Book Review: The Family Tree Historical Maps Book: Europe

The Family Tree Historical Maps Book:  Europe:  A Country-By-Country Atlas Of European History, 1700s-1900’s, by Allison Dolan and the editors of Family Tree Magazine

Like its companion volume [1], this atlas is mostly useful if you have some idea of the history of your family already and have a love of both geography and family history [2].  The maps are simply gorgeous, and some of them are easy to read, making it not only a book of art, so to speak, but also a practical book if you know the region or city close to where one’s ancestors came from so that one can get a sense of the shifting tides of history of who governed a particular area.  Unlike the case with the geography off the United States, there is little in the nature of unexplored land, and a lot more shifting of borders of ethnography as well as political rule based on the fortunes of diplomacy and war.  One gets a real sense for the fate of many peoples in Europe under imperial rule, their borders and nationhood rejected, for many centuries, something that has create a lot of bad blood in the 20th century.

In terms of the contents of this book, it is easiest to view this book in comparison with its companion atlas for the United States.  Where that volume was organized by state alphabetically, this one is done in a geographical sense from west to east, starting with Ireland and then Scotland and England and Wales and then going to Spain and Portugal, France, Italy, the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland, Austria and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, the Balkan States, Greece, Poland, the European Russian Empire, including Finland and the Baltic states.  At the end there is a modern map of Europe and a list of administrative divisions where someone who knows the general area where their family is from within a given country can go to look for information on the geography and people of an area.  The book also contains detailed credits as to where the maps come from for those who wish to look further into the geography expressed here.  It should be mentioned as well that book is written, as it should be imagined, for an American audience and is about 200 pages long altogether.

Again, this book is chiefly of use for those who have a good idea of their family’s history already and a certain understanding of geography.  For those who have some idea of the complexity of European geography, this book provides a good look at just how much has changed over the past three hundred years in the geography of Europe, as one examines the rise and fall of empires, the forced movements of peoples in order to preserve domestic tranquility, the consolidation of smaller city-states into larger groups, the massive loss of land for areas like Hungary or Luxemburg, the reorganization of areas internal to a state like Switzerland even where there is little change in terms of borders, and other historical curiosities.  Even apart from its usefulness in helping students of family history, this is a solid historical geography that, even without a great deal of supporting texts, still manages to prompt questions and reflections from its readers.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: The Family Tree Historical Maps Book: Europe

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