I love maps. If censuses are a snapshot in time of a family, then maps are snapshots of a place in time. Some, like Ballyraggan in County Kildare have hardly changed over the centuries while others would be unrecognizable to those who once called them home. Since I still live near the place most of my ancestors settled after they arrived in this country, I often pause to look around and wonder what they would make of all the changes in our tiny part of the world.
When my families arrived in the 1860’s and 70's Manchester was a quiet little place. All that changed when in 1892 the Lehigh Valley railroad came through the village. Almost overnight everything altered as Manchester became home to the largest railroad yards in the country. The maps reflect that change.
|Yes, sigh...they even had to politicize the maps|
A great site to find old maps from around the world is the David Rumsey Map Collection. Here you can browse the maps, though it would take you several weeks since there are well over 38,000 of them, or search the collection. I love this map of Ireland drawn in 1758, not only does it show the province boundaries, but the message found in the lower right hand corner clearly denotes the prevailing attitudes of that time, nearly 20 years before the various Catholic Relief Acts. The last sentence reads--The Protestant is the Established Religion and the Roman Catholick tolerated. You can find some interesting spellings of place names on these old maps too. Viewing the maps is free, but if you register, also free, you can save your maps and view them in a higher resolution.
Another place to check is Old Maps Online this site features a list of links to other map collections worldwide.