Scotland Maps

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Maps can help you locate where your ancestors lived. There are many types of maps, and each can help you in a different way.

Scotland map.png
Maps may describe:
  • Economic growth and development
  • Boundaries
  • Migration and settlement patterns
  • Locations of clans and families
  • Military campaigns
  • Transportation development
  • Highways
  • Rivers
  • Town size
  • Effects of plagues

Types of Maps

There are many types of maps such as:

  • Historical
  • Parish
  • County
  • Topographical
  • Enclosure
  • Civil district
  • Clan and family
  • Church diocesan maps.

Maps are published separately or in bound collections, called "atlases." You may find maps in gazetteers, guidebooks, local histories, directories, or historical and social texts.

Since 1800, the Ordnance Survey has been the major source of topographical maps. English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish maps are available in one-inch-to-the-mile, six-inches-to-the-mile, and twenty-five-inches-to-the-mile, and even ten-feet-to-the-mile. The series has been revised and published at different dates.

You will often need minute detail to find the location of an ancestor’s home. City and street maps are helpful when researching in large cities. A partial list of such maps available at the Family History Library is:

Rural and City Maps. Typescript. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1985. (Family History Library book 942 E73c.)

Using Maps

Use maps carefully because:

  • Several places have the same name. For example, there are 57 places called Mount Pleasant in Great Britain.
  • The place-name on the map may not be spelled as expected, because names in records were often spelled like they sounded.
  • Parish boundaries are seldom indicated.

Finding the Specific Place on the Map

To do successful research in Scottish records, you must identify where your ancestor lived. Because many localities have the same name, you may need some more information before you can find the correct area on a map. Search gazetteers, histories, family records, and other sources to learn all you can about the area, including the following information:

  • The parish and county in which the place is located.
  • The names of the churches in the area your ancestor lived.
  • The size of the town and parish.
  • The names of other villages in the parish.
  • Your ancestor’s occupation. (This may indicate the industries or size of the area.)
  • Nearby localities, such as large cities.
  • Places where other relatives lived.
  • Nearby features, such as rivers, lakes, and mountains.
  • The area’s industries.

This information will help you distinguish between places of the same name and help you locate the correct place on a map. See the "Gazetteers" section for more information.

Finding Maps and Atlases

Historical societies, county record offices, and public and university libraries all have collections of maps. The major collection for Scotland is at the National Library of Scotland. The National Library has many maps online, including the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition Ordnance Survey maps. Scottish Parish Mapsshow the location of each parish within a county.

The first edition of the Ordnance Survey maps is available online on the Cassini Maps Site $.

The Family History Library has a good collection of Scottish maps and atlases. To find call numbers, look in the Locality Search under:




Some helpful maps at the Family History Library are:

Civil Parishes and Counties of North East Scotland. [Scotland]: Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society, [198-]. (Family History Library book 941 E7c.)

National Map Series, Scale 1:100,000. Var. eds. Edinburgh, Scotland: John Bartholomew & Son, 1978-81. (Family History Library book 942 E7bm.) These are detailed, modern sheet maps, roughly one-mile-to-the-inch. Also in a bound atlas.

Parish Maps of Scotland. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1991. (Family History Library book 941 E7ch 1991.)

The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. 2nd ed. Chichester, England: Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 1995. (Family History Library book 942 E7pa 1995.)

Other useful publications on maps include:

Harley, J.B. Ordnance Survey Maps: A Descriptive Manual. Southampton, England: Ordnance Survey, 1975. (Family History Library book 942 E3osa.) This explains the history of and detail on Ordnance Survey maps.

Civil Parish Map Index. Edinburgh, Scotland: General Register Office for Scotland, [1985?]. (Family History Library book 941 B4sg no. 1, 1987.)

Wilkes, Margaret. The Scot and His Maps. Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Library Association, 1991. (Family History Library book 941 E7wm.) This is a good overview of the history of Scottish maps and mapmaking.

Contact your local bookstore to order maps of Scotland, or you may purchase maps by writing to either of the two following places:

Ordnance Survey Office
Department LM
Romsey Road
Southampton, SO9 4DH

John Bartholomew & Sons, Ltd.
12 Duncan Street
Edinburgh, EH9 1TA

External Links