Discover Your European Ancestors’ World

European ancestors

I’m lucky. One of my distant cousins wrote an entire book on the Shore (Schor, Schorr) family’s journey from Switzerland to America. Using that book made it a lot easier for me to find their European home. And, as you can see, Europe of 1490 looked far different than the Europe we know today. (Click the map to enlarge). The tiny dark green patch to the right of France is the Swiss Confederation.

Europe in 1490

The Schorr family lived in Muttenz in the canton of Basel. There are records dating back to the 1600s of the family’s baptisms in St. Arbogast’s church. The church is the only still existing fortress church in Europe. In May of 1750, Friedrich Schor and his brother Michael and their families left Muttenz for North

st arbogast church muttenz switzerland
St. Arbogast Church

America. They arrived in Pennsylvania but eventually moved to Virginia and then North Carolina. In the early 1800’s, part of the family moved further west to Missouri. Tracing their journey using maps has been one of my favorite genealogy projects.

This week I went looking for some excellent European map & genealogy resources to get you started researching the world of your European ancestors. My top 10 picks are below.

European Maps & Genealogy

Family Tree Magazine’s Best Continental Europe Genealogy Websites, 2015: This article lists nine of the top sites for anyone doing European research.

Links to dozens of European genealogy resources When you begin your European genealogy search, concentrate first on learning part of the country’s history; it will inform you about your ancestors’ lives.

The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe: Trace Your Genealogy in Europe ($)  This book has detailed chapters on each area of Europe,  a compete overview of genealogy research strategies for each country/region,
timelines of social, political and military events that may have impacted ancestors’ lives, and detailed maps of each country/region. (I love this book)

FamilySearch’s European Wiki: If I was just getting started in European genealogy (which I am!), this would be my first stop.  Pick your country of interest and then read FamilySearch’s guide on getting started with research in that country. You’ll find maps, record types, country background, and local resources. A goldmine.

Europe Historical Maps at the Perry-Castañeda collection: This collection is one of the first historical map collections I found on the Internet. It’s still a go-to resource for me. The 1490 map of Europe (above) is from this collection.

Family Tree Historical Maps Book: Europe: ($) This one is jammed with maps and timelines. Created by my friend, publisher of Family Tree Magazine,  Allison Dolan. Country-by-country atlas to put your ancestral origins in geographic context, unravel the European boundary changes that frequently trip up genealogists. (If you thought American county boundary lines were confusing, wait til you get to Europe!)

Maps of Europe from 1500 to 2000: Not a fancy site, but lots of good information.

Genetic History of Europe: With all the DNA talk, I thought this was a good choice.

Cyndi’s List Western European Maps & Genealogy: Just because the site’s been around for years, doesn’t make it any less useful. Get over there and see what you can find 🙂

WorldGenWeb: The European counterpart to USGenWeb. Use the links in the left column to navigate to regional websites. Once you’re on a regional website you can then navigate to countries. (Hint, most of Western Europe is in the Mediterranean regional site).

Which Country?

I’m curious what country you’re going to begin researching . . . and did you already know your family’s country of origin?

Did you discover your country of origin thanks to DNA?Click To Tweet  Leave a comment and let me know.



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If you don't know your European ancestor's world, it's a lot harder to trace them. Check out great European map resources

8 comments

  1. Hi – except for 2 branches, I know virtually nothing about European ancestors. DNA was a big help to me in that respect.

  2. Denmark and Ireland. Both I knew from my parents. My grandparents on my mom’s side are from Denmark, Langeland to be precise. Dad’s side was from Ireland, what I didn’t know until I started my hunt, was that came over in the 1700s. I haven’t been able to find the one that immigrated. Working on that problem😄
    I enjoy you informative news along with your book. Thank you.

  3. My 2x he grandparents were Shores who came from NC to Missouri and then to Kansas! We might be related!

    1. Cindy, if your Shores were NC and Missouri, we’re probably related! Send me an email via the website’s contact form and let’s see if we can find the connection. Nancy Hendrickson

  4. Hi! My ancestors and my husband’s ancestors are mostly German (Merck, Schroeder, Bedenbaugh), and a couple of years ago we learned they came from the same area in Bavaria! Planning a trip to Germany in 2019! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Meredith – You’re very welcome! I’m just getting into German genealogy – it’s something I need a lot of help with! Nancy

Love to know what you think!