Atlas des Deutschen Reichs - An Atlas of the German Empire
The Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein is relatively rare in libraries of the United States. Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison selected the 1883 copy in our collection as one of our first digitization projects because of its usefulness for genealogists. The atlas helps in tracing the roots of families with origins in any part of the German empire from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Besides Germany, the maps of this atlas also cover the bordering portions of present-day Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, and Switzerland. Due to the large scale of its maps (1:850,000) and its thorough gazetteer of place-names, one can locate even small towns and villages on the maps in the Ravenstein atlas. A special feature is the marking of the locations of churches on all of the maps as well as one special map with an accompanying table giving statistics on the religious denominations found throughout the German empire down to the Regierungsbezirk and Kreis governmental units. Place-names and political jurisdictions often change over time. A common challenge in genealogy is identifying the current name and jurisdiction of a family's place of origin in order to figure out where the records of births, deaths, and marriages of an earlier period are now being kept. Comparison of the Ravenstein atlas and a recently published atlas often provides the solution to this problem. Here's how it is done: First, one needs to locate the family's place of origin in the Ravenstein atlas by looking up the place-name in the gazetteer portion of the atlas and then finding the place on the map cited in the gazetteer entry. Second, by observing the nearby natural features (such as a river, lake, etc.) or the closest larger cities or towns, one can then turn to a recently published atlas and match up that same location. Third, now knowing the current jurisdiction and name of the family's place of origin, one can then use current government directories, genealogical handbooks or other reference tools to identify the appropriate governmental office, etc., for the genealogical records wanted.