Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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Mapping the New World

Maps show us where we are, where we came from and where we might go. They tell stories of the people who came before us who dotted the landscape with settlements, villages and towns. Follow a river on a map and, before long, you’ll see where someone built a home, perhaps an entire city. Maps let us wander, give us direction and reveal our limits. They warn us of dangers and guide us to places we may have only imagined.

Early explorers used maps to guide their sails. If one wasn’t available, cartographers were commissioned to create one as uncharted territories were explored. However crude these creations were, they set fleets on journeys to new lands that would eventually bring settlers by the millions to settle North America.

Several very old, interesting and detailed maps of Atlantic Canada are available for viewing on Explore Nova Scotia ( The historic maps are grouped into locations. Most are of Nova Scotia, but other areas such as Newfoundland and New England are included. The Bay of Fundy, Cape Breton and Chebucto/Halifax Harbour/Halifax have their own sections.

One of the most intriguing maps included in this collection is the Vinland Map. It was supposedly created in the 1400s and revealed the exploration of North America by the Vikings.

Norumbega might be a place you’ve never heard of, but perhaps you’ve visited or maybe lived there. Cornelius Wytfliet’s 1597 map depicted the fictitious place located just south of New France. Another map by J. Metellus (Cologne, 1598) is believed to be either a remake of Wytfliet’s imaginary land or the original work that was copied.

While viewing these maps, keep in mind that location names and spellings have changed through the years. Names developed over time and I’m surprised at how early some became used. Terra de Laborador was used as early as 1556 by G. Gastaldi and G. B. Ramusio for the area which eventually became Labrador. Their collection of islands of Terra Nvova and Bacalaos became Newfoundland.

Each map is named, dated and credited to the cartographer. Digital images can be viewed in small or large format. There is such a wide variety of maps available that visitors should be able to view one from a time when their ancestors settled in Atlantic Canada.

Additional historical maps for Atlantic Canada are found by searching with the namede Chaberton the Trove website (, National Library of Australia. Joseph-Bernard de Chabert (1724-1805), a French cartographer, created several maps of Canada. His earliest map on file was published in 1751 and contains the areas of Atlantic Canada.

I’m not really a map collector, but I have several tucked away. Maps are fascinating. I love how places were depicted many years ago, and I often compare what was with what is today. The artwork decorating the map is sometimes just as fascinating as the map itself. It is interesting to see how the cartographers interpreted the landscape and the impressions that remained with them long after they returned home.

Researcher’s File

Seeking input for a future book entitled, “Early Schools and Education for the Schools of Atlantic Canada.” Memories concerning early schools, subjects, teachers, transportation, schoolyard games, examination days, school gardens, Arbor Day, Empire Day and concerts and old school photos are welcome. Contact the author: Beverly Harrison, 62 Eighth St., Apt. 2, Moncton, NB, E1E 3E9;

Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living in Milford. Submit a query. It’s free!: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0;

Organizations: Halifax, Vikings, National Library of Australia Schools of Atlantic Canada

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, North America, Newfoundland Nova Scotia New England Bay of Fundy New France Islands of Terra Nvova Milford Moncton Hants County

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