Where did my ancestor live? Part 3 OS maps and beyond

The first official Ordnance Survey map, covering Kent, was published in 1801 but the first series was published between 1805 and 1873. These were of a scale of one inch to a mile with Essex being the first county map published directly by the Ordnance Survey. A new edition of Ordnance Survey maps was begun in 1840 as much had changed in the previous forty or so years, but publication only began in 1872.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the Ordnance Survey had assumed its modern national role of providing the surveys and maps that the government, military and general public alike required. A third updated edition of one-inch maps on 360 sheets was published between 1903 and 1913.

Used in conjunction with records such as census schedules and directories, the exact house where an ancestor lived can sometimes be pinpointed.

Ordnance Survey maps are generally held by local archives and libraries and TNA but the British Library has the best collection of all. Historical Ordnance Survey maps can be purchased through the Ordnance Survey’s website10 and www.old-maps.co.uk provides online access to Britain’s most extensive digital historical map archive, which is jointly owned by Landmark and the Ordnance Survey.

Beyond the OS maps and the Tithe and Enclosure records discussed in parts 1 and 2 many other maps may be discovered in both the National and Local archives such as Estate/Manorial maps, The Inland Revenue valuation map (aka Lloyd George Domesday Survey) and The National Farm Survey amongst others.

Estate Maps

These were maps of estates from the late 16th century until the production of large-scale Ordnance Survey maps in the late 19th century, drawn up for landowners to illustrate the extent of their property, which is described in associated documents such as rentals or surveys.

The property shown on these maps varies from small plots to whole parishes and they are often the best maps for depicting individual houses. Sometimes every field is shown with its name, along with woods, paths, roads, ponds and marshland. The acreage and land use may be noted and buildings such as worker’s cottages and barns are described.

TNA online catalogue lists many estate records in local archives and private collections. There are some published lists also for individual counties or archives.

Map of the Manor of Woking dated 1719 held at Surrey History Centre Ref G97/5/63/1-2

Lloyd George Domesday Survey

The valuation was carried out under the Finance Act (1909-1910), under the authority of the Valuation Office of the Board of Inland Revenue. The project was as part of a plan to tax increases in land values measured from the initial purchase to the sale or transfer. Business premises are also included in the survey and also properties that fell below the tax threshold.

Freehold owners were recorded but also some leaseholders. The records might include common and waste land.

The main records consist of Field Books and Valuation Maps. Each property was identified on a large-scale plan by the assessment or hereditament number and the information collected was then entered into field books. The records include tenure details and a description of the property or land. The books are listed county by county and alphabetically by owner.

They can be found at TNA IR 58, Field Books; IR 124/1 to IR 135/9, Record Sheet Plans; IR 121/1, Record Sheet Plans: London Region: Merton District; IR 121/22, Record Sheet Plans: London Region: Westminster 2 District

And also at County Record Offices (Working plans and maps, valuation books and Form 37s). Many are now available online at the Genealogist website.

Area around St Paul’s Catherdral; 1910 Valuation Office Survey, 1910-1915 [database online]. TheGenealogist.co.uk 2022; Original data: “IR 91 Board of Inland Revenue: Valuation Office: Domesday Books” The National Archives; “IR 121 & IR 124-135 Board of Inland Revenue: Valuation Office: Finance Act 1910, Record Sheet Plans” The National Archives

Field Books contain Name and address of property/land owner and tenants. Description and situation of property and how property was being used, often with detailed inspection notes which could include date when built, number of rooms or structure of property and sometimes a sketch. Nature of ownership and the property’s rateable and market value and details of former sales.

Valuation Books contain Names of occupiers and owners, address and description of property, valuation of property.

A page extract from a field book for Cranleigh (unfortunately the maps do not appear to have survived). Held at the National archives, reference IR 58/34189

National Farm Survey

The National Farm Survey taken between 1941 and 1943 to establish the ensure every bit of available land was used for food production and also farmed as efficiently as possible to maximise yields in response to the Reduced capacity to import food. It was a survey of farms of some 300,000 farms of five acres or more were surveyed (around 85% of agricultural land). Each individual farm record consists of four forms, three of which were mailed to the farmer as part of the return for the farm census held on 4th June 1941. The fourth form is the actual Farm Survey, the ‘primary survey’.

The records are held at TNA in series MAF 73 and MAF 32.

These records can provide information on:

  • farm land
  • farmers and farm owners
  • life on a farm
  • the wider community within the parish where a farm was located

As a source for local and family historians the records of the National Farm Survey are of great value, and for the historical geographer these records present an enormous database of land ownership and land usage in mid-20th century Britain.

The records, in Series MAF 32 at TNA, note the farmer’s name, whether he was an owner or tenant (and any owner’s name), the rent payable, other terms of occupation, the conditions of the farm, details of crops, livestock and the number of farm workers. Maps of each farm, showing its boundaries and fields, were also produced which are in Series MAF 73.22

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