Sunday, February 21, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Google Maps

For this week's segment of 52 Weeks . . . Google Maps!

Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, parking lot or field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses into Google Maps, don't forget to use Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you right where your ancestors once stood. If you've used this tool before, take some time to play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links, and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.

I have used Google maps some. In fact, I am on Google Maps! Type in Calle Rodrigo de Triana 20, Seville, Spain, and pan around without moving forward or back, until you see someone wearing a striped blue-and-white shirt and brown pants with white shoes standing just outside an apartment building. My face is fuzzed out, bless Google's lawyered-up hearts, but that is me when I was in Seville to do research at the General Archive of the Indies!

I just looked up some addresses in my ancestry -- the house where my grandparents lived when my mother was born. The house is still there. I tried looking up another address, where my mother's grandparents lived in Logansport, Indiana, but apparently Google hasn't got there yet because it would not shift to a street view. Too bad.

I also saw that the house where my great-great grandparents lived in Bloomington, Illinois, is probably still standing, too! Wow. My great-great grandfather died in 1881. That's a long time, and I certainly do not expect the house I'm living in now, built in 1992, to be around for that long. They just don't build 'em like they used to!

One thing we do have to keep in mind is that house numbers may change over the course of time. The houses where my husband's parents and grandparents lived, right next door to each other, changed house numbering in the early 20th century. Apparently the house numbers on the street where my mother's family lived when she was born changed, too.

I prefer to play with Google Earth, however. There I get a real perspective of where everything is -- and where everyone was -- on the planet. I have "pins" stuck all over the planet on Google Earth, from ancestral stomping grounds in Suffolk, England, to Seville to mark my sojourn there, to places all over the U.S. where my family has lived at one time or another, from Massachusetts to California, and even up into Canada for a three-generation interval. I can draw lines on Google Earth, too. That's nice for marking migration routes. But as for migration routes, what I would really like is a huge wall map on which to plot those. What I need in our tiny house is a huge wall to display it!


Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Ha! I saw you! How funny.

The reason I made this task about Maps is because I wasn't sure people would want to download Google Earth. Maps was an easy way to get the newbies feet wet, while the more experienced folks can play with Google Earth.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I never thought of looking up old family addresses on Google Maps. Like you said, Google Earth is *much* better, but like you said, not everyone wants to download something new.

And, as a side note, I think it is wonderful that you are getting your 4th degree and especially that you are taking on Spanish as well. I am a Spanish teacher and I truly believe that anyone can learn a new language at any age if he/she tries. Do you do all the translations on your own or do you check them against something? If I am doing something bigger or more important than a little note to a friend, I always like to check my spanish translation from because they give you the translation results from GoogleTranslate, BableFish, and FreeTranslation. It is pretty amazing to see the differences in the three and make a more educated decision on how to translate something.

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

I generally do transcriptions and then use passages I translate myself when I include these documents as sources in my papers. When I take abstracts or extracts (such as abstracts of wills or extracts of censuses), I translate on the fly. There are translated sources I can and will compare with my own translations, too.