Maps for local and family history

A guide to using maps to aid your Victorian local history research.

Wars and conflicts

Australia has been involved in numerous international conflicts since European settlement. If your ancestors fought for Australia, or migrated to Australia because of conflict in their homeland, you may wish to explore these conflicts in greater detail. The State Library of Victoria has map resources which enable you to pinpoint the location of battles, locate towns or regions where your ancestor/s may have lived or been stationed, and discover how wars altered place names and national borders.

World War I

The following resources may be useful when researching an ancestor who fought in World War 1.

1. Trench maps. The Library holds a number of trench maps from the battlefields in France and Belgium in World War 1. 

We also hold a selection of maps of Gallipoli  from the time of the ANZAC campaign. To find these maps in the catalogue, choose Maps from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box and use the keyword Gallipoli. More extensive maps from the Gallipoli campaign are held at the Australian War Memorial.

2. Atlases and other books. The library holds several atlases that focus on battles and battlefields of World War 1 including:

Atlas of the war contains detailed maps of Europe as it was at the beginning of the war, including some town plans. It also features maps of several battlefields in Belgium and France.

The western front at a glance : a large-scale atlas of the allies' fighting line in the west is a series of detailed maps of the Western Front.

Atlas of World War I contains maps of major battlefields, including a trench map of Gallipoli.

L'Atlas-index de tous les théâtres de la Guerre is a three volume French atlas of World War 1, containing detailed maps of France, Belgium, Prussia, Poland and Turkey, among other regions.

Daily Mail war panorama : 20 birds-eye views and maps of the world wide war from 1915 is a series of decorative maps showing parts of the Western and Eastern Fronts and Gallipoli.


Gallipoli Peninsula and "The Narrows" from Daily Mail war panorama : 20 birds-eye views and maps of the world wide war

Mapping the First World War features over 100 maps demonstrating how the Great War was fought around the world.

3. Online. A variety of digitised WWI maps contributed by other libraries can be accessed through the database The First World War. These include maps of battlefields, as well as large scale interactive maps showing changes to the various fronts throughout the war. Registered users of the Library can access this database from home.

World War II

The following resources may be useful when researching an ancestor who fought in World War II.

1. Maps. The Library holds a series of maps of New Guinea which are uncatalogued . If you would like to view these please submit a map inquiry detailing the part of New Guinea you are interested in and a map librarian can retrieve the appropriate material.

2. Atlases and other books. The Library holds several atlases that focus on battles and battlefields of World War II. The following atlases describe and map the major campaigns.

The Times atlas of the Second World War contains detailed text and accompanying maps of the major conflicts of World War II, including battles in the Pacific involving Australian troops. 

The Routledge atlas of the Second World War features maps showing national borders before and after the war, maps illustrating major battles and locations of war graves around the world.

Mapping the Second World War tells the story of how this global war was fought with the inclusion of over 150 maps.