Tag Archives: maps

Personal Research Update: Sunday 11th December 2011

11 Dec

My already limited research time has been even further reduced over the last couple of weeks, as a result of which I have again done very little research over the last few weeks.

I did get the opportunity to scan some more of my postcards (and to buy some more) but strictly speaking that is not really family history, although a few were of ancestral locations (mainly churches).

What little family history I did do was centred around maps. I spent some time on the A Vision of Britain through Time website studying the First Series Ordnance Survey map from 1813 for the western part of Sussex. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I ended up finding where my 4x great-grandparents Thomas and Mary WELLER lived in Twineham, Sussex.

That discovery was particularly satisfying because I had struggled to find their home for a while, but I will write more about that at a future date.

My other research centred around Henry and Dorothy Isabella BATEMAN (my 2x great-grandparents) and the whereabouts of their home in Hurst Wickham, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Encouraged by the comments of a local resident on one of my blog posts I decided to re-visit this particular problem again.

Using the 1911 census I was able to find out the names of adjacent properties to their house (2 Shenley Villas) and by studying the maps on oldmaps.co.uk I was able pin down the probable location of their house.

The key thing here was that the map contemporary with the 1911 census didn’t show house names, but one from fifty years later did have house names on it, and enough of those names hadn’t changed to enable me to find Shenley Villas, now known as The Double House, at least that is my belief.

Now I know where to look I should be able to confirm this with a visit to The National Archives to view the records of the Valuation Office Survey. This will not only confirm that I have the right property but it should also give me a description of the house itself, so well worth doing next time I am up at Kew.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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400 year old John Speed maps of Great Britain digitised by Cambridge University Library

26 Apr

Cambridge University Library have digitised one of five surviving sets of proof maps created by John Speed for his publication Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, and made them available to view online or alternatively printed copies can be purchased.

These maps may not be as accurate or detailed as the Ordnance Survey maps that followed them a couple of hundred years, but the quality and craftmanship really comes through in these digital images. I have seen copies of these maps before (in particular the Sussex one), but I don’t think I have seen them in such high quality and in such vibrant colour.

English and Welsh counties are well covered, but Scotland and Ireland less so. Each map contains local coats of arms and a plan of the county town as well as other details. It is wonderful to see that the waters surrounding Great Britain were inhabited by sea monsters 400 years ago (this probably explains why none of my ancestors seem to have become fishermen).

So go ahead and lose yourself in 400 year old map, you never know what you might discover? Be sure to come back and tell us what you find.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Whereabouts Wednesday: The Ordnance Survey Explorer Map

15 Dec

Whether it is for family history research or for finding my way around whilst out walking you will seldom find me without an Ordnance Survey Explorer map close at hand. I find these maps are so versatile and useful that for me they are a vital piece of kit.

The picture on the left is of my well used Explorer 123 – South Downs Way (Newhaven to Eastbourne) dating from 1996, with a nice picture of the Seven Sister and the coast guard cottages at Seaford Head adorning the cover.

A Brief History of the Explorer Map

On the Ordnance Survey Blog you can find two posts describing the origins of the Explorer map and the various incarnations over the years:

The history of the iconic OS Explorer Map

The history of the iconic OS Explorer Map – part 2

If you want to see some of the different map covers over the years then I would recommend taking a look here (but be warned it is only for the real map addict).

A Question of Scale

Of course their usefulness is down to their scale and the level of detail that they show. The scale of an Explorer map is 1: 25 000 which is the equivalent of 2½ inches to 1 mile (or 4cm to 1km if you prefer). All of England, Scotland and Wales is covered by the 403 maps in the series.

As with any map there has to be a compromise between the level of detail featured and the size of the map. Large scale maps (perhaps better described as plans) show an awful lot of detail but the size of the map needed to cover a few miles on the ground makes them impractical for slipping into a rucksack or opening out on a desk without several pairs of hands.

Exploring the Explorer

The level of detail on an Explorer map is just right, you can cover quite a large area on one map, but with a decent amount of detail. All those little symbols on the map are described on the Ordnance Survey website as well as on the edges of the maps themselves.

Along with showing all the important things like paths and roads, churches and schools and contour lines, some of the most important things for me are that it shows:

  1. Field boundaries and ditches.
  2. Parish and other administrative boundaries.
  3. Paths, tracks and roads (whether public rights of way or not).

Not only does it show a lot of detail but a lot of those features are named, a lot of the larger rural properties (houses and farms) are named, as are some parcels of woodland, a lot of roads are named or numbered also most hills are also identified.

I could go on but probably the best way is to take a look at the map yourself.

Where can you find them online?

Two of my favourite places to find Explorer maps online are:

Ordnance Survey Get-a-map – Zoom in to the maximum level to see the scale at 1:25 000, the only drawback is that the area of map available to view at any one time is only about 1¼ miles (2km). Click on the round purple button to launch the map viewer.

Bing Maps – To view a much larger area you can use Bing Maps, there are several different styles that you can use to view the maps including a couple of different Ordnance Survey scales, although a lot of the zoom levels are just enlargements of the same underlying data.

There are of course many places online and offline to buy copies of the paper maps, and if like me you often find the place you are interested in is split over two paper maps then check out the OS Select service, which allows you to have a map printed to your requirements, centred on the location you want (except Channel Islands and Isle of Man).

Whereabouts Wednesday: Printed Maps of Sussex 1575-1900

8 Dec

The book Printed Maps of Sussex, 1575-1900 by David Kingsley was published by the Sussex Record Society in 1982 and is a catalogue to maps of the county of Sussex, England printed between 1575 and 1900.

The bad news is that this volume is now out of print, but the good news is that as well as being able to find it in second-hand bookshops and libraries, it is also available to view online on the Sussex Record Society website (along with many other useful books and databases).

As the book is essentially just a catalogue there is only a small section of illustrations featuring examples of some of the maps. Due to the limitations of the book format they are not particularly detailed (they can be enlarged on the website), but they do provide a good example of the style of the maps available and level of detail included.

These maps are not the sort of maps that I use a great deal, in general the level of detail is not good enough to be able to pick out individual properties (like you can on some Ordnance Survey maps), but these maps are great for getting an overall picture of the landscape and its development.

Most of these maps show main roads, rivers and settlements, which are great for understanding the landscape and connections of ancestral locations. It is also interesting to see the variations in spelling of place names, which may have changed over the centuries.

The catalogue also serves as a finding aid, providing details of where you can find copies of the 154 maps listed, as well as providing background on the creation of each map and the individuals and businesses involved in the publication.

Whereabouts Wednesday: old-maps.co.uk

24 Nov

Old-maps.co.uk is one of my favourite websites and an essential tool for family historian. It provides access to digital copies of a large number of UK Ordnance Survey maps (and now some KGB created Russian ones as well). Although the site is meant to be a portal for buying copies of the maps, it has been many years since I used it as such. Instead I use it is a great way to browse old maps, comparing how locations have changed over time and locating buildings long since gone.

The website received a major makeover earlier this year, and it wasn’t just the appearance to was updated, the entire system of view to maps was updated as well. To be honest it was desperately in need of an update, so much so that I used to try to avoid using it, now that it is a much faster and much easier system to use it is hard to stay away.

Searching the maps is simple, on the middle of the left-hand side of the home page is a search box where you enter the place name you are after and after possibly having to narrow this down if there are multiple places of the same name, you are taken to a modern Ordnance Survey map of the area. Here you can scroll around the map, zoom in and out before finally moving the marker to the place you are interested in.

Over on the right-hand side of the screen you will see a range of maps that cover the selected area, for a variety of time periods and map scales. Click on the one that interests you and the main window changes to the old map, it does take a while to load up but it is worth the wait. Once loaded you can do some basic scrolling and zooming in, but to really make the most of the image you will want to click the orange ‘enhanced zoom’ button, which uses Adobe Flash to provide more options.

This is the best bit, once in enhanced zoom mode you can really zoom in close and see some great detail, you can even see the section of map full screen (for the bigger picture). Obviously the sections of map are quite small and they are watermarked to prevent copying, but you can still learn an awful lot about a place from just looking at the maps.

The website is not perfect, some of the joins in the maps are rather obvious and it would be nice to know the full reference (sheet number) of the map you are looking at. The maps are quite expensive to buy, but they are at least cheaper for a digital version than a printed version, also watch their twitter feed and facebook page for discount codes and offers.

TWG Unplugged: A Tale of Two Cities

30 Oct

The two cities in question were Brighton and Chichester, both of which I visited today name of family history. I began the day with a leisurely start and took the bus down to Brighton and then took the train along the south coast to Chichester.

First stop was the Brighton History Centre so that I could spend a couple of hours looking through local newspapers. Brighton History Centre has a great selection of local newspapers on microfilm (and a few originals) and among them is my personal favourite the Sussex Daily News. It was published between 1870 and 1956 and I could quite happily have spent all day scrolling through the pages.

I had several dates in mind, events that I wanted to check and see if they were reported, and I am pleased to say that the Sussex Daily News didn’t let me down. There was another mention of the BOXALL’s diamond wedding anniversary, with a few more bits of information that weren’t included in the one that I found last weekend. Then there were another couple of articles that relate to other family lines (GASSON and DUNFORD), one of which was particularly saddening.

Another report that I was looking for described an event that was captured on one of my latest postcard purchases, this was a bit of background research for a future blog post but quite an interesting story. A surprise find was an article about the bells at Bolney Church which I think have a connection with one of my ancestors as well. All in all a very rewarding visit.

The reason for my visit to Chichester was to visit the West Sussex Record Office. This time though it wasn’t for research, it was so I could buy some more of their bargain Ordnance Survey maps. It felt a bit odd not actually going into the search room but just spending an hour or so browsing through the piles of maps. I added another 10 maps to my collection, this time though they weren’t really ancestral places but other places of interest, many of them on the South Downs.

Another successful day, quite relaxing in many ways as I wasn’t trying to cram in too much, just taking it easy and enjoying myself in the sunshine. Next week, weather permitting, I will get back to some walking.

Back to the archives

23 Oct

After a break of several months I finally found myself back in an archive again doing some proper research. After a bit of a later start than usual (an extra hour and a half in bed) I made way down to Chichester, West Sussex.

Chichester LibraryFirst stop was Chichester Public Library to have a look at some local newspapers on microfilm. I didn’t have a great deal of success, I was looking for a mention of the six BOXALLs on West Dean war memorial, it was a bit of a long shot from the start, but I wasn’t finding the results I was expecting and the microfilm reader was not very good. So rather than waste any further time and run the risk of headache from trying to read the screen I decided to cut my losses and head down the road to the West Sussex Record Office.

West Sussex Record Office Things improved at West Sussex Record Office, but only marginally. I more or less gave up on finding mention of the war memorial BOXALLs and the Roll of Honour for West Dean (WSRO PAR 65/7/9) was very disappointing, without any BOXALLs whatsoever. So instead I switched to searching newspapers for information on James and Caroline BOXALL and their 27 children. I had moderate success with this, finding two references, one was an obituary for James and the other was their sixtieth wedding anniversary.

Both articles were illustrated with the same photo of James and Caroline, which sadly is too poor quality to worry about reproducing here. I would have to scan the photocopy of the print from a microfilm image of the original newspaper article, after all that I would be surprised if there was anything recognisable left. It might be worth contacting the newspaper itself to see what has happened to their photo archive, but I doubt it will have survived.

I did learn one interesting fact however, which I need to follow up and confirm. It looks like one of the grandchildren of James and Caroline BOXALL became Mayor of Chichester. You never know quite what you are going to find once you start digging.

The real highlight of the record office was not in the records, but out in the reception area. The record office were selling off some of their duplicate Ordnance Survey maps. There were loads of them, and I am not talking about the small folding kind of maps that would fit in your jacket pocket, these were mostly large scale (25″ to 1 mile) and across a wide time range. Needless to say I came away with a bundle (actually a roll) of maps, for places where my ancestors lived. Now I am not quite sure what I am going to do with them, but it was an opportunity too good to miss.

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