Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Unlocking family stories - maps

Maps can also be useful when researching a family story.The State Library of Victoria has digitised many of its maps which can be viewed online. -
One of the collections that has been digitised is the collection of MMBW plans.
The collection includes maps from the Whitehorse and Manningham area.
According to the State Library website 25,000 maps and plans have been digitised and made available online. There is also information available in the map section of the website on the value of using maps for family history in the Maps for local history guide -

In the catalogue select the Maps tab and then type in a location and perhaps a date and see what items appear.

Maps can also be accessed via Trove - In the maps section I typed the name Mackillop and located a copy of the sketch of the route taken by George Mackillop and his party when they explored part of north east Victoria in 1835.
A copy of the map is available online

Street directories over the years provide a picture of the development of an area over a period of time. For example the first Melway was published in 1966. An interesting exercise is to compare maps in the first edition with the same maps in later editions, especially in the outer suburbs, to see how an area has changed. A digital copy of the first edition of Melway can be found at - The second to fifth editions can also be viewed online by clicking a link on the bottom of the first edition initial map.

Google Maps is an extremely useful tool for exploring where family members used, especially when street view is available for an area. When I have a full address for a home owned by an ancestor, particularly in England, I have successfully used this resource to locate where they lived and sometimes have been able to view the actual house.

When George Mackillop and his family returned to the UK in the 1840s they moved to Bath where they lived in a town house at 26 Grosvenor Place.
Using the navigation bar on the left and dragging the person image to the place indicated on the map an image of the house, now a medical surgery appears.
The online street view allows you to view other houses in the street - almost as if you were in the actual street itself.

Actual photos of the Grosvenor Place property taken on a recent visit to Bath can be viewed in another post in this blog -

If it is not possible to visit a location, online mapping services such as Google Maps are the next best thing.


  1. The State Library of Victoria are currently digitiing aerial photographs in their collection which are a useful resource to use in conjunction with maps.

  2. To view the digitised items, type aerial photographs in the search box and when the first screen of images appears select the Show Only Online Resources option. The column on the left can be used to further refine the search.