52 Ancestors: Week 26 – Historic Maps at Island Imagined

This week\’s 52 Ancestors prompt is \”Legend\”. This was a tough one for me with the parameters I set myself of focusing on research sources instead of my personal family history. So I started thinking and realized that the explanation of symbols on a map is called the legend. I remembered a site I had come across for historic maps, and decided to highlight them this week.

IslandImagined is a collaboration between the Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Office, the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, and the Robertson Library of the University of Prince Edward Island. The site has digitized maps from all three institutions going back to as early as 1574. Though they mainly feature PEI maps, I\’ve also found maps for other provinces as well.


You have the option of browsing their collection of over 1,000 maps by browse all, atlases, by county or by type. You can also search for something specific by using the search bar at the top right

There are three atlases that have been digitized on the site:

  • Roe Brothers Atlas – 1878
  • Meachams Atlas – 1880
  • Cummins Atlas – 1928
Pick which Atlas you like to look at, and then they have provided links for each map in the atlas. Nice feature, as there is no scrolling page by page. 
The Roe Brothers Atlas features maps of PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Confederation was only 11 years old when this was published, so these are an interesting look at a very young Canada. 
Meachams Atlas give detailed maps of Prince Edward Island. It acts as a directory, giving historical sketches of the province. It has a Patron\’s Directory, biographical sketches, and details about landmarks. It even has a map of the Province of Manitoba. Again, this is from a time when Canada was young, so the two maps of the Dominion of Canada (East and West) are an interesting look.
The Cummins Atlas also focuses manily on PEI, but you can also find maps of each province, and countries around the world. They even have one of the Western Battle Front from World War I. The one I found quite interesting was a world map titled The World Showing Principal Nations\’ Colonial Posessions.
by County
Here you can browse by three counties: Prince, Kings, and Queens. Select a County, then narrow your search further by the menu on the right. The options are 
  • region
  • city
  • subject 
  • genre

 I did notice mixed in there some Nova Scotia and New Brunswick maps.

by Type
This one is my favourite, as you can see just the incredible range of maps offered:
  • boundary maps
  • cadastral maps
  • chorographic maps
  • fire insurance maps
  • geographical maps
  • geological maps
  • historical atlases
  • plans
  • topographical maps

You can then narrow by county, region, city, and/or subject. There are some great finds in this collection. Among the chorographic maps I found a 1757 map of Acadia in French. If you have Acadian ancestry, as I do, then you know one of the challenges can be reconciling the Acadian French place names with their English counterparts today. This map will help me pinpoint ancestor locations.

Next to the Browse tab is the Interactive tab. You have three options here: Map Overlays, Map Timeline, and Island Timeline.

Map Overlays
What a cool feature! There are four digital maps that you can click on, and they will overlay it on a Google Maps image. The four maps are:

  • Plan of Lot 34 (No.90). Montgomery estate. Working Plan (undated)
  • Plans of Lots 33, 34, 35 (1835)
  • Charlottetown, Fire Insurance Plan (1917)
  • Meachams Atlas. Lots 33 and 34 (1880)
Map Timeline
This looks to be a work in progress. It took me a few minutes to figure it out. What you want to do is scroll the blue box above the years at the bottom of the timeline
As you scroll through the years, maps will pop up.
Island Timeline
This one works the same way as the map timeline. However, as you scroll through the years blue dots will appear with a subject heading. Click on the blue dot and it will give you an event in the Island\’s history. 
If you\’re a trivia buff like I am, you\’ll love this feature.
The tab next to Interactive is Learn more. You can choose FAQ, Learning Guides, Working with Maps, Articles, and Online Books.
As the title suggests, this gives answers to general questions about the site itself.
Learning Guides
There are four guides here in both English and French for you to familiarize yourself with using maps in your research:
  • A Brief Guide to Map Elements
  • Mapping the Discovery and Development of Prince Edward Island
  • Cartographic records and genealogical research
  • Maps as resources for Landscape and Land Use History
Working With Maps
This page appears to be a work in progress.
There are links to six articles. They deal with history, maps, and land records. These can be downloaded as PDFs to your computer. The article titles are:
  • Burke, A. E. (1899, October). Jacques Cartier\’s first voyage and the landing at Cascumpec. Prince Edward Island Magzine. 1(8), 294-298.
  • Prince Edward Island in 1765. (1901, June). Prince Edward Island Magazine. 3(4), 121-126.
  • Prince Edward Island in 1765 – Continued. (1901, July). Prince Edward Island Magazine. 3(5), 169-172
  • Boylan, J. (2005, Fall/Winter). The Best Laid Plans: Fire Insurance Mapping on Prince Edward Island. Island Magazine. 58, 23-27.
  • Coles, A. (1989, Spring/Summer). A Beginner\’s Guide to Island Land Records. Island Magazine. 25, 35-41.
  • Holman, H. T. (1988, Fall/Winter). Panorama for Sale: The Bird\’s Eye Views of Prince Edward Island. Island Magazine. 24, 14-18.
Books Online
This section has links to some historic books relating to Prince Edward Island. Clicking the links will take you to a viewer where you can scroll page by page. The books included are:
  • Douglas, R., & Geographic Board of Canada. (1925). Place-names of Prince Edward Island with meanings. Ottawa: F. A. Acland, Printer to the King.
  • Rayburn, A., & Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names. (1973). Geographical names of Prince Edward Island. Ottawa: Information Canada. 
  • Chipman, W. (1924). The Life and Times of Major Samuel Holland, Surveyor-General, 1764-1801. Reprint from the  Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records XXI.
  • Official motor guide of Prince Edward Island. (1928)
  • Automobile routes with road map and mileage chart. (1935).

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