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Stages of Cadastral Map Development

1847 cadastral map of Podgórze
This 1847 final-stage cadastral map of Podgórze displays the regular geography, crisp lines, and spare annotation of imperial prints. At the top of the page, the common rough drawing but helpful annotation of field sketches seen on the 1847 map of Delatyn (Deliatyn).

As detailed elsewhere in the Gesher Galicia Map Room, the historical development process for surveying and mapping property boundaries and physical features of cities, towns, and villages in the former Austro-Hungarian kingdom of Galicia was one of progressive refinement, working through several stages of increasing geographical accuracy while gathering and recording essential administrative data for use in tax assessment. The draft and final cadastral maps which have survived in national archives since the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire can be roughly grouped into three categories by their characteristics; the icons here correspond to those used in the cadastral maps section of this Map Room, which represents the type of property numbering which appears on maps in each category:

Each of these types of cadastral maps can be useful in family history research, but they each function differently because the geographic and legal data is presented differently. This is important, because in most cases only a single cadastral map is available in archives for a town, and that map may be any one of the three types. In the sections below, we only briefly discuss the cadastral map development process, focusing most of our attention on how to recognize the different map types and then how to to use them in family history research. Throughout this page, numerous examples from the many historical cadastral maps in the Map Room provide a visual reference to train the eye to identify the key distinctive features of each map type.

This page is a component of the References section of the Map Room, and includes links to related articles there. Although much of the information presented here is derived empirically from the historical maps themselves, some of the background general and technical information is adapted and expanded from conference papers, journal articles, and websites which are included among many others on the Reference Literature page in this section; the specific references used here are listed at the bottom of this page.

You can read the subsections below in sequence, or click on a link here to go directly to that part of the page:

The Map Development Process

Obertyn market sketch, undated
Sometimes market squares were sketched at very high scale in order to label the buildings with both the property owner's name and house number, as seen on this undated field sketch of Obertyn's market area.

The Austrian land survey and cadastral mapping process was carefully defined and controlled by engineers, cartographers, inspectors, and administrators from the early 19th century. Only a simplified overview is given here, to allow us to concentrate on the three primary map types. In practice, more than three different maps of varying refinement may have been created for one town during a single survey period, but common characteristics among the variants allow us to group them into only three categories for historical family, demographic, and economic research. A few of the unusual variant maps are included among the examples in the sections below, for comparison.

Cadastral land surveys always began with establishment of the boundary of a town's cadastral area which separated the town from the cadastral areas of adjacent towns and villages. Ahead of the survey, landowners in the town were required to mark the corners of their properties with stones or wooden posts. The surveyor then began a set of field sketches (Feldskizzen in German), each sheet of which was a rough diagram made by hand of a section of the town including all land parcels and buildings plus both natural features such as creeks and manmade features such as roads. The first sketches were made on foot, on horseback, or from an elevated position such as a hill or tower, and were typically quite distorted, but were drawn at high scale (1 centimeter on the map corresponding to about 15 to 50 meters on the ground) so that essential physical details could be roughly captured and notes added. As the initial sketching proceeded, the surveyors noted the house numbers of property owners directly on the map, and for larger land parcels sometimes wrote the owners' names on the parcels as well. Even if field sketches poorly correspond to a town's historical geography, the direct correspondence of parcel labeling to family records is extremely valuable.

Brzeżany indication sketch 1846
Indication sketches of dense urban areas are difficult to read because of the double numbering scheme, as shown on the 1846 sketch of Brzeżany.

Progressive refinement in land measurements and remapping adjusted the representation of the town and its individual property boundaries, and added new details to the maps. The next stage of mapping, known in the imperial process as indication sketches (Indikationskizzen). These sketches can be difficult to read because they are typically crammed with information, and many are rather worn, evidence of their use both in the field and in the surveyors' and cartographers' offices. What makes these second-stage maps especially valuable is that each land or building parcel is annotated both with house numbers and with with tax parcel numbers, linking two types of historical family records directly on the map. Like the other types of maps described here, indication sketches were drawn at high scale and for almost all towns spanned several or many paper sheets.

When the land survey had been rectified through measurement, review, and inspection, a final-stage cadastral map (Katasterkarte) was prepared using the recently-invented lithography process to create one or more official imperial prints. Carefully drafted at a common scale of 1:2880 (in most cases), final-stage cadastral maps even nearly 200 years old are remarkably precise and accurate – so that occasionally an old Galician map is consulted to resolve property boundary concerns in Poland and Ukraine. However, for family historians there is an additional step of research which must be made in order to link ancestors to buildings and land on the map. Final-stage cadastral maps only show tax-identification numbers for building parcels (Bauparzellen) and land parcels (Grundparzellen) – not house numbers as are normally associated with vital records and most other family records. If the only map available for research is a historical final-stage cadastral map, the contemporary tax registers must also be located in archives to correlate property owners, house numbers, and building and land parcels.

Settlements in Galicia did not remain static over time, and changes to properties and boundaries necessitated updates to the tax records and maps, especially in places which experienced fast growth and economic development. A cadastral maps of any type might be used as the basis for a working revision within the original survey or a later survey, and many of the cadastral maps which are preserved in archives show evidence of these revisions in redline markings representing new buildings or buildings lost and especially land parcel splits, extensions of community land to enlarge cemeteries, etc. These revision maps will be described and illustrated in a future article for this website, but several of the example maps shown on this page include redline markings.

Features of Typical Cadastral Field Sketches

Stanisławów field sketch 1846
Cadastral field sketches appear "messy" at first glance, but are densely rich with data, detail, and even artistry, as shown on this 1848 sketch of Stanisławów.

Preliminary field sketches reflect their technical purpose of identifying the relative locations of thousands of physical details to be measured and recorded for later, more accurate mapping. Field sketches were made by the surveyors as temporary tools for their own work only, and were never published; they include marks, symbols, and other details in the individual styles of each surveyor. For these reasons, field sketches are quite variable in their appearance, but common characteristics include:

The field sketch examples in this section illustrate many of the characteristics described above; click on the images below to see greater detail.

examples of field sketch characteristics
Galician cadastral field sketch characteristics illustrated by several selections from the Map Room, from left to right: the use of color to symbolize building and land types (Delatyn), survey measurement chain point numbers around a group of land parcels (also Delatyn), the density of survey point numbering and distance measurements cluttering the sketch (Krosienko and Stanisławów), and smudging from rough use nearly obscuring the labeled house numbers (Nadwórna).

names on field sketches
Land owner names written with house numbers directly on parcels on cadastral field sketches.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Kozowa, Borki Małe, Mościska, Nienadowa, Żurów I. Theil.

synagogues on field sketches
A few examples of synagogues depicted on cadastral field sketches, with symbols and labels but no house numbers.
Sketches shown here from left to right are of: Sołotwina (with a star), Bukaczowce (with a triangle), Rohatyn (four synagogues with stars and labels), Nadwórna.
The Nadwórna sketch also shows other community buildings without house numbers: two ritual bath houses and a hospital.

churches on field sketches
Several churches shown on cadastral field sketches, always with a cross symbol, sometimes with a label, and never with a house number. Sketches included here from left to right are of: Bukaczowce (a Roman Catholic masonry building), Bukaczowce again (a Greek Catholic wooden building with a graveyard), Delatyn, Mościska, Stryj.

community land and buildings on field sketches
Religious and civil community land and buildings in typical unnumbered depictions on cadastral field sketches.
Features shown here from left to right are of: a Jewish cemetery and adjacent reserved land (Bukaczowce), a Christian cemetery (Świrz), land owned by the Greek Catholic community (Stryj), a town hall (Sołotwina), an imperial administration hospital and church (Rohatyn).

Features of Typical Cadastral Indication Sketches

Bohorodczany indication sketch 1851
The 1851 indication sketch of Bohorodczany gives a good example of the "standard" property number labeling scheme for this map type. At the center of this image excerpt, the house number 501 is attached in red to the farmhouse and in black to the adjacent garden area; building parcel number 288/3 in black and land parcel number 592 in red are the tax IDs of these properties. Above that, building parcel number 388/4 in black and land parcel number 593 in red are both associated with with the common owner at house number 451 (in reverse colors). Searching elsewhere on this map will yield similar examples, such as the small properties across the road: house number 374 is associated with both building parcel number 389/1 and land parcel number 611/2.

In appearance, indication sketches are something like a half-way stage between field sketches and final-stage cadastral maps: typically they are drawn more accurately than field sketches but not as regularly as the imperial prints, and indication sketches combine the two different property numbering schemes on the other maps, providing a direct graphical correlation between house numbers and parcel numbers. What appears at first glance to be a jumbled mess of numbers is actually a very useful historical research tool, and any genealogist who has access to an indication sketch for their town is very fortunate. Indication sketches vary by surveyor and cartographer, and by the phase of map development, but in general their characteristics include:

The indication sketch examples in this section illustrate many of the characteristics described above; click on the images below to see greater detail.

the double-numbering scheme on cadastral indication sketches
The double-numbering scheme is shown here in several examples, each of which also has a large number of property-owner names included.
Normal variations in the double-numbering scheme are shown here from left to right: the standard scheme with house numbers in reverse color to the parcel numbers (Skała); the standard scheme again with only land parcels shown on this village map (Czortowiec); the standard scheme again with only building parcels shown on this market square map (Tarnopol); an alternate house numbering style with black numbers and an underline (also Tarnopol); another alternate style with underlined black house numbers only on building parcels (Janów.

Jewish community property on cadastral indication sketches
Jewish community land and buildings are labeled on cadastral indication sketches with only parcel numbers (no house numbers).
Excerpts shown here from left to right are of cemeteries (Grzymałów and Skała) and synagogues (Bełz, Janów, and Tłuste). On the Tłuste map, one can see other community buildings without house numbers such as a church (building parcel number 236) and a Catholic community stable (building parcel number 203).

Christian community property on cadastral indication sketches
Christian community buildings and land are labeled on cadastral indication sketches with only parcel numbers (no house numbers).
Excerpts shown here from left to right are of churches (Brzeżany, Grzymałów, and Janów) and cemeteries (Grzymałów again plus Skała).

irregularities and wear on cadastral indication sketches
Irregularities, defects, and wear can make cadastral indication sketches difficult to interpret.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Tłuste (building parcel numbers are underlined instead of black house numbers), Czortowiec (both house numbers and building parcel numbers are black, with no underlines, making distinction difficult), Lachowce (significant wear obliterates some parcel numbering), Mikulińce (stains and smudges make reading some numbers impossible), Żydowskie (ink bleed and wear obscure some numbers).

Features of Typical Final-Stage Cadastral Maps

Lithographed and colored final-stage cadastral maps stand out for their beauty and clarity. While field sketches and indication sketches had no official purpose once the final-stage map was drafted, and so were discarded or kept only for local use, in most cases surviving imperial prints were initially well preserved in Vienna and later in the state archives of the successor countries as important legal documents for the many decades since their creation. As is described elsewhere in the Map Room, these outstanding maps and their associated property registers were the goal of the immense scientific and administrative survey and map initiative of the Habsburg Monarchy and its later empires.

Husiatyn cad map 1862
This beautiful 1862 final-stage cadastral map of Husiatyn exhibits many of the important features of maps of this category: accuracy and precision, carefully-drafted lines and symbols, high legibility, clear and meaningful use of color, close conformance in style and content to the official imperial map legends, plus land and building parcel number annotation (no house numbers). Click on the image to see it in greater detail – or better, click the link above to see the complete map in full detail.

Final-stage cadastral maps show far less deviation from drafting standards and variation from map to map than the earlier-stage sketches. Rather, a slow evolution in graphical style is seen over the span of nearly a hundred years as drafting techniques were refined and the imperatives of speed and clarity drove both simplification and standardization. Some of the common and evolving features of these maps include:

The final-stage cadastral map examples in this section illustrate the characteristics described above; click on the images below to see greater detail.

clear lines and symbols on late-stage cadastral maps
Most surviving lithographed late-stage cadastral maps of Galicia are beautiful and clear in their lines, symbols, numbers, labels, and colors.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Białoboki, Gać, Czortków, Brzozów, Szechynie.

parcel numbering on late-stage cadastral maps
Final-stage cadastral maps always show building parcel numbers in black ink and land (or water) parcels in red ink.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Jagielnica, Romanowe Sioło, Jarosław, Siennów, Bochnia.

late-stage cadastral maps conforming to legend standards
These late-stage cadastral maps conform to the standard depiction of synagogues with no symbolic marking or labels.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Zbaraż, Chyrów, Stary Sambor, Brzesko, Czortków.

exceptions to standard depictions of synagogues
These late-stage cadastral maps deviate from the standard depictions of synagogues by including a symbol, a label, or both.
Example maps shown here from left to right are of: Sambor, Dobromil, Komarno, Jaworów, Żółkiew.

three examples illustrating cadastral map style and color changes over the years
Late-stage lithographed cadastral maps of the town of Grzymałów across an 80-year timespan, illustrating the evolution of graphical style and colors during that period.
Example maps shown here from left to right are from 1828, 1861, and ca. 1900.

Visually Identifying and Comparing Cadastral Map Types

For family historians using cadastral maps of Galicia in their research, a necessary first step is to identify the type of map(s) available for a particular city, town, or village which features in their ancestors' lives, so that the numbers on buildings and land can be correctly interpreted. Maps for Galician settlements which appear in the cadastral section of the Map Room have been categorized by type and labeled using the symbols which appear above on this page ( ). However, even we make mistakes, and the type of map should be verified by careful scrutiny and interpretation to prevent misunderstanding. Many researchers will encounter cadastral sketches and maps which are not included in the Map Room; the map characteristics described and illustrated above plus the analysis methods outlined in this section can aid anyone who acquires a cadastral map of unknown type in their study.

Obertyn field sketch 1877
This cadastral map of Obertyn ca. 1877 is misleading in its style but can be interpreted by examining its features. The base is a precisely-drafted and lithographed final-stage map from an 1877 survey, but it contains no tax parcel numbers, only house numbers handwritten on top of the its base. One can tell this by the lack of numbers on community property: the church (at left in the red circle) has no number but a symbolic cross and the Polish-language label r. k. kościół (for Roman Catholic Church). The synagogue (near the center in the blue circle) also has no number but a symbolic triangle and the abbreviation synag. The Jewish cemetery (at right in the green circle) has no land parcel number but has triangles symbolizing matzevot and the label Israelicka gmina okopisko (Jewish community burial ground). The cemetery includes what is probably a receiving or burial house; it is unclear why this structure is numbered.

Drafting style and line quality are helpful indicators of map development stage, but a significant portion of the surviving stock of historical cadastral maps in archives in the former region of Galicia is composed of revision maps, which overlay new survey data and annotations onto prior map editions or vice versa. Thus in some cases it is possible to find only house numbers on a precisely-drafted final-stage cadastral map, or only parcel numbers on a rough sketch, and no other cadastral map available for the place.

Indication sketches are usually unambiguous due to their double-numbering scheme which annotates every property with both the tax parcel number and the house number of the property owner. Although the number coloring scheme used on a particular map does not always follow the historical standard, usually it is possible to identify even the owner's house number in ambiguously-colored building numbers. Then the descriptive information included in the indication sketch section above may be applied in interpreting the map.

Recognizable civil and religious community land and especially buildings are perhaps the best key to the property numbering on a particular historical cadastral map of any type. Unlike individual private property owners, communities did not live in a house (i.e. a residence), so in most cases no house number should appear on community buildings or land. The majority population in most historical Galician settlements was Christian, so any place larger than a small village was likely to have a church in the 19th century, and churches were almost always marked with a symbolic cross on cadastral sketches and maps. The first and usually quickest way to identify the map type and numbering is to find one or more churches and check their numbering: if there is no number on or beside a church, then the map shows house numbers only and is a field sketch; if there is a number on or beside a church, then the map shows parcel numbers and is an indication sketch or a late-stage cadastral map. There are rare exceptions to this rule, for example when a church official lived in a house provided by the parish on the building parcel assigned to the church; this type of recording is irregular and rarely seen.

Tłuste cadastral map ca. 1826 field sketch 1877
Another potentially confusing map: this cadastral map of Tłuste ca. 1826 combines two different numbering schemes in a single edition. At the center of this town (shown at left here), where buildings are arranged tightly together around market areas and without associated gardens, only tax parcel numbers are indicated, perhaps to minimize visual clutter. Further out from the center (shown at right here), the numbering follows the conventions of a standard indication sketch, with both parcel numbers for buildings and land plus house numbers of the property owner on every parcel. Property owners' names are also written on many of the larger land parcels, a helpful aid for correlation to other family records.

Jewish community buildings may be used similarly for map type identification, though Jewish communities were often smaller than their Christian counterparts (so few or no prominent Jewish buildings may have existed) and synagogues were often not identified with symbols or labels. Civil community buildings such as town halls can sometimes be used for map type identification as well, but sometimes community leaders were housed in these buildings so that they were classified as residences and carried house numbers.

Community-owned land parcels can also help to identify a map type, again because no house number would normally be associated with the land. Jewish and Christian cemeteries on field sketches are usually marked with symbols (triangles and crosses, respectively) or with labels but without numbers. On indication sketches and final-stage maps, the land parcel number of each cemetery is normally indicated in red color, without a house number. Buildings at cemeteries used to prepare the dead for burial should carry building parcel numbers but not house numbers. Civil community land such as parcels defined as shared pastures for grazing (Gemeinde Weiden, labeled G.W. or GW on maps) are difficult to identify on early-stage maps because not all land parcels were reliably labeled on the early maps.

There are many variant and even "odd" maps in the Gesher Galicia cadastral map collection, and probably many more surprises waiting for us in the archives. This page should help to identify and interpret most historical cadastral maps of Galicia which genealogists and others will encounter in their research.

References Used on This Page

The Reference Literature page in this section provides a large number of conference papers, journal articles, books, and other texts relevant to the history of Habsburg, Austrian, and Austro-Hungarian cadastral survey and mapping practices. The following references were especially useful in assembling this page:

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