar opportunities exist to search for Queensland place names or the place atlas via Text Queensland. Other states also provide similar facilities.

Once again some of these resources are finding their way online but it’s worth checking the library catalogues as well as Google books and general Google searches. You just never know what you’ll find tucked away in libraries or achives. Also don’t forget to keep an eye out on internet sales sites such as e-bay in case relevant books and maps turn up for sale.

I hope this topic has increased your appetite to search out historic maps and gazetteers for your ancestral places. Not only will you learn so much more about the external factors that influenced their lives, you’ll get to do a little virtual travel as well.

Please tell us what you’ve learned from maps and gazetteers, or provide links to your places of interest, either in your own posts or via the comments.   

Time for a new blog look

If you’ve previously logged into my page and are bewildered today, it’s because I’ve introduced a new look to my blog. For some time I’ve been feeling that my blog is a bit “squashed” and made it harder to read. Hopefully there’s not too much open space now.. Let me know what you think…is it easier to read?

The header takes up a bit more space than in my old-style blog but nearly all the images relate to my family history as I’ve used images of ancestral sites. I’d like to be able to link specific images with specific pages but that doesn’t appear to be possible. Happy for any tips if other WordPress people can offer some.

So what images will you be seeing:

The old red-roofed shed on my O’Brien family land in Ballykelly, Broadford, Parish Kilseily, Co Clare, Ireland.

Shore in Leith, Scotland, where my Melvin ancestors lived for many decades before emigrating: they could return now and be familiar with all these buildings.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria from across the River Main, showing the village church, boats and vineyards: home of my Kunkel ancestor.

A beach scene from Achill in County Mayo because for me it typifies life on Ireland’s coast even though none of my rellies come from here.

A view over Dorfprozelten on the River Main, Bavaria. The river is a boundary and across the river is Baden.

Snow capped hills not far from near Drimuirk on south Loch Awe, Argyll, Scotland: McCorkindale country..

A view over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan parish: my McCorkindale ancestors moved from one side of the lake to the other but the north side (Kilchrenan) is where the McCorquodales came from in the long distant past.

A typical Irish scene in County Clare:patchwork fields.

Inveraray in Argyll, Scotland, home of Clan Campbell, and a focal point for families living in the area -they were inevitably influenced by this family. It is situated on Loch Fyne and my McCorkindales also lived at Ardkinglas at the top of Loch Fyne while my Morrisons lived across the loch from Inveraray.

Hmm, not sure all the images are scrolling randomly as intended, so please bear with me on that one..but at least you’ll get some.

I do hope you enjoy the new look.

Surname Sunday-my “families of interest”

It’s time to list my “families of interest” again: not just those on my own family tree, but those I’ve come to research:


George Kunkel from Dorprozelten, Bavaria. Photo from a relative's very old photo album.

KUNKEL:  George, son of Adam & Katharina from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany to Australia -mid-C19th.  Brickwall is his brother Joseph Philip or Philip Joseph Kunkel who reportedly went to “America”.

O’BRIEN: Mary from Ballykelly, near Broadford, Parish of Kilseily, County Clare, Ireland. Thanks to oral history and good fortune this tree’s branches are flourishing. However I’m also interested in her sibling’s families in Australian and the USA: WIDDUP (Australia), HOGAN (Sister Kate married Patrick Hogan -also believed to be from Broadford area- in Sydney);  McNAMARA (stayed in Ireland), KINNANE (believed to have gone to USA),  and GARVEY (Australia and US).

McSHERRY aka SHERRY: Peter and wife Mary CALLAGHAN. This family has links to Gorey, Wexford, Ireland as well as Tullamore, Kings County or County Offaly.

McSHARRY aka SHERRY: James and wife Bridget FURLONG: (see my post about the Furlongs). Bridget came from Tullamore but where did James come from? Name distributions suggest he came from a Northern Ireland County —but where and when was he born….the BRICKWALL. Also no information on where he died: might he have left Australia for NZ or elsewhere? He was a railway man. MYSTERY: why did one branch of this family call themselves McSherry and the rest use McSharry?

McCORKINDALE aka McCORQUODALE (many spelling variations): From Argyll: Loch Fyne but traditionally Loch Awe via Glasgow (like so many Highlanders). MYSTERY/BRICKWALL: See my post: what became of Thomas Sim McCorkindale and his family who lived in the Greater London area.

McCORQUODALE: Also the children of brother Hugh who emigrated to Australia, unknown as far as I’m aware to many of his great-nieces and nephews.

MELVIN: This close-knit family came from Leith, near Edinburgh to Australia. Generations of the family were sailors/seamen and true international travellers well ahead of their time.

GILLESPIE/GILHESPY and REED: From North Shields, Tynemouth, Northumberland- again a family with sea connections although the REEDs were miners. MYSTERY: Where did Stephen Gilhesy, weaver, come from or was he a native of the area?

PARTRIDGE: Originally from Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, with detours through London and Yorkshire. Possibly originally a Welsh family -they certainly lived on either side of the border. The ROSEBLADE family from North Queensland are related to the PARTRIDGES.

KENT: The whole family left Sandon in Hertforshire, England  for Australia in mid-C19th. MYSTERY: Why? They weren’t poor labourers like so many. Religion  may have played a part but were there economic reasons as well?

GAVIN: Denis from Ballymore, County Kildare, Ireland. Married and had first child in Dublin.

GAVAN/GAVIN: This unrelated family came to Queensland from Clifden, Galway, Ireland largely because one of their family was an “Exile” or one of the last convicts sent to NSW and thence to Moreton Bay. I used to research this family with my friend and fellow researcher, Carmel, since deceased. I continue partly from curiousity but also in her honour.

MURPHY: Ellen from Davidstown, Co Wicklow, Ireland (a nice easy name, Murphy!). Married and had first child in Dublin.

MORRISON: This family lived at Inverglen, Strachur, Argyllshire, Scotland for a very long time. I’ve not had much luck connecting with anyone from this family.

SIM: The Sim family lived at Bothkennar, Stirlingshire, Scotland for centuries with minor detours to St Ninian’s and Clackmannanshire. Nonetheless they held the lease on the Bothkennar property for a very long time. They appear to have been prosperous farmers.

DORFPROZELTEN families I research (albeit unrelated to me but part of my migration research) include: Zöller/Zeller/Sellars and Schulmeier, Brannigan, McQuillan, O’Brien; Günzer/Ganzer and Hock,Bodman; Diflo and Mühling, Ott, Erbacher; Diflo and Nevision; Bilz/Bils and Coe and Morse; Hennig/Henny; Krebs and Wisthof/Wüsthof, rose, Ambrosoli, Miller; Kaüflein/Kaufline and Afflick, Agnew, Worland and many others (Snowy-country, Hunter Valley and Northern Rivers) etc; Kuhn and Brigden, Rose, Miller; Dümig/Demmig and Füller and Sues/Seus.

East Clare: any families who came to Australia (in particular) from the eastern half of County Clare ie east of Ennis.