Maps of Eastern Europe

In the course of my search for the people listed in the Odessa pogrom death records, I have looked up many of the towns which were the birthplaces of those in the records, many of which were very difficult to find either because the spelling or name has changed. Often there were many variations over the years depending on whether the Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish or Polish name was used. JewishGen has a town-finder database which lists many different names and spellings for towns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. But still not every village or every spelling is covered. Another way to find the old names in the records are on old maps. Old maps of Odessa are useful for finding original street names and small villages around Odessa, but most of the people in the death records came from all over Ukraine, Bessarabia, Moldova and some as far north as what is now Belarus or Lithuania. Most of the oldest maps are lacking in detail, but from the late 19th century there are some incredibly detailed maps which seemed to get down to the level of individual trees. I would not have been surprised by individual blades of grass.


Berdichev outskirts 1909



Gorodishche near Baranovichi (west of Minsk) 1930

Old maps, either written in Russian or Polish, can be very helpful in finding small towns whose names, size or importance have changed dramatically over time. Towns that were once important Jewish centres of learning and commerce may have declined if they were not near railways as rivers were no longer so crucial for trade. My great grandparents were rabbis in the small town of Gorodishche (above) near Novogrudok in Belarus, which had been a thriving town, but almost ceased to exist when the main railway from Moscow to Warsaw came a few miles to the south and the town of Baranovichi was built. It is only by looking at earlier maps that one can discover that what are now tiny towns were once important centres. The same great grandparents originally came from what is now a village near Pinsk, Lubeshov, in a marshy area of northern Ukraine, well supplied with rivers and now a national park. On old maps it is quite a prominent town. The 1837  map below shows both Gorodishche south of Novogrudok and much further south, Lubeshov south of Pinsk.


Minsk to Pinsk 1837


Lyubeshov and surrounding marshes 1929

The 1837 map below shows many of the small towns and villages that the people in the Odessa pogrom death records originated from. Although many Jews had a hometown where their family had lived for generations, probably an equal number travelled from place to place whenever they heard of new jobs and opportunities.


Odessa and its surroundings 1837

Listed below are the websites mentioned above of maps of Eastern Europe (although the David Rumsey collection is worldwide, including some brilliant very detailed maps of New York City from the late 1800s into the 1900s by G W Bromley.


Bromley New York City map 1899 E. Houston Street and Clinton Street

There are also two websites with historical maps of Odessa.

1837 map of Eastern Europe (close-up maps of Minsk area and Odessa area)

Topographic maps of Eastern Europe – many from US Library of Congress and David Rumsey maps  and links to other map sites index of towns

Karte des westlichen Russlands (KdwR) Prussian military map 1917

includes Pinsk, Lubeshov etc in German

David Rumsey map collection search page for Russian maps

Maps of Poland

close-up 1920s to 1930 maps of certain areas of western Russia which comes from this Polish website

Polish Jewish shtetls  includes those in western Russia

Historical maps of Odessa


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