Jan 31, 2022 | History, Research

Cadastral maps of Galicia: “behind the scene”

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This post is to answer the questions of Michael who we’ve done family research for. I think this information may be interesting for other people who research their roots too. 

Some of the goals we had set by Michael’s research project were to locate the ancestral house, locate all the land plots that the family had owned in the village of Mytulyn, Zolochiv district, Lviv Oblast on the maps since the 19th century, understand what kind of land that was and what it was used for, as well as to locate those plots on the modern map. Here is part of Michael’s reply to our report:

I am astounded by the maps…how accurate they were even back before airplanes existed! locations! If you have any info on how these maps were created, I would appreciate your insights. To imagine that virtually every village in the empire would have been mapped and drawn like this is incredible! What an army of surveyors and cartographers would have been involved to accomplish such a task!” 

Mytulyn cadastral map 1
Cadastral map of Mitulin since 1845


Thus, I thought that it’d be interesting to learn a bit more about the maps that we work with so often. Let’s look “behind the scene” to understand how they were made and learn a few other details.  

I should say that Austro-Hungarian land surveys, maps, and accompanying documents are a HUGE TOPIC, a box of worms, as my friend says. This post is an attempt to look into only some of the issues. 

Military land surveyors in 1891
Military land surveyors in 1891


What a photo! It dates to 1891 and it shows the land surveyors who conducted the 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austro-Hungary. However, the cadastral maps that we usually research for family history date to earlier times.

The numerous crews of highly qualified land surveyors spread throughout Galicia to work on the measurements in 1824-1830, 1844-1854. The total number of the sheets of the maps that they produced is 40,981 pieces. The maps covered an area of about 78,000 square kilometers. Quite an extensive project! It was part of the process to create the so-called Stabile Cadaster, a general database of property. The maps and all the relating documents, such as protocols of the land plots and buildings, alphabetical lists of landowners, lists of land plots with detailed information on their size and category, crops, etc., were used to optimize the taxation. Since 1848, all units responsible for the Stabile Cadaster fell under the Ministry of Finances of the Empire.

How did the land surveyors work?

Austrian land surveyors
Another photo of the Austrian land surveyors


In Galicia, a local triangulation (the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to the point from known points that are used in surveying) network with the center on the High Castle Hill in Lviv was developed.

The preliminary designation of the boundaries of the settlements was one of the early stages of the process. Based on the information received from the local authorities, the surveyor sketched the area and defined the distances between the boundaries. 

The so-called Geometrician was the most important member of the crew working on site after the sketches were ready. He was its most qualified member too. His tasks were the economic research of the commune, its measurement, and execution of the map. He bore the responsibility for the accuracy of the map and the information provided in the relating documents. In case there were any mistakes, the land surveyor was to cover 1/3 of the cost of the project to create a new map. The state provided the surveyor with food and accommodation in the area where the work was carried out. The salary depended on the land surveyor’s rank. It varied from 2 Florins to 3 Florins and 30 Krauczars daily (learn more about the money, prices, and salaries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in one of our previous posts).

There were usually several assistants in the crew. The so-called Triangulator and his assistant – Adjunct had to have a technical education and they did all the measurements. The rest were to be literate but they mostly did physical work: carried the equipment, set the flags, etc. The crew also received support from the so-called Indicator, the representative of the local authorities who provided information on the owners of the property, the category of land, crops, etc.

But for the sketches mentioned above, the crew received all coordinates that were necessary for triangulation. They brought such equipment as a special measuring chain with pins, poles with flags, a special measuring table with a compass and a centering device, and others. You can see this table on both pictures above and the next picture too.

Triangulation 1

The paper used for the maps was of very high quality. Even today, when you research the maps in the archives, you get a feeling that it’ll last for quite a while. Unless it’s destroyed by the humidity of the archival depository, of course. The map usually consists of several sheets and there are watermarks on most maps, as well as the names of the land surveyors who made it at the bottom of each sheet. The scale of the map is 1:2880. The size of one sheet is 65 per 52 centimeters and it covers about 287ha. Quite a lot! It takes some effort to make proper photocopies of high resolution due to these facts, as well as all the detailed tiny inscriptions and accurate thin lines.

Roliv Cadastral map
Beautiful colors and lines of Roliv cadastral map

There were several stages of creating the maps, drawn with a pencil, and the final version was colored with aquarelle, all by hand. Indeed, they are like masterpieces. Depending on the stage of production, there are at least 3 kinds of Cadastral maps. This information is very important for the practical purpose of finding your ancestral house on the map. 

1. The 1st type is Feldskizzen or field sketches. They are a good source of information as they usually have house numbers and/or householder names. The field sketches can be colored as well. The house number is written on or near the house. 

2. The following stage was Indikationsskizzen or Indication Sketch. They usually have house numbers, householder names, as well as building parcel numbers and land parcel numbers. It is important to know that house numbers we find, e.g., in the church records are different from the building plot numbers (!!!).  

3. The final stage is the Katasterkarte or cadastral map. It has only building parcel numbers and land plots numbers, but no house numbers or names. Although nicely colored and neat, it can be misleading as it does not contain actual house numbers we look for to locate the ancestral house on the map. 

Using the land owner lists that might go with the particular map is important in this case and it’s the way to resolve any doubts. 

I know this information above can be confusing. I am just touching this topic as it is very important to understand that the numbers you find on a map can actually be the numbers of the building plots and not the house numbers that you find in the metrical (church) and other records. 

The system of colors and signs that you can find in the legend of the map was about the same for cadastral records all over the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That’s why the legend is not included in the maps we find in the archives. You can see a sample of such a legend below.

Cadastral maps Legend 1

The colors we find there are often very important for family researchers too. For example, the yellow houses are made of wood while the pink houses are made of bricks and rocks. 


Most of the Cadastral maps of Galicia are preserved in the State Central Historical Archives of Ukraine in Lviv, records group 186. They cover the territory of 19 districts of Galicia. The total number of units preserved there is about 10,500. That collection includes the maps of the present-day Lviv Oblast (province). 

If your roots come from present-day Ivano-Frankivsk oblast (former Stanislaviv), Lviv Historical Archives are the place to look for the maps too: they were brought there in the 1950s-1960s. The collection of Lviv Historical Archives also includes some maps from the present-day Ternopil oblast, namely the former Ternopil district (208 maps) and Chortkiv district (137 maps).

The cadastral maps of some towns of Ternopil oblast are preserved in the Archives in Ternopil as well, the total number is 540.

The maps of Galicia can also be found in the archives in Poland – Przemysl, Katowice, and their brunches. 


Should you need help with finding your ancestral plots in the village, family research in general (we do not charge for the preliminary research to explain the chances of success and costs), or a private customized tour of Ukraine, or just asking a question to a family researcher/tour guide located in Ukraine, feel free to contact me directly. I am here to help. 


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Andriy Dorosh



Austriackie Katastry Gruntowe ne terenie Galicji. Daniel Krzysztof Nowak.

Cadastral Land Surveys and Maps for Galicia, Austria. Brian J. Lenius. East European Genealogist, Vol.13, #3, 2005

Galician Cadastre Maps: Land Surveys of 1849 and 1847. John. D. Pihach. East European Genealogist, Vol.2, #4, 1994.