I cannot recall when I fell in love with the maps. I do, however, recall being around 5 years old and asking my grandpa to place an old heavy atlas he had in his office on a floor or a couch so I may lose myself in reading it. Maps are read, just like books. But since I am a dyslexic books never appealed to me. Reading maps did. I was told quite a long time ago that reading maps takes a skill. Just like reading letters that make up a word that is part of the sentence, one has to know how to read maps in order to see a whole picture they represent. I loved honing that skill. In school geography was my favorite subject. In history books I spend hours looking at maps of battlefields. And when other subjects focused on a place I always went to map to look up how that place looked like on a map. These days, before my trips to Poland, I always sit down to get myself acquainted with the area I’ll be going to to genealogically explore. I use navigation to get from one city to another, mainly for convenience or traffic information, but once I’m there I know what is where, which street to take and how to get to the church, cemetery or archive. I’ve explored those places before, on the map.
So when I started with genealogy I automatically went to Google maps to explore places my ancestors lived at. But those satellite maps, as amazing as they are, do not represent historical situation. My sister (we are not related by blood but friends since we were 3) is very much interested in history and explanations as well, she showed me another great service called wikimapia.org. I was amazed that Poles add their own historical annotations in that service – they mark old cemeteries, old homes and historically significant places in present day Poland. Few times my sister and I, we traveled through Polish countryside visiting old churches and cemeteries, many marked on that service – some of them long forgotten and destroyed.
I also just realized, while selecting photos for this post, that I have plenty of photos I made over time and I should post them here one of those days…
But let’s go back to maps! That’s main focus of this post, after all 😉
Since Google and wikimapia.org do not represent the historical state I roamed through the internet for old maps of Prussia, Russia and Austria. There are multiple sources out there, with my favourite being:
In the last link borders between 3 partitions are marked, but I discovered that a village my great-grandfather was born in – Marianowo (today called Łabędzin) – is incorrectly marked as being in Russia and not Prussia! Borders there are not carefully marked!
Closer reading of the map revealed that while border between Prussia and Russia is marked with yellow line (red arrow) real border seen on an old map is marked with interrupted line (blue arrow).
So I went on a search of a better representation of map with boarders of old partitions and I found http://lik.info.pl/granicetest.php?fbclid=IwAR06MJvNpDIFtXlUVUw5_WeWMMIuArFLmCUjZWv6hz-9okkNEClXx4IpHSM which overall is not a bad map of borders but it is not precise either (border marked with red arrow).
So I set out to create a precise map of borders of partitions – borders between Prussia, Russia (Kingdom of Poland part of Russia) and Austria (precisely Galician part of Austrian Empire) in a program called Google Earth Pro that can be downloaded for your desktop here.
Google Earth Pro uses .kml files. Let’s not get into technical details. What you should know is that multiple .kml files can be opened in Google Earth Pro and toggled on/off. For genealogy I see it as a great tool – it allows me to look into the past and mark important events from my family’s history to keep track of who moved where and with additional .kml files from other community members allows me to do radius search easily!
I am currently in a process of marking specific family lines so I can keep track of where they were at what point in time. I am also marking which churches I already searched in and what I have found where. It gives me a visual look into my family. Many of my family members were “movers” (each kid in different village kinda thing…) and keeping track of who moved where was always a challenge for me. Pins on this map represent places just 2 generations of my Zieliński line have been at. No wonder I can’t find a death record for my g-g-g-grandfather Wawrzyniec Zieliński – he moved all over Prussia!
Let’s go back to my project of precise map of borders.
Why my obsession with precision and what is my obsession with Marianowo/Łabędzin? Well, my great-great-grandfather Kazimierz Żmudziński was a teacher in local school and few of his kids were born there, among them my great-grandfather Seweryn. By studying old maps I discovered where the school was located and I was lucky enough to visit it.
Małgorzata Lissowska (https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1zwYwcXHsVgUW5cDUiPBnALYGkvE&ll=52.55474336887387%2C18.454826748909603&z=13) created a map of parishes in present day Poland. It is important to note that there are few missing, but it is one of the most precise out there currently. That project can be downloaded as a .kml file for your convenience here and it will open in Google Earth Pro once you have that program installed.
What that map allows me to do is radius search for parishes of interest, to know what parishes were nearby and to search their records for documents of my interest. In this particular case I knew my ancestor Seweryn was baptized in Ostrowo in 1893. Map of parishes, together with my created outline of borders confirms that it was a closest parish in 1893, when partitions were in place.
While working on the project of border outline I also discovered that my Junger line that moved from Germany and settled in Kurzyna Średnia in back-then Galicia lived right by the border with Russia (or more precisely Kingdom of Poland which was under Russian ruling)! I knew they lived fairly close to the border but I never realized how close it was back then! It makes me wonder if any of my ancestors were involved in smuggling…
In any case, if I got you excited about possibilities of Google Earth Pro I hope you will download my file of outline of boarders of partitioned Poland so you may explore it in more detail. File can be downloaded here.
For now boarders are representing 1815 to World War I state of partitions. That is the time after Congress of Vienna when new boarders were established after Napoleon was defeated. Those boarders for Prussia and Austria stayed in existence until 1917/1918. Free city of Kraków is done as a separate outline, but it became a part of Galicia in 1848. Kingdom of Poland had same borders from 1815 to 1912, when very small part of it (Chełm Governorate) was taken away and included into Imperial Russia itself – so still under Russian government, just different administrative district.
Me, I’m going back to mapping my ancestors. There’s a lot of sleepless nights ahead… 😉