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Cartographic Resources for Genealogical Research: Eastern Europe and Russia

Austria-Hungary

Artaria & Co., cartographer, publisher. Neueste General- Post- und Strassen Karte der Oesterreichischen Monarchie : mit politischer Eintheilung der einzelnen Provinzen derselben und Angabe der wichtigsten Bergwerke u. besuchtesten Mineralquellen : nebst einer bildlichen Darstellung des Monarchie-Wapens, so wie sämmtlicher Provinzial-Wapen. [1854]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

As empires go, that of Austria-Hungary was among the briefest, having lasted only from 1867 to 1918; nevertheless, its constituent nations served as major sources of emigration to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Searching for an ancestor's birthplace in Austria-Hungary can be challenging, especially given the variants in spellings in place names, which owes to the changing nature of rule and consequent shifting of borders after the First World War.

Fortunately we have a comprehensive set of large-scale topographic maps and several helpful gazetteers to mitigate the difficulty. The maps, titled Spezialkarte der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, were prepared and issued at 1:75,000 scale by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy's Militärgeographisches Institut beginning around 1875. The series was continued after the dissolution of the Empire in 1918 by Germany's Kartographisches Institut, while others were reprinted and updated by the Main Survey Department of the Third Reich. Later editions can date into the 1940s. The entire set consists of over 1,000 maps, most in multiple editions, and with some later editions in color. Regardless of their editions, the maps depict most small communities and their environs as they appeared at various specific times over a brief period. Place names generally are identified by their German cognates, but they can be in Hungarian or the appropriate Slavic language of the area covered. The set is filed in the Geography and Map Division under LC call number G6480 s75 .A8.

Gazetteers

We are equally fortunate in possessing a comprehensive gazetteer to search for place names in the former Austria-Hungary, and that is Josef and Karl Kendler's 1905 work titled Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon von Oesterreich-Ungarn. Its full title in English attests to its utility, i.e. Gazetteer Encyclopedia of Austria-Hungary : containing all places and their political and judicial, rail, postal, telegraph and steam ship stations with designation of the rail and steam ship - enterprises, together with the main towns of Bosnia and Herzegovina : an indispensable manual and reference book for authorities, offices, notaries, lawyers, merchants, travelers etc , etc.

To our benefit the Kendler gazetteer has been digitized in its entirety for research via the Library's website. A major drawback of the gazetteer, however, is its absence of geographic coordinates, which can be remedied by using the online JewishGen Gazetteer External or some other published gazetteer. Nevertheless, an entry in the Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon von Oesterreich-Ungarn will include the name of a place in use as of 1905, its cognate with other languages per its nationality, usually its administrative district (Bezirk) and/ or its municipality (Gemeinde), the location of its post office and railroad station, and other potentially relevant information.

Other gazetteers covering parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are listed in this resource guide on the page of gazetteers covering East Central Europe, but the easiest and most convenient one to search for place names in Austria-Hungary is the JewishGen Gazetteer External, which covers all present-day components of the former empire. Searches for a place name in Austria-Hungary can be narrowed by searching under the category "Eastern Europe." Somewhat more difficult to use is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's GEOnet Names Server External, which is the official repository of standard spellings of all foreign geographic names. Those attempting to search for a place name in the former Austria-Hungary in GEOnet Names Server must search by the country in which the community is now located.

Practice Example

Step 1: Find Coordinates for the Selected Site

For locating a place name in Austria-Hungary we will use as our example the western Ukrainian city of Mukachevo, known by its Hungarian cognate as Munkács, in Russian as Mukachevo, and in Romanian as Muncaciu. The city of Mukachevo possesses a strong Jewish and Rusyn heritage, and served as a seat of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Long ruled by the kings of Hungary, the city passed under the successive authority of the Principality of Transylvania, Habsburg Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, and is now in Ukraine.

Per the JewishGen Gazetteer, Mukachevo lies at 48°27′ N 22°45′ east of Greenwich. Another clue to Mukachevo's relative location comes from its entry under the name "Mukacheve" in the Columbia Gazetteer of the World External, which, in addition to giving us its geographic coordinates, points out that the city served as a key fortress in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I. Knowing that Mukachevo was a principal site within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we will consult the set of maps known as the Spezialkarte der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie to find a map depicting Mukachevo as it appeared in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.

Step 2: Convert the Coordinates

We now know that Mukachevo lies at 48°27′ N 22°45′ east of Greenwich. We must first keep in mind that Austrian military cartographers employed as their prime meridian the island of Ferro, which lies 17°40' west of the Greenwich meridian. Thus, we must convert Greenwich prime meridian to Ferro prime meridian by adding 17°40' to 22°45′, to achieve the longitude of 40°25′ east of Ferro Island. Or, we can consult the table for converting geographic coordinates from Greenwich Prime Meridian to various other meridians (PDF, 8.1MB).

Step 3: Consult the Graphic Index

The graphic index to the set is illustrated below. Each rectangle on the graphic index covers a sheet within the series.

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Militärgeographisches Institut. Spezialkarte der ö̈sterreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie 1:75.000 und der im Massstabe 1:75.000 vorhandenen Auslandsblätter : Übersichtsblatt. [1916]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

We can find Mukachevo on the graphic index above by moving east to longitude 40°25′ and then north to latitude 48°27′, which should bring us to sheet number 4669 Munkács, which appears on the enlargement below.

Detail of Übersichtsblatt. [1916]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

If patrons encounter difficulty in using the graphic index, then they may wish to consult the coordinate to sheet number index for sets of topographic maps of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Poland (PDF, 812 KB). Keep in mind that the sheet number index employs longitude according to the Greenwich Prime Meridian. Thus, to locate the sheet depicting Mukachevo, which lies at latitude 48°27′ north and longitude as 22°45′ east of Greenwich, we search for the sheet covering the territory encompassed with latitude range of 48.15 - 48.30 and longitude range of 22.20 - 22.50, which gives us sheet 4669.

Step 4: Examine the Map

We now request the 1878 edition of sheet 4669, and see Munkács and its immediate environs in the northeast corner. Among the many features are the river Latorica, adjacent towns and villages, streets and roads, a post office, the railway line and its terminus, and nearby hills.

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Militärgeographisches Institut, cartographer. Spezialkarte der ö̈sterreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie, sheet 4669. 1878. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In agreement with our calculations Munkács lies at 48°27 ′N and 40°25′ east of Ferro, which is verified in the enlargement below.

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Militärgeographisches Institut, cartographer. Spezialkarte der ö̈sterreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie, sheet 4669. 1878. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

It will be of interest that the map division of the New York Public Library has digitized its collection of Spezialkarte der Osterreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie External. At this time only a single edition of each sheet appears to be available; nevertheless, a helpful sheet of Zeichenerklärung (key to symbols) explains the relationship of the numerous figures on the maps to various cultural and natural features. If additional editions of sheets are needed, patrons can contact the Geography and Map Division for more information.