This is a brief guide to researching maps. Maps are kept in a variety of archives and libraries.
The National Archives has more than 6 million maps and plans ranging from the 14th century to the modern day. Look at the map pages on our website to find out even more about maps at The National Archives. You can view and buy maps from The National Archives’ image library.
What do I need to know before I start?
Many of The National Archives’ maps are unique, either because they are original manuscript drawings or because they are printed items annotated in manuscript. An Admiralty chart, for example, may have been coloured to show the limits of fishing rights agreed in a treaty.
Tithe maps and Valuation Office survey maps are some of the most useful to family and local historians. Copies of the tithe maps and working copies of the Valuation Office survey are often kept in local archives.
Maps of places overseas were created or used for foreign and colonial business. Many also reflect the planning and conduct of military, naval and air campaigns and operations.
Census maps (1871)
View digital versions of the original Registration District maps from the 1871 census (RG 18) on the Cassinimaps (£) website.
Early Irish maps (c.1558 to c.1610)
Search and download (£) early Irish maps from the State Papers Ireland (MPF 1/35 to 102) in Discovery, our catalogue. The collection comprises over 70 maps depicting plantations, fortifications and townships during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.
Historic Ordnance Survey maps
View digital versions of old Ordnance Survey maps and other historical maps on commercial websites such as old-maps.co.uk (£).
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Foreign Office, Colonial Office and War Office maps and plans (1595–1953)
Search Discovery, our catalogue, by country or place name for maps and plans from the Foreign Office, Colonial Office and War Office map libraries in FO 925, CO 700 and WO 78.
Tithe maps and apportionments (c.1836 to c.1850)
Search our catalogue for Tithe Maps (IR30) and Apportionments (IR 29) by place name.
For more information please see our guide on tithes.
Records in other archives and organisations