Ravenstein Atlas des Deutschen Reichs

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The Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein is relatively rare in libraries of the United States. Besides Germany, the maps of this atlas also cover the bordering portions of present-day Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, and Switzerland. An overview map showing the full area covered by the Atlas can be found on the title page.

Genealogical Application

The atlas helps in tracing the roots of families with origins in any part of the German empire from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Due to the large scale of its maps (1:850,000) and its thorough gazetteer of place-names, one can locate even small towns and villages on the maps in the Ravenstein atlas. A special feature is the marking of the locations of churches on all of the maps as well as one special map with an accompanying table giving statistics on the religious denominations found throughout the German empire down to the Regierungsbezirk and Kreis governmental units. An explanatory key of the symbols appearing on the map can be found in the lower right corner of map section IX.

Place-names and political jurisdictions often change over time. A common challenge in genealogy is identifying the current name and jurisdiction of a family’s place of origin in order to figure out where the records of births, deaths, and marriages of an earlier period are now being kept. Comparison of the Ravenstein atlas and a recently published atlas often provides the solution to this problem. Here’s how it is done:

First, one needs to locate the family’s place of origin in the Ravenstein atlas by looking up the place-name in the gazetteer portion of the atlas and then finding the place on the map cited in the gazetteer entry.

For example: based on the gazetteer entries reproduced here, one would look for the town of Cyprki on map IIIb, in quadrant O4

Similarly, Cyriaksburg will be found on map V, on the line between quadrants A6 and B6. (Links to the various maps can be found on the contents page.)

The original maps are quite large. When viewing an individual map, you can access the maximum level of detail available by using the ‘Image detail’ link in the left-hand column, or the PDF link directly above the map.

Second, by observing the nearby natural features (such as a river, lake, etc.) or the closest larger cities or towns, one can then turn to a recently published atlas and match up that same location.

Third, now knowing the current jurisdiction and name of the family’s place of origin, one can then use current government directories, genealogical handbooks or other reference tools to identify the appropriate governmental office, etc., for the genealogical records wanted.