András Sipos: The cadastral heritage of the Habsburg Empire – necessity and possibilities of „virtual reunification” of a divided and scattered source material

One of the most basic types of human knowledge is spatial knowledge. Space is essential dimension of all human activities. Maps store and present spatial information, geoinformation. Written records preserved in archives are also reservoir of spatial information. Digital Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are developed to capture, store, manage, present and analyse geoinformation. Integration of digitized maps into GIS sytems is one of the most effective ways to transform archival sources into knowledge directly.

Within the large family of maps cadastral maps constitute a special category, altough with somewhat faded dividing lines. The main features by which they can be identified are the followings:

– High-scale maps made for land registry ( usually 1:1500 – 1:5000);
– Based on cadastral survey in the field and measurement of land;
– Represent the individual parcels, the dividing lines between them and their identifying numbers, illustrate the land use and the most important natural and built objects in the
– Provide information on land ownership at parcel level.

Cadastral survey and mapping were basic tools of emergence and functioning of modern state and capitalist market economy.[1] Cadastral maps provide us nowadays detailed and authentic information on the earlier state of the natural and built environment and on changes in land use.

Archival institutions and organizations has already made a lot to digitize them and make them accessible on-line. Creation of international platforms, where cadastral heritage of different countries and regions could be made accessible, seems to be a necessity for really high-level service for a public interested in research of our common past and cultivation of the shared identity. A further breakthrough is needed in the direction of transforming maps from just visual sources into components of complex spatio-temporal databases.

There are a number of reasons why they seem to be ideal objects of international archival cooperation:

– They are comprehensible and usable sources for international multilingual public.
– Their potential for publicity is high: they are spectecular and navigating through them may be joy for many people even without specific research purposes.
– They are usable for multiplie ends: for historical reconstruction just as for highly practical aims like urban and landscape planning or legal affairs; but also for finding and
identifying the house where our ancestors lived or the church and market they visited.
– The technological and methodological challenges are basically the same everywhere so they require coordinated efforts to tackle with.

Cadastral maps and records are archival holdings of international interest not only from users’ point of view. They are common heritage of different nations and countries and regions regarding their creation and provenance. But this common heritage is divided and scattered in many cases.

Let’s take the example of cadastral maps of the Habsburg Empire. After premises of the 18th century began overall cadastral survey and mapping of the Empire from 1817. The legas basis was the Land Tax Patent of Emporer Franz I. (Franziscean Cadastre or Stabile Cadastre). Between 1817–1861 took place the surveying and mapping in Austria (Cisleithania): 300.082 square kilometers, 30.556 cadastral parishes divided into 50 million land parcels were surveyed based on thorough preparation and strict quality management. After the fall of 1848/49 revolution it was extended to the countries of Hungarian Crown where it was put through between 1856–1883.

Surveying and mapping were carried out according to basically same procedures and technical requirements in different countries and provinces of the Empire the territory of which belongs nowadays to 12 different states. The maps and records of its “supranational” cadastral system are preserved in archives of all these states. They are subject to varied archival practices with regards to methods of processing, description, and access. Recurrent displacement of holdings because of changing of state borders or administrative and archival structures, tumultuous events of the history of the region led to massive losses and divison of archives which are closely related in view of provenance and pertinence. Different level and practices of description and publication leads to lack of overview over the whole domain.[2] Special central archives which keep complete collections of the original maps covering tha whole territory of the state accessible and digitized exists only in two of these countries: Austria[3] and the Czech Republic.[4]

A good example of the scattered preservation is the situation of cadastral maps and records in Hungary. Maps and records relating to the today’s territory of the country can be found at the following institutions:

– National Archives of Hungary Central Archives (only 6 – from 19 – counties are complete)
– County Archives of the National Archives (mainly indication sketches)
– Institute for Geodesy Cartography and Remote Sensing  (list of the collection is not public)
– National Széchenyi Library
– Land registration offices

Virtual reunification is carried out by digitisation, georeferencing an publishing on Hungarian Archives Portal, on which platform georeferenced maps of 14 counties (at least partly) are available.[5]

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Wish to cooperate in this field may serve the interests of all partners but it’s hampered by lots of difficulties. Just to mention a few of them: the information is lacking in many cases because of the aforementioned reasons, what exactly is preserved in different institutions, where the maps of a definite place are preserved, what has perished, what is replaceable or can be supplemented from other collections. The extreme differences in preservation conditions, accessibility, finding aids and databases between different countries and different repositories don’t make „reunification” easier. And we can’t forget about the massive technical, infrastructural, organizational and financial requirements of digitization and GIS-based internet-publication of huge amount of large-scale maps in  common databases.

Georeference is a term used in multiple meanings. We mean georeference as defining the GPS coordinates for each pixels of a digitized historical map. The cadastral sheets of the Habsburg surveys have a very definite horizontal control and labelling system. Geo-reference of the sheets can be done by using just the four corner points of each sheets, computing their coordinates in the regional projection system from the sheet label, and define the coordinate system in GIS environment. This definition can be done for each part of the Empire by giving the known Cassini projection centers with its longitude and latitude, and by defining the datum parameters of the geodetic network.[6]

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Georeferencing cadastral maps in practice[7]:

  • We have to define the corner points of the sheets.
  • The result is a mosaic of the settlements.
  • Next step: drawing the settlement borders and make a county mosaic.


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The accuracy of a county mosaic produced by this method is 15-20 meters. GPS coordinates are connected to each pixel and the whole collection integrated into GIS system. One can zoom and navigate ont he maps but they are searchable through a toponym database based on a historical gazetteer on the Hungarian Archives Portal.

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The MAPIRE (Historical Maps of the Habsburg Empire) project is a new breakthrough in effective and uses-friendly accessibility of the historical maps of the Habsburg Empire. The new tool has been developed by the cooperation of Austiran State Archives (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv), Budapest City Archives, Institute and Museum of Military History (Budapest), Department of Geophysics and Space Science, Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest). Content is also provided by National Archives of Hungary and National Archives of Croatia. The inauguration of the website  took place in April 2014.[8]

It provides the complete collections of the First (1763–1787), Second (1806–1869) and Third (1869–1887) Military Surveys of the Empire. The upload of cadastral maps started with Croatia and counties of Western Hungary. It is enriched by a collection of detailed historical map of Budapest (most of them with characteristics of cadastral maps. All the maps are browsable easily; we can say that on can really „wander” up and down the Monarchy virtually by military survey maps!


The whole is searchable by Google toponym database. Example: a hit on the map of the First Military Survey „Universität Wien”:

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Accuracy of georeference:

– First, Second and Third Military Survey of the Habsburg Monarchy 50-100 m

– Cadastral maps, old maps of Budapest:  15-20 m

Further services and possibilities:

  • Layers: Google, OpenStreetMap
  • Opacity
  • 3D view (Google Earth)
  • Synchronized view
  • Measurement of distance and area


Synchonised view of the Second and the Third Military Survey – browse together:

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Synchronized view of the Second Military Survey with Google Maps  – browse together:

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Viewing different layers together by setting opacity – Universitätsring on the Second Military Survey and Google Streets:

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Search by toponym on cadastral maps – Széchenyi Platz, Sopon Hungary:

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The recent content is the following:

    Old maps of Budapest (End of 17th century – 1946)

    Cadastral maps of Hungarian Counties

Győr, Sopron, Moson, Vas and Veszprem counties

First Military Survey (1763-1787)

Banat of Temes (1769-1772)

Banat (1773-1775)

Bohemia (1764-1767)

Bukovina (1773-1776)

Croatia (1783-1784)

Galicia (1779-1783)

Austrian Netherlands (1764-1771)

Hungarian Kingdom (1782-1785)

Middle Austria (1784-1785)

Karlovac (1774-1775)

Lower Austria (1773-1781)

Moldavia-Walachia (1773-1774)

Moravia (1764-1768)

Silesia (1763)

Slavonia (1781-1783)

Military frontier district of Slavonia (1780)

Transylvania (1769-1773)

Upper Austria (1775-1777)

Warasdin (1781-1782)

Second Military Survey (1806-1869)

Lower and Upper Austria (1809-1818)

Bohemia (1842-1853)

Dalmatia (1851-1854)

Transylvania (1853-1873)

Galicia and Bucovina (1861-1864)

Croatia (1865-1869)

Hungary (1819-1869)

Illyria (1829-1835)

Lichtenstein (1816-1821)

Lombardy, Venice, Parma, Modena (1818-1829)

Moravia and Silesia (1836-1842)

Salzburg (1807-1808)

Styria (1826-1836)

Tyrol (1816-1821)

Coastal Zone (1821-1824)

Vorarlberg (1816-1821)


Third Military Survey (1869-1887)

Hungarian Kingdom (1869-1887) (1:25.000)

Austro-Hungarian Empire (1869-1887) (1:75.000)

Cadastral maps of Croatia

Bjelovarsko-križevačka županija

Ličko-krbavska županija


Modruško-riječka županija

Požeška županija

Srijemska županija

Varaždinska županija

Virovitička županija

Zagrebačka županija


[1] Roger J. P. Kain, Elizabeth Baigent: The cadastral map in the service of the state:

a history of property mapping. University of Chicago Press, 1992.

[2] An international conference held in Budapest City Archives ’Cadastral Maps in Central Europe’, 17–18. June 2010, organized under the under the aegis of ICARUS gave a wide overview on the archival situtation of cadastral maps and records in all the „successor states” of the Habsburg Monarchy.

[3] Bundesamt für Eich- und Vermessungswesen,

[4] Ústřední Archiv Zeměměřictví a Katastru,

[5] István Kenyeres – András Sipos: Hungarian Archives Portal – a collaborative solution for publication of digitized archival content and databases. In: Thomas Aigner / Stefanie Hohenbruck / Thomas Just / Joachim Kemper (eds.): Archive im Web – Erfahrungen, Herausforderungen, Visionen/Archives on the Web – Experiences, Challenges, Visions. St Pölten, 2011. 72–81.

[6] Gábor Timár: Geo-reference of the Habsburg Cadastre. Paper presented at the conference „Cadastral Maps in Central Europe”, 17. June 2010. Budapest.

Methodology of georeferencing the cadastral maps of the Habsburg Empire is developed by Gábor Timár and Gábor Molnár (Department of Geophysics and Space Science, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest). Georeference have been carried out by Arcanum Ltd., Budapest,

[7] Sándor Biszak: Digitising, georeferencing and online publication of high resolution maps. Proceedings of the conference ’Cartography and cadastral maps: visions from the past, for a vision of our future’, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, 6. November 2013. (forthcoming).

[8] Software development: Arcanum Adatbázis, Budapest with open-source tools (OpenLayer, GDAL, PostGIS).


OpenEdition schlägt Ihnen vor, diesen Beitrag wie folgt zu zitieren:
Redaktion (30. November 2014). András Sipos: The cadastral heritage of the Habsburg Empire – necessity and possibilities of „virtual reunification” of a divided and scattered source material. EN ROUTE TO A SHARED IDENTITY. Abgerufen am 17. Juli 2024 von


Univ.-Doz. Dr. Adelheid Krah ist Senior Lecturer am Institut für Geschichte der Universität Wien; sie forscht und lehrt als habilitierte Universitätsdozentin, SL, in den Bereichen Mittelalterliche Geschichte, eLearning, Geschichte Mittel/Zentraleuropas und Westeuropas. Sie arbeitete auch als Archivarin am Bayerischen Hauptstaatsarchiv in München, ist Fellow des DHI-Paris und im Vorstand von ICARUS.

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