How to use maps for family history research: plotting family members


02 May 2024
How to use maps for family history plotting ancestors Wayne Shepheard Family Tree magazine UK How to use maps for family history plotting ancestors - Wayne Shepheard demonstrates
Discover how to use a map to plot where your family members lived and worked, were born, married or died. Plotting your ancestor details on a map is a really helpful way to visualise the evidence, identify patterns and clues - and find research solutions.

Researcher Wayne Shepheard combined parish registers and 19th century maps and plotted details for a number of his family members in London in the early 19th century, to help him work out the family network and clarify the many possible connections between the individuals. Here's how he got on.

Ancestor mapping: learn how to use maps to solve complicated family networks

‘We all know that when you are tracing ancestors it can help to source information about close relatives, friends or neighbours to see whether they worked, attended church or moved to other places together,’ writes researcher Wayne Shepheard.

‘In densely populated areas such as London, it is never easy to know for sure where people might have lived, how long they were there, what their occupation was, where they went to church or who their friends were. If both forenames and surnames are common, identifying individuals can be confusing…’

Faced with this predicament, Wayne decided to look at a variety of documents and then to maps to plot:

  • where events occurred
  • & where people lived.

He hoped that this would help him search correctly for his family members.

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How did Wayne map his family history research?

  • Wayne put together a map that showed where certain events (such as baptisms, marriages, burials) took place,.
  • He also noted which addresses were given for businesses or residences in apprenticeship agreements, directories and land tax lists.
  • Lastly, he also explored wills – as these usefully contained the names of family members, and information about locations where individuals lived.
  • Wayne then chose a colour for each family group (blue for the Tunstalls, green for the Mayfields, red for the Auchterlonys, and yellow for the Mayfield-Tunstalls).
  • Lastly he also provided a numerical key – explaining precisely to whom a mark on the map pertained. E.g.
  1. 1755 apprenticeship agreement of Anthony Tunstall with master George Ball, of St Andrew, Holborn (cabinet maker)
  2. 1762 marriage of Anthony Tunstall & Eleanor Keap – St Anne & St Agnes church, Gresham St

Why are maps useful for family history?

Map often prove very useful in finding streets that no longer exist, having since been built over, or bombed during World War II. If you choose a map that was produced around the time frame of families that are the focus of your research, then you will gain a contemporaneous record of their locality. For Wayne’s family, the map he chose was Edward Mogg’s 1806 London in Miniature with the Surrounding Villages Entire New Plan map.

To read Wayne Shepheard's full account of his family history mapping project, buy the June issue of Family Tree magazine.

PS Do you map your ancestors? If you have mapped the details of your ancestors in interesting ways and would like to share and showcase your ideas, please email [email protected]