Geography of Wales
Many visitors to this Website are not familiar with the geography of Wales, or even where it is situated. Hopefully, the maps below will help to clarify matters.
Click on the daffodil to return to my Welsh Family History Archive.
Maps of Wales Menu page
Location of the British Isles on the World Map
Wales forms part of the geographical grouping known as the British Isles. The map below shows the relationship of the British Isles to the mainland of Europe, and the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America.
Location of Wales on a British Isles Map
Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (Ulster), make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Great Britain, together with the Republic of Ireland (Eire), form the geographical grouping known as the British Isles.
The map (right) shows where Wales is located in the British Isles. Notice that Wales is not part of England!
The Counties of Wales
Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Wales is divided into a number of administrative districts known as counties. At various times in its history the names and sizes of the Welsh counties have been changed. The map below shows the arrangement of Welsh counties created by the Acts of Union (1536-1542) during the reign of Henry VIII. This arrangement endured for 400 years, until new counties were created in 1974 and revised again in 1996. The pre-1974 county names are the ones you are most likely to encounter in family history research.
The county names listed below provide external links to the GENUKI website, where further details on individual Welsh counties are available.
- Flintshire (4a is also part of Flintshire)
- Brecknockshire (Breconshire)
The border between Wales and England is shown in red, and the counties on the English side of the border are named in blue. The English border county of Salop is also known as Shropshire, and "Glos" is an abbreviation for Gloucestershire.
Monmouthshire is sometimes (wrongly) claimed to be an English rather than Welsh county, hence the commonly used phrase "South Wales and Monmouthshire".
The true status of Monmouthshire as a Welsh county is explained in detail elsewhere on this website.
Mid 19th century maps of each of the thirteen Welsh counties plus the four English border counties are available elsewhere on the Tallis's Topographical Dictionary feature on my website.
The Welsh Road Network
The mountainous nature of the Welsh terrain has meant that road transport in much of Wales has always been easier in an east-west direction than in a north-south direction. For example, the road journey from Cardiff in the south to Holyhead in the north is 210 miles, whereas the straight line distance is only 140 miles. The map below shows the modern road network, but even now most of the roads have only a single carriageway in each direction.
Towns and Cities in Wales
Wales has only three major cities: Cardiff (the capital of Wales), Swansea, and Newport. All three are situated in the more densely populated South Wales. The map below shows a representative selection of Welsh towns.
To see small towns (and large villages), you need to consult larger scale maps or road atlases such as those featured on the Google Maps, or Streetmap websites.
Better still, once you know the area where your ancestors lived, obtain your own copy of a highly detailed large-scale Ordnance Survey map.