When you research your family tree, you will discover not just who your
ancestors were, but also where they lived. Place affected every aspect of our
ancestors’ lives, dictating what sort of jobs they did how they fared and whom
they met and married.
The function of maps in genealogy is two-fold. Most records are arranged
geographically, so it is important to know where your ancestors lived and what
villages and towns were nearby. They are also a fabulous way of bringing your
family history to life, helping you to get a feel for what the places where your
ancestors lived were like at the time.
By examining a series of historical maps of the county in which your ancestors
lived, you can trace forward and see how the towns grew, roads, canals, railways
and bridges were built, estates were enclosed and forests diminished with the
progress of the Industrial Revolution.
County maps, so familiar from the walls of many a pub and hotel, can date from
the 16th century, especially those made by Christopher Saxton in the 1570s to
benefit Lord Burghley’s intelligence service.
Many maps were produced from the 17th century to show proposed routes of
railways, turnpike roads or canals. Some of these show routes that were never
built, and other maps can be misleading too: Burdell’s map of Cheshire from the
1770s shows woods and roads accurately but, as far as can be told, the salt
mines depicted were simply strewn about for general effect.
There are usually several antiquarian county histories for each county, many of
which are beautifully illustrated with prints, especially of churches and
mansions. G. Ormerod's The History of the County Palatine of Chester (George
Routledge & Sons, 1882), for example, contains so many prints of old Chester
that it is not difficult to imagine walking around the city in the 17th or 18th
centuries, Much emphasis is given to landowning families, and very detailed and
usually excellently researched pedigrees are a common feature, but they do not
by any means exclude normal inhabitants. One of their virtues is that the
authors had intimate knowledge of the areas they were writing about and had
access to many records that may now have been lost.
- Navin Kumar Jaggi
- Gurmeet Singh Jaggi