April 23, 2014

Google Earth for Genealogy: How to Identify Old Photos’ Locations

google searchDo you have old pictures but aren’t sure where they were taken? Sometimes Google Earth has the answer. Check out this question from podcast listener Dennis:

Q: “I am scanning slides from my only trip to my ancestor’s home in rural Germany and don’t recall the names or locations of a few people. The clue hear is ‘slides’. They were taken in 1986! I have a question regarding something I thought I heard on one of your podcasts regarding identifying a building via a picture that is uploaded to a web site. Can you give me some help with this?”

A: Yes! On my website, I offer a FREE video in which I demonstrate how to identify a building in an old photo using Google Earth. You can watch the free video by going to www.GenealogyGems.com, hover your mouse over VIDEO, and click on Google Earth for Genealogy in the drop down menu.

Another option is to use the free Google app on your smart phone or tablet. Open the app, tap in the search box, tap the Camera icon, and take a photo of the photo you have that contains the building you want to identify. (This works best with more well known locations.) It’s a long shot, but you never know – Google just may be able to identify it.

Google Earth for Genealogy BundleGood luck, Dennis–and all the rest of you out there who are puzzling over how to identify old photos’ locations.

Find more tips on using Google Earth for Genealogy in my popular Google Earth for Genealogy 2-Disk Bundle. The free video is just the beginning of what you can do with Google Earth!

Historical Maps of Major U.S. Cities and More in New Online Tool

1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in "spyglass" format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at DavidRumsey.com.

1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in “spyglass” format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at DavidRumsey.com.

I love showing people how to use online tools to compare historical maps to modern ones. You can map out your ancestor’s address, check out their neighborhoods “then and now,” map their route to work, see if their old home still exists and more.

Well, the online Smithsonian magazine has created an exciting new interface for six American cities. Now you can compare modern satellite imagery with bird’s-eye views of:

You’ll see great city layouts before the fire that claimed much of old Chicago, the San Francisco earthquake, the Lincoln memorial and more. The historical map of New York City is the oldest, but the other maps capture each city at a critical point in their growth. For each city you can look at a historical map with a “spyglass” mouse-over of a modern satellite image, or vice-versa, as shown in the New York City map on the right. Each map is accompanied by a fantastic Smithsonian article; the historical maps come from the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection.

As many of you know, it’s possible to do something similar (or even better) with Google’s amazing mapping tools. Learn how to do that with these three Genealogy Gems resources:

1. My FREE Google Earth Video, which teaches you how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads;

2. My Google Earth 2-Disk Bundle, with detailed demonstrations and examples so you can SEE for yourself how to use Google’s mapping tools;

3. My new Time Travel with Google Earth video, in which you’ll see old maps, genealogical records, images, and videos come together to create stunning time travel experiences in Google Earth. This is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members (learn more membership here).

time travel

 

 

 

 

(Free Video Class) Google Earth Helps Genealogist Find Family Business

Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother.  She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863.  To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!

“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:

Family business photo 1

“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco.  I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)

“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham!  There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”Family business photo 2

Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.

toolbox kit SMALLThe presentation she’s talking about can be found in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Kit, a value bundle that includes my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Volumes I and II of Google Earth for Genealogy (on video CD). Even better, right now that kit is available for 20% off! The 2 discs are also available as a bundle on their own. And thanks, Gail, for sharing your success with us!

Google Search Strategies for Genealogy: Free Online Class

laptop_custom_screen_11466I’ll be streaming live this weekend at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree!

This Saturday from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm PDT, my class “Master Using Google for Common Surname Searches” will be among those featured in the JamboSTREAM, a live webcast of selected Jamboree presentations.

Google searches can power up our genealogy research, but only if use them productively. In this class, you’ll learn strategies for searching for common surnames and surnames that double as common words. You’ll discover how to weed out irrelevant search results, then automate your searches to run for you. This is a perfect class for beginners and a great brush-up for more experienced online researchers.

Register for this free class by clicking on the link above. You’ll just be asked for your name and email address, state and country and how you heard about the session. Please tell them that Genealogy Gems sent you! After you register, you will receive a confirmation notice with the security credentials (username and password). You must be registered to view a session.

Along with my session, you can also register to hear several more fantastic presenters and topics. Click on the links below to register for each one individually.

Friday, June 7

1:30 PM to 2:30 PM, FR001: Basic Military Research, Craig Roberts Scott MA, CG

3:00 PM to 4:00 PM, FR016: The Ethical Genealogist, Judy G. Russell JD, CG (here’s the handout)

4:30 PM to 6:00 PM, FR022: DNA Panel Discussion – Hear it from the Experts. CeCe Moore; Alice Fairhurst; Ken Chahine PhD; Joanna Mountain PhD; Bennett Greenspan. (Co-Sponsored by International Society of Genetic Genealogy.)

Saturday, June 8

8:30 AM to 9:30 AM, SA004: Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestor, Craig Roberts Scott MA,CG

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM, SA018: Genealogical Periodicals: Where the Answers Are, Kory L. Meyerink MLS, AG, FUGA

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM, SA032: Turning Genealogy into Family History: Creating Stories from Stats by Jean Wilcox Hibben PhD, MA, CG

3:30 PM to 4:30 PM, SA041: Finding Your Family in the French and Indian Wars, Leland Meitzler

5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, SA048: Staying Safe Online, Thomas MacEntee

Sunday, June 9

8:30 AM to 9:30 AM, SU003: A Guided Tour of Cyndi’s List 2.0, Cyndi Ingle Howells

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM, SU017: Scanning and Photo Retouching for Beginners: Foundations and Fundamentals, Tom Underhill

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM, SU020: Strange and Unusual Sources for Irish Family History, James Ryan, PhD

2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, SU029: Lessons from the Archive,  Denise Levenick

3 Reasons You Need the New Version of Google Earth Just Released

Google celebrated Earth Day by releasing Google Earth 7.1 and announcing some great new content! And there are three reasons you will want to make the upgrade:

1. New Hands-Free Navigation Technology
The big news with version 7.1 is Leap Motion support, a touch-free 3d technology that lets you “navigate Google earth with simple hand gestures.” The Leap Motion Controller ($79.99) will start shipping mid-July, so you’ve got some time to get to know Google Earth a little better before you start flying around in it like this:

You KNOW I have to get me some of that!

2. More 3D City Views
There’s also exciting new 3D data in Google Earth, most notably for New York City. But there’s also more imagery for other cities around the world: Innsbruck, Austria; Dijon, France; Cagliari, Italy and the Spanish cities of San Sebastian, Santander, Pamplona, Manresa and Burgos. Other U.S. cities with 3D coverage include Miami, FL;  Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; Encinitas, CA and Spokane, WA.

3. The Addition of the 50th Country to Google Maps’ popular Street View Feature
You can now view 50 countries with Google Maps’ popular Street View feature. The newest nations to be added are Hungary and Lesotho (a tiny country within South Africa), and there’s new or updated coverage for Poland, Romania, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Thailand and other locations worldwide. Google calls this “the largest single update of Street View imagery we’ve ever pushed, including new and updated imagery for nearly 350,000 miles of roads across 14 countries.”

Help for Using Google Earth for Genealogy
How can you access these fabulous features, both for fun virtual travel and for seriously fun genealogy research? Upload the latest version of Google Earth for free (for PC, Mac or Linux). Then check out my Google Earth for Genealogy 2-CD Bundle. There’s a reason is this one of my best-selling Google Earth for Genealogy Bundlepresentations: Google Earth is one of the best genealogy research tools around! In these CD presentations, I show you how to locate and map ancestral homesteads; use historical map overlays; identify where old photos were taken; create 3D models of ancestral locations; create custom family history tours and much more.

Google Earth Updates: More Cities for Your Family History Research

Google Earth 3D Image of Berne SwitzerlandGoogle Earth has been hard at work, adding more in-depth image coverage to its already vast 3D visual archive of the world’s places. You can now take a free high-res virtual tour of the following cities:

  • Anaheim, CA,
  • Albuquerque, NM,
  • Birmingham, AL,
  • Little Rock, AR,
  • Reno, NV,
  • Springfield, MO,
  • Wichita, KS,
  • Berne, Basel and Lausanne, Switzerland,
  • Ulm, Germany, and
  • Canberra, Australia.

Want to learn more about using Google Earth for family history? These two videos give you a glimpse into my Google Earth for Genealogists series. Watch these clips and be inspired about the potential of this powerful online tool for mapping and imaging your family past.

5 Reasons You Need the New YouTube App for Family History

The Genealogy Gems Channel is in the #1 spot when searching “genealogy” in the YouTube app, along with many other excellent family history channels

There’s a new YouTube App for iPad (also available for iPhone and Android) that is a must have for your favorite mobile device.

It’s been a long time coming but worth the wait. Here’s a list of the features you will enjoy:

  • Improved search – New tools include auto-suggestion and the ability to browse for new videos while you watch
  • Faster Loading of videos – We like faster!
  • More Ways to Share Great Video Finds - Share a video on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, email or text message right from the YouTube app
  • Sleek New Design – YouTube Channel Guide allows you to swipe right to see new videos from all your favorite channels
  • More Videos –  Tens of thousands of videos now unlocked for your phone

Still not convinced as a genealogist that you need the new app? Here are 5 reasons you should be using YouTube in conjunction with your family history search:

#1 Learn More about Your Ancestor’s World
Search for clubs, businesses, events and other items that impacted your ancestors’s lives.

#2 Find Your Ancestors in Action
Ever since the Internet came on the scene, genealogists have been searching online for photos (or for the distant cousins possessing photos) of their family.  Apply this strategy to YouTube and video.  Click here to read about how a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener hit pay dirt by following this advice.

#3 Get Quick Answers to Your Genealogy Questions
Got a pressing question on how to fix your Ancestry tree to how to how to create crafty family history gifts? Videos on YouTube not only supply answers, but show you how. When you find a channel that you like, click the Subscribe button. This will set you up to be notified of new videos from that channel as soon as they are published. (Sign in to YouTube with your free Google account because, yep, Google owns YouTube.)

The Genealogy Gems Channel in the YouTube App

#4 Benefit from Genealogy Conferences from the Comfort of Your Home
Not everyone has the time or money to attend a genealogy conference. Conference organizers understand this and are harnessing the power of online video to bring key content to users where they are.  To get started, check out the videos that feature popular conference speakers and the conference experience from channels like SCGS (Jamboree) by searching SCGSgenealogy in the app and NGS  by searching NGSGenealogy.

#5 Learn New Techniques for Sharing Your Family History
Get crafty and creative with project ideas found on YouTube.  Search for keywords such as photos, shadow boxes, quilting, scrapbooking, etc. I’ve set up a special playlist on the Genealogy Gems Channel called Family History Craft and Display Projects that is chock full of videos to get you started. Search “GenealogyGems” in the YouTube app or go directly to the playlist at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAE920F093159BD02  

These are just a few ideas for using YouTube and the new YouTube app to enhance your family history adventures. Leave a comment and share the finds you have made.

Learn more about YouTube in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 140

 

 

Search Tips for Finding Tricky Names and Spellings in Ancestry.com and Google

Even the simplest of names can be subject to creative spelling over the centuries. In this video, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan takes on the challenge saying “Misspeld knames are a commun problem for geneoleogy reeserchors.” 

If you are fairly new to researching your family history the video provides an introduction to the evolution of spelling,  names, and the soundex. More advanced genealogists may want to jump in around the 10 minute mark to quickly tap into Cowan’s tips such as:

  • Wild card search
  • Ancestry’s filters
  • surname translations in search results

She also provides a helpful tip on re-setting Ancestry’s filters to the default position (16:40 min.). When you have run a search using filters, and you want to start fresh on a new search, click the “match all terms exactly” and then uncheck it. This action will clear all the filters previously used.

Name Challenges in Google Search

Common surnames and surnames that double for as common words in the English language (i.e. Green) can also wreak havoc in Google Searches. One way to deal with the problem is to use the minus search operator. In the case of the surname Green, you might try:

GREEN FAMILY TREE -ECOLOGY 

Removing the keyword “ecology” from your search query steers Google away from that meaning of the word “green.” Genealogy Gems Premium Members can view the video and download the handout of my Common Surname Google Search Strategies class in the Premium Membership area of the Genealogy Gems website.

Become a Member today for a full year of access to Premium podcast episodes and videos here

Google Books and Publishers Reach Settlement over Digitization

With more than 20 million books digitized and online, Google Books is an amazing resource for genealogy, so much so that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book The Genealogist’s  Google Toolbox.  However, Google Books has been under the cloud of a law suit from publishers and authors who say that Google’s digitization project violated their copyrights.

The good news is that yesterday the Association of American Publishers and Google announced that they have reached a settlement to end a lawsuit filed by five publishers in October 2005. Publishers will now be able to choose which books are included in the project.  Read more about the settlement at USAToday.com.

To learn more about how to use Google Books for Genealogy, get my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, in  paperback or ebook.

Google Earth Street View Story (Video)

Ya gotta love Google Earth’s Street View!  It can bring you up close and personal to locations important to your family history. For instance in our family there’s the house in
England where Grandpa Cooke was born…

And the Opera House where he and his mother played in the orchestra in the early 20th century…

It’s almost like being there!  But what if you really could be there?  There’s a great little video that brings street view to life. It’s called 2nd Avenue, and it’s one of the finalist WNET’s Favorite short videos contest. Check it out and cast your vote for Street View!

Images like these are just the tip of the iceberg as to what Google Earth can do for your family history.  Watch this short video to see more, and my Google Earth for Genealogy DVDs will show you step by step how to do it all.

3/21/12