Maps can aid in your search for your family’s history

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

It is inevitable that once you have traced your family roots back far enough, you will be looking at their origins in another country. And since not all of us will be able to actually visit those foreign lands, we will have to resort to locating the burgs and villages that were &uot;home&uot; to those ancestors by map.

Almost every genealogist will tell you of the intense pleasure of being able to put a finger on the exact origin of their family. But finding that exact spot is where the challenges begin. As complicated and frustrating as American maps can be &045; with their ever changing boundaries and shifting county lines &045; European maps of old are even more confusing. Not only do their boundaries shift but the name changing is done in archaic tongues and languages that are difficult for even modern day scholars.

The art of mapping is much younger than most people realize. In common with every other western country, Mother England was not even mapped until the 1500s, a mere four centuries ago and just over a hundred years before the first settlers made their way to America.

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The science of surveying was simply not developed sufficiently before that time.

Yet, in 1086 &045; some five hundred years earlier, William the Conqueror, in his great census of England, the Domesday Book, had listed 13,000 place-names. His scribes had in their hands the information which would have allowed them to map the country in great detail, yet they could not do so.

To British historian and cartographer John Garnons Williams it was as if William had taken a digital photograph of the country but did not know how to process the image. So in 1980 Mr. Williams undertook correcting this shortfall. The results are a stunning set of maps showing both place names and original family names centuries before the first official maps would be produced.

Using nearly 10,000 of the spellings recorded in Domesday Book genealogical information and using an artistic style inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry (which was actually made in England not France), Mr. Williams drew 47 exquisite maps &045; the &uot;master map&uot; of England and a map of every English county in detail, providing with each map a second &uot;key map&uot; showing the modern spellings of every place-name.

Mr. Williams offered his individually hand painted limited edition maps to the public and collectors in 15 countries throughout Europe jumped at the change to own the first hand-drawn series of English maps to be created since 1840. Complete sets of the series were purchased by universities throughout the English speaking world and shortly after the series was introduced Mr. Williams was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Success begot success and his projects expanded to include a map of the clans and place-names of Scotland as they were at the time of Robert the Bruce; a unique family name map of Ireland based on the genealogical information in the Book of Kells and showing the family names and place-names of Ireland as they were in medieval times &045; the first map ever drawn to show them in their original Irish spellings; a map of medieval Wales showing the distribution and spelling of the place-names of Wales as they were in 1267; and a fascinating Map of World Exploration, the first ever to show the routes taken by all major explorers over the past 3,000 years.

The maps have received significant attention in Europe, but given the distance involved have had very little exposure in North America.

Now they are being offered in the US where so many of British, Scots, and Irish descent now live.

The maps are offered in Limited Edition (21.5 x 17.25 inches, heavyweight textured fine linen paper and hand-colored in light resistant inks, signed, numbered with a translation key, $75) and Classic Edition (14.7 x 11.7 inches, printed on light card with a dark green border and hand colored but with less detail than the Limiteds, with a translation key, $26-28).

The maps of Ireland, Scotland and Wales are available in a Poplar edition as well which is 14.7 x 11.7 inches, printed in full color on light card with a dark green border and includes a translation key for $25.

The Explorers of the World map comes with a 48 page booklet giving a biography of each of the explorers routed on the map. This map would be an excellent gift for a teacher or addition to a class room.

Further information and preview pictures of the maps are offered at

Orders may be placed at the web site or by phone {(+44) 01743 244200} or mail (international money orders or credit card only, mailed to GWP, PO Box 274, Shrewsbury, SY4 4WA, UK.). Prices quoted include postage and insurance. All overseas orders are sent air mail.

Visit the Web site to see these lovely maps and meet the artist whose love of history and genealogy brought them to life. These would make wonderful gifts for Father’s Day or anniversaries for that special man in your life. They would be excellent in an office, den or library and functional for any classroom.


… John P. Keith (254 Waldrop Road, Flora, MS 39071, email

) is looking for information on a deaf cartoonist named CARL ANTON HALVOR ANDERSON who may have worked on the &uot;Henry&uot; comic strip. Carl moved from North Dakota to Cleveland, Mississippi and resided at 221 First Avenue. He was married and had one daughter and four grandchildren. Carl died in Pontotoc, in September 1970. Mr. Keith would like to contact Carl’s descendants to obtain more information about Carl’s life and work as a cartoonist. The information will be used in a book called Deaf Folklore which is being written by Dr. Simon J. Carmel of West Palm Beach, Fla. Can any reader help locate the Anderson descendants?

Please send your announcements and queries to FAMILY TREES, 900 Main St., Natchez, MS 39120 or email to

. All queries printed free of charge. We look forward to hearing from you!