An atlas of the German Empire - a UW-Madison Digital Resource
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The map below, reproduced from the original title page, depicts the area covered by the Atlas des Deutschen Reichs, and shows the division of the entire area into the nine main maps and two smaller maps of the original atlas. For this online edition, each main map was further divided into four sections which may be downloaded as pdf files. To find the map showing a particular location, use the accompanying Gazetteer. More details on this process can found in the instructions at the end of this page. A brief introduction to the Atlas and its application for genealogical research can be found immediately following this map.

Overview Map
Overview Map

Genealogical Application

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.

How to use the online edition

NOTE: To use the Ravenstein Atlas you must have Adobe's Acrobat Reader 3.0 (or later) software installed on your computer. The most current Acrobat Reader is freely available from Adobe's website.

Locating a specific city or town

1. Download the appropriate index page and look up the desired place name. The index will reference a map and a quadrant as follows:

Sample gazetteer entry

Iser, Fluß (Rheinprovinz) IV H8 = (Map 4, Quadrant H8)
Dastfeld IIIa DE4 = (Map 3a, Line between quadrants D4 and E4)

2. Note the reference and download the corresponding map

Map Legend

The explanatory key of the symbols appearing on the maps will be found in a box labelled "Erklärung" located in the lower right-hand corner of the overview map (the southeast quarter of Map 9).


Due to large file sizes and the tiling of the original maps, on-line version of Ravensteins Atlas des Deutschen Reichs is not well-suited to browsing. However, if desired, you may identify an area of interest on the overview map above and download the corresponding map section.

This on-line edition of the Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein was created in the Digital Production Facility of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

Web Development by Steven Dast, Digital Production Facility
Introduction by Laurie Wermter, Reference Department
Last Update: April 26, 2005

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