Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Old maps


I have to confess to a weakness for old maps. There is something vaguely adventurous and exciting about the yellowed paper, the colours, the text. I found this image recently on a free app for iPad. It brings to mind a Europe that to us today is barely remembered, a Europe without the nation of Germany, that was nevertheless the home of our German ancestors. Sweden and Great Britain are just on the fringes of this world, even if they in many ways have played a bigger part in our history than Central Europe. But as I have focussed on my German ancestry the last few months this old Germany has caught my attention.

The Duchy of Holstein, where Johann Holdorf lived as a young man, is way up north, coloured orange like Denmark. Caroline Fisher, who would marry him in Sydney in the 1860s, was born in Augsburg, in the Kingdom of Bavaria, right in the centre and coloured green. Before leaving Europe in 1854, while Caroline was still a little girl, the Fisher family lived in the little town of Harheim, on the border between the Grand Duchy of Hesse and the Duchy of Nassau, just north of Frankfurt.

The map is a collection of empires and kingdoms, of duchies and principalities, with wonderful names like Bohemia and Pomerania, Saxony and Silesia, Moravia and Mecklenburg. Even the Grand Principality of Transylvania gets into the picture, hanging off the eastern end of Hungary. These half forgotten lands bring thoughts of a world now slipping further and further into the mists of time, a world of kings and emperors, of dukes and princes. To us now they seems like the stuff of fairytales, but to our ancestors they were everyday life.


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