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What is a Cadastral Map?

Tarnobrzeg 1853 cadastral map
An excerpt from the 1853 lithographed cadastral map of the entire town of Tarnobrzeg.
At the top of the page, an excerpt of the multi-sheet cadastral map of Zbaraż from 1863.
The largest section of the Gesher Galicia Map Room presents more than 150 digitized historical cadastral maps of Galician cities, towns, and villages in an interactive format, for use in historical and genealogical research. Cadastral maps are beautiful to look at, but what exactly are they? This page provides an answer to that question plus a quick summary of some of the characteristics and features of historical cadastral maps which make them valuable to researchers. More detailed information on these topics is available in the References section of the Map Room.

Cadastral Maps Defined

English-language Wikipedia simply defines a cadastral map as "a map that shows the boundaries and ownership of land parcels". (In the United States, a cadastral map is also known as a plat.) A cadastral map is one component of a cadastre (or cadaster), which Wikipedia defines as "a comprehensive recording of the real estate or real property's metes-and-bounds of a country". Thus the cadastre and its maps are a means for recording and managing the legal and administrative boundaries of land parcels for land valuation and taxation. Maps were and are used together with legal registers (now databases) which identify the legal owners of individually numbered parcels, the actual or permitted economic use and value of each parcel, and more.

Using the registers to identify owners of parcels already makes cadastral maps interesting to family historians, but the characteristics and features of historical cadastral maps of Galicia make them much more valuable for research, as explained below.

Cadastral Maps Described

Historical cadastral maps combine science, art, and a powerful legal and administrative system into dense graphical displays of the layout and economic potential of large and small settlements. Browsing and studying the maps will reveal that:

And of course, the maps are also often very beautiful. For more information about many of these topics, see the References section of the Map Room.

Gesher Galicia is a non-profit organization carrying out Jewish genealogical and historical research on Galicia, formerly a province of Austria-Hungary and today divided between southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. The research work includes the indexing of archival vital records and census books, Holocaust-period records, Josephine and Franciscan cadastral surveys, lists of Jewish taxpayers, and records of Galician medical students and doctors - all added to our searchable online database. In addition, we reproduce regional and cadastral maps for our online Map Room. We conduct educational research and publish a quarterly research journal, the Galitzianer. Gesher Galicia is also organized for the purpose of maintaining networking and online discussion groups and to promote and support Jewish heritage preservation work in the areas of the former Galicia.

You can search our free All Galicia Database, Map Room, and archival inventories, and read about member benefits starting at $50 per year. You can also join online.

Our general contact address: info@geshergalicia.org