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Improve Your Online Search Experience and Protect Your Privacy

Improve Your Online Search Experience and Protect Your Privacy

PREMIUM: Elevenses with Lisa Episode 24 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 10, 2020
Elevenses with Lisa is the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

how to improve your online experience

Your Online Mindset

In this video episode we explore the “Why” behind the tech tools we use. Then we dig into the settings and preferences to create the online experience we want, and the level of security and privacy that we are comfortable with. Follow along here on the show notes page. Premium Members: exclusive show notes PDF download can be found in the Resources section below. 

Tech Tools, Safety & Privacy

Google, YouTube, Ancestry, and all the other tech tools are simply tools. They shouldn’t dictate what we do. Instead, we should decide how we want to use them to accomplish our goals.

There are two sides to every tech tool:

  1. what it can do for you and
  2. what it can do for the company that created it.

Sometimes those are two very different things. That’s why we need to freshen up our online mindset.

Don’t always follow the prompts (for example genealogy hints, suggested Google searches, etc.) provided by the website. You decide how you will use each tool.

Recommended Viewing:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video How to Take Control of Preserving Your Family Tree Information. This important video covers my specific strategies for how to set up and control your genealogical data.

What is Google?

While Google.com may look like a search engine, that may not be it’s core business. Google is the largest advertising company in the world. We have to remember that first – even over it being a search engine.

Taking Control with My Google Activity

My Google Activity is a website that functions as your dashboard for controlling your experience with Google. Here you can turn off some of the tracking and delete history for a number of Google tools. It’s important to carefully read the details regarding what will and won’t be done when you change the settings.

The activity that Google tracks and stores helps to customize your experience and provide you with a breadcrumb trail. You can go back and visit your past activity to find things you’ve done in the past. It’s also valuable to them for advertising and other purposes. To a certain extent, you can decide how much of it is collected and retained.

At the top of the page you’ll find three areas where you can see and delete your activity:

  • Your Web and App Activity
  • Your YouTube Activity
  • Your Location Activity

Click each one to explore your options. Move the blue slider to off to “Pause” the feature. Click “Auto-delete” to set the length of time your activity is retained in history.

It’s a good idea to periodically (perhaps every six months) review your settings to ensure that everything is still set the way you want it.

Privacy & Personalization Settings 

There are many layers and locations where you can adjust the settings for the wide variety of Google products. These pages and settings can move over time. If in the future you don’t find things where we are showing them in this episode, simply google to find the current location. For example, google “my Google activity” or “YouTube privacy settings.”

One of the places you will find additional privacy and personalization settings for YouTube is on the YouTube website.

When you are logged into your free Google account on YouTube, click your account icon in the top right corner of the page and then click the Manage Your Google Account. Click Privacy and Personalization. Select the Privacy Checkup to be guided through your option. Here you will find YouTube settings where you can control what part of your activity is seen or not seen by other YouTube users.

Slow Down History Tracking with a Different Web Browser

We have been talking so far about websites and how they track your activity and information. Another way that Google tracks your activity is if you use the Chrome browser. For example, if you google for some information, you receive the search results on the Google website. If you click one of the results it will take you to a new website. At this point you have now left the Google website. However, if you are using the Chrome browser, Google can still track and record your activity history. Some people find that convenient and some do not want their history tracked. The important thing is just to know that it is happening and to make an informed decision. Most browsers do some level of tracking and saving of information. Review your browser settings and make adjustments to suit your needs.

Your Email Privacy

Most of us at some point have put our name and even our town or state online. This isn’t necessarily a problem because we share that information in many ways offline as well. It can become a problem though when we combine that information with other personal information, like being away from home.

Many people use an autoresponder on your email service while they are on vacation or away from home. It’s a convenient way to let people who email you know that you won’t be answering right away. However, it’s very important to not state directly that you are “on vacation” or “out of town.” There’s no reason to tell anyone that, and it might leave you open to theft if you do. We often share our email with people we do not know (businesses, etc.) and your name and email are usually all that is needed to find more information about you and your home online. Instead, consider saying “please note that now through (date) I will not be regularly be checking this email box. I will reply to you as soon as possible.” This gets the message across without providing an unnecessary explanation as to why.

Analyzing Google Search Results

Currently, Google is still the top search engine, and that makes it often the best tool for our online genealogical searches. Since we have come to understand that Google is first and foremost and advertising company, that will help us better understand the results we are receiving. Here’s why…

Folks in the advertising business need to know as much about customers as possible in order to be effective. Google has created a wide variety of excellent free tools that are useful to researchers. These free tools also provide an excellent way for Google to collect data. Therefore, it is in the best interest of Google to provide search results in a way that keeps you interacting with their website for as long as possible. In fact, this applies to all websites. Genealogy websites are also interested in collecting data, because data has tremendous value in many different industries. So, it is not a surprise that businesses and other organization want as much user information and data as possible. But we, as the users, need to take this into account as we use their products.

Let’s analyze some of the ways that Google delivers results on their results page.

analyze the google search results page

Elements of the search results page.

We must consider the “Why” behind search results. Ask questions such as:

  • Why are the results being presented in this format?
  • Is the results page giving you the impression that this is the one definitive answer, and that there is no need to click through to the website?
  • Why are these related searches being suggested to me?
  • Could there be more websites and perspectives that are not obvious on this first page of results?
  • Do these related searches have the potential to get me off the track of my research plan?

Here’s another example of how results sometimes appear:

analyze google search results

Analyzing the Google Search Results Page

Notice in both examples, very few specific web page articles are offered.

We are more likely to see these types of results for straight-forward topics and questions. Many of our genealogical searches for records, specific people and other less direct information will likely provide the more traditional list of website results page.

No matter what type of results page you receive, it is imperative that you click through and verify the source of the information. Review several different sources to ensure accuracy. And finally, it’s imperative to cite the source for any information you ultimately use for genealogy.

I cover this important topic in much more depth in my book and videos.

Recommended Viewing and Reading to learn more:
Genealogy Gems Premium video: The Google Search Methodology for Genealogy (Premium membership required)

google search methodology for genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke available at the Genealogy Gems store.

Search Bias

In this episode we ran side by side comparisons of searches and found inconsistency in Google’s auto-filling feature. Here are the important takeaways:

  • Don’t assume that the auto-filled text represents the quantity or priority of potential results
  • Don’t assume that the auto-filled text represents what’s trending
  • Assume that there is subjective influence and do your own homework. Run your search, analyze the results, and click through to the sources for comparison and analysis. And of course, ALWAYS cite your sources for information you include in your genealogical research.

If there is subjective bias in politics searches, we would be wise to assume that there can be bias in ANY search result. This doesn’t mean we should stop using search. All records have the potential for bias. However, we do need to question and verify and we do throughout our research.

Wrap Up Checklist for Online Privacy, Security and Research:

  • Review your My Google Activity settings
  • Review additional privacy & personalization settings
  • Take the privacy check up
  • Be careful with vacation auto-responders
  • Consider another browser such as Firefox, Opera
  • Understand and take into account the “why”
  • Carefully analyze search results
  • Always review and cite online sources

Resources

Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Live Chat Q&A with Lisa

The Show
Elisa:
Lisa, when you are able to be out in public traveling will we continue to be seeing you on Thursdays this is family time? This is my cup of tea time.
Lisa: Yes, as long as there’s interest I will continue producing Elevenses with Lisa. (Leave a Comment: I invite readers to leave a comment below and let me know if you want to keep seeing the show, what you enjoy about it, and what you would like hear about in future episodes.)

YouTube Restricted Mode
Valerie:
I had restricted mode set on my YouTube for my granddaughter and it would not lode Elevenses until I turned it off.
Lisa: YouTube has strict guidelines for identifying if a show is geared to children (and potentially promoting products to children). If it is, there are more requirements. Only shows identified as “for kids” can be viewed in restricted mode. Therefore, not being available through restricted mode does not imply that the show is inappropriate. Elevenses with Lisa is appropriate for general audiences. Grandkids welcome!

Ads
Vicki:
​Can you set your activity to get rid of the ads?
Lisa: Unfortunately, no. 

YouTube History
Gwynn:
If you “pause” history on You Tube and you save a video on You Tube will it still be in my library?
Lisa: Yes, it will be in your library but you will not find it in your “My Activity” history. 

Google App vs Desktop
K M:
How is the Google App on IOS different than Chrome?
Lisa: I’ve noticed that when a new feature is rolled out it likely shows up on one before the other. For instance, the tools menu appeared on desktop first. I’ve also noticed that some search operators don’t appear to work on mobile. Google doesn’t provide definitive information on this. I would guess that’s because both Google.com on desktop (in any browser) and the Google app are constantly evolving. If I’m using the app and not getting the desired results I will often run a comparison search on desktop.

Ads
Cynthia:
​If you don’t want to see ads, in your google do you turn that off or leave it on to control what you see or how many ads you get?
Lisa: You can’t prevent ads. Leaving it “on” in your settings provides ads more targeted to your specific interests. 

Search Frequency
Gwynn:
Is there another place we can look for search frequencies on key words in Google?
Lisa: Run a Google search for keyword research. There a variety of different tools available. 

Browser Cookies
Gayle:
​What are the benefits of internet cookies? Should I delete cookies?
Lisa: Cookies are used to do things like save your log in credentials and customize your web browsing experience. Generally speaking, this is convenient. If you’ve ever cleared your cookies you’ve probably found yourself having to re-enter your credentials into every website you use. I typically only delete mine when a website (perhaps trying to checkout of an online store) gets “hung up” and won’t process correctly. In those situations I’ll go ahead and delete cookies and clear my browser cache which often fixes the problem. 

Browser Cookies
Marilyn:
​So many web sites ask us to accept cookies. Should we do this? Is this how they follow us.
Lisa: See my answer to Gayle above. If I anticipate wanting to revisit a website, I will go ahead and “accept.” If it’s a one-time visit, I usually ignore it. 

Changing Your Search Experience
Kay: 
What if our search engines are refining our searches so much that we are missing new places we might want to go.  In other words they’re just directing us to “same old same old?” when we’re doing our genealogy searches.
Lisa: What you’re describing is an extension of we’re talking about in this episode. It is indeed possible to start to feel like your online experience becomes an echo chamber of information that websites think you want. Facebook is a prime example of this phenomenon. If you’re ever concerned and want a fresh experience, use Incognito mode in your web browser. In Chrome, click the three stacked dots in the upper right corner and select New Incognito Window

Our Elevenses Community 

I hope you enjoy our weekly get-togethers as much as I do. Do you enjoy the show? You can support it by sharing it with your friends, library and genealogy society. We also appreciate if you when you shop for genealogy products you check out our Genealogy Bargains page and use our links. And finally, please keep the conversation going by leaving a comment or question below. Thanks for joining me!

How to Use Google Photos for Beginners

How to Use Google Photos for Beginners

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 23 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 3, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

Google Photos for Beginners

Today’s Topic: Google Photos for Beginners

Have you thought about using Google Photos but just weren’t sure how it worked or where to start? This video webinar will answer your questions and give you the confidence to use it effectively. In this introductory tour to Google Photos we will answer the questions:

  • What is Google Photos?
  • Is Google Photos private?
  • What features do I get with Google Photos?
  • How does Google Photos storage work? (Is Google Photos free?)
  • How do I start using Google Photos?
  • How do I upload my photos and videos?
  • How to search and retrieve photos and videos in Google Photos
  • How would Google Photos benefit genealogists, archivists and others?

Watch the video and follow along here with the show notes. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download a PDF handout of these notes in the Resources section below.

What is Google Photos?

Google Photos is a free Cloud-based photo and video sharing and storage service. You can use the website on your computer and download the Google Photos app to all of your mobile devices.

How to Get Started Using Google Photos

Visit the website, and download the mobile app.

  • Website: https://photos.google.com/
  • Mobile: Search in your app store for the Google Photos app and download.
    (May appear and behave differently on iPhone, Android, or Google Pixel phone, etc.)

Log in to each device with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can set it up for free. You will use this same account with all Google tools and products.

  1. Sign up for a free Google account.
  2. Sign into each device with this same account.
  3. Google Photos can synchronize your photos between devices.

Google Photos Privacy

It’s understandable to be concerned about the privacy of your photos and videos. Here’s what you need to know about Google Photos privacy:

  • Your photos are only available to you
  • Your account is secured by your personal password
  • Your photos are not uploaded to the Internet or searchable with Google.com
  • Read the Terms of Service

Google Photos Features

There are a wide range of great features, some of which may not be obvious at first. Google Photos features include:

  • Massive storage (allowing you the option to free up space on your devices)
  • Reliable backup
  • Powerful search and retrieval
  • Facial recognition
  • Object recognition
  • Text recognition (OCR)
  • Organization
  • Sharing and creation tools

Google Photos Storage

You have two options when it comes to your Google Photos storage plan:

  1. Free version called High Quality
  2. Low cost subscription to upgrade photo storage capacity called Original Quality.

Let’s take a closer look at these two storage plan options.

Option #1: High Quality

  • Free
  • Unlimited storage
  • Image compression (takes up less storage space)
  • Photos (Larger than 16 Megapixels (MP) resized to 16MP. Good quality prints up to 24” x 16” meet most needs)
  • Videos (If higher than 1080p then resized to HD 1080p)

Option #2: Original Quality

  • ($) Upgrade
  • No compression of photos or videos.
  • Uses the 15 GB of free storage in your Google account. This storage cap includes everything you have saved in Gmail, Google Drive, and all Google apps.
  • When you hit storage limit: Option to purchase additional storage called Google One.

Visit Google One to get all the latest information about plans and features.

High Quality versus Original Quality can be a bit confusing to remember. It may help to think of it this way:

 High Quality (FREE)
compressed but still high quality and printable.

 Original Quality ($ Storage)
Stored at original size. Larger sizes take up more storage space.

Google Photos Back Up and Storage Benefits

Considering the volume of photos and videos we take these days with our phones, and the volume of old family photos we have digitized, storage is a pressing issue. Google Photos can help because:

  • It can relieve the storage burden on your phone by giving you a place to store your photos. You can then elect to remove them from any of your devices if you wish.
  • The ability to upload, search, organize, edit and share your photos from any device.
  • If you lose or break your phone, your photos are stored on the cloud and can be accessed and downloaded again on any device that is signed into your Google account.

I strongly believe it is important to have multiple backups. So while I see Google Photos as one of my backups, all of my important photos and videos are on my computer which is backed up to the cloud. I use the Cloud backup service Backblaze and have for many years. If you decide to try them (and they usually offer a 15 day free trial here) , I do appreciate it if you use my link. We are compensated at no additional cost to you, and that helps make this free show and show notes possible.

How to Upload Photos to Google Photos

There are two ways to add photos from your computer:

  1. Click Upload at top of the page.
  2. Drag and drop photos onto the Google Photos screen.
How to upload photos to Google Photos computer desktop

Drag and drop photos into Google Photos

When using the Google Photos App on a mobile device:

  1. Tap your face in the upper right corner of the screen (your account)
  2. Tap Photo Settings
  3. Turn on Back Up & Sync.
  4. I recommend turning off Use cellular data to back up photos / videos.

Also in the Settings you will find Manage device storage. You can opt to have the original photos and videos removed from your device once they are uploaded to Google Photos. This will free up space and manage the amount of storage the app uses on your device.

How to Delete and Archive Your Photos in Google Photos:

  1. Click to select the photo or video (you can select one or multiple) on your computer or tap the photo in the app.
  2. Click / tap the trash can icon.

Searching Your Photos and Videos in Google Photos

You can search your photos and videos for:

  • People & Pets
  • Places
  • Selfies
  • Screenshots

For example, type the word Selfie into the search field and Google Photos will retrieve all of the photos that were taken as selfies.

You can also search your photos and videos for:

  • Recently added items
  • Videos (Type the word Videos into the search field)
  • Favorites
  • Names
  • Dates (Find photos based on when they were taken. For example, you can search October 2019 through December 2019.)

Facial Recognition in Google Photos

After initial set up your backup, Google Photos starts to identify and group faces that are the same.

Check your Settings to ensure the feature is activated: Settings > Group similar faces > slide the Face Grouping button to the “on” position.  It might take a few hours or a few days from your initial setup for this feature to activate. It depends on number of photos and your WiFi connection.

how to turn on facial recognition in Google Photos

Group similar faces in Google Photos

Searching for photos and videos that include certain people (faces) is very easy to do.

  1. Tap in the search box
  2. Tap a face to see all photos for that face.

You can Show and Hide Faces and include or exclude Pet Faces in the Settings.

Keep in mind that facial recognition, and object and text search aren’t (and realistically can’t be) perfect. However, it improves every day thanks to machine learning. The Google Photos of today is more accurate than when the service was first launched.

You can help train Google Photos to more accurately identify faces in photos by adding names to the faces that you know. You can also answer the questions that Google Photos poses regarding whether two faces are the same or different person.

Object Search in Google Photos

You can search for objects that appear in your photos and videos. Simply type in the word that represents the object. The example I used in this video was: Wedding Dress

Notice that this search retrieved content that included weddings and dresses. In order to narrow in on strictly content where someone is wearing a wedding dress, I put quotation marks around the phrase: “Wedding Dress”

I also searched for Typewriter. This retrieved content that featured a typewriter predominately and even when a typewriter simply appeared in the background. It also found videos where a typewriter appeared briefly.

Text Search in Google Photos

Searching for words will retrieve any photo or video in Google Photos that mention that word. There are countless uses for this as a genealogist. In the example I showed in the video, photos of tombstones can be retrieved simply by searching for the surname that appears on the tombstone. This text recognition applies to all types of text including newspaper articles, signs and more. Again, we must keep in mind that Google Photos isn’t perfect and will have difficulty reading text that is unclear.

Create New Content in Google Photos

Google Photos creates fun projects and content using the photos and videos in your account including:

  • Photo Collages
  • Videos
  • Short Animations
  • Stylized Photos

The content Google Photos creates can only be seen by you. It is not public. You decide whether to keep it, share it or delete it.

I show an example in this session of creating a video by selecting a theme, and a face. Google Photos did the rest by retrieving and assembling the photos chronologically and adding appropriate music! You can download these projects to your computer, and share links too.

Resources

Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Premium Members: Watch the Premium Video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available with your Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.
From Debra H: “Your topic is so on track with me. I have been scanning old photos. What a great delight to see your Solving Unidentified Photo album Cases. It was perfect. Thanks!!”

Recommended reading: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke (chapter 10 Google Photos)

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

Live Chat Q&A with Lisa

From Gwynn: Does Google Photos have a way to share with a link?
Answer: Yes. In the video you can see how to do on a computer. On an iPhone: tap the photo, tap the Share icon, tap Share to, then tap Create link

Question: ​If you share the link on social media they can’t change it (the photo) right?
Answer: Correct. 

From Kathy: With photos in the Cloud with Google Photos, can you tell the phone’s iCloud to disregard backing up your photos since you already have them in Google Photos?
Answer: Look at Settings > General > iPhone Storage> Disable iCloud Photos

Kelli: If I delete a photo on my phone does it delete from Google photo?
Answer: It depends exactly what you mean.  If you delete the photo from your phone’s camera roll, no, it does not remove it from Google Photos. If you remove it from the Google Photos app on your phone, then yes it will remove it from Google Photos on your computer as well. 

From Retta: Can you put a PDF on google photos?
Answer: No

From John: What add-on do you use to highlight your cursor? (in the video) 
Answer: I use this software

From Kathy: ​Is this good for sharing albums with family?
Answer: Yes!

From Natalie: Is there a limit of how many photos you can put in an album?
Answer: Currently 20,000 photos and videos. 

From C: Synchronize means it downloads to all devises?
Answer: Yes, the photos and videos will be available through all of the devices in which you are signed into the same Google Photos account. 

From GeneBuds: How do I access archive?
Answer: On a computer: You’ll find Archive on the left side of the screen under Library.  On a phone: Tap Library in the menu at the bottom of the screen and then tap Archive

Sarah: Somehow I have several copies of the same photo. Will Google photos help me sort those out so I can delete duplicates?
Answer: My understand is that Google Photos can detect identical duplicate images. If you already uploaded a photo to Google Photos, it will not re-upload the same photo. It will skip uploading that photo. It may look like Google Photos is uploading the photo again, but it isn’t. It’s just running it through identical duplicate detection. 

From John: Where in Settings is “Group Similar Photos”? Does it vary by provider (like AT&T, Verizon)?
Answer: Look for Group Similar Faces in the Settings

From Cindy: So if it recognizes faces at all ages, how might you use to help see if your unknown pics are who you might think they are?
Answer: I cover this in depth in my video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available to those with Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. I also cover it in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

From Karen: What about trying to identify unknown photos of ancestors from an old album? Can you put them on a google search that goes out on the internet to see if anyone else has identified that person? In addition to my previous answer, watch the free YouTube video How to Use Google Chrome to Identify Old Photos and Images for Genealogy and Family History.

From Kelli: ​If they are on google photos only, how do you print them, say at Costco?
Answer: You can order prints from the For You section of Google Photos. Check the Costco website because I think they can coordinate with Google Photos. 

From Cathy: Can I give one person more than 1 name? Like Lucy Haley and Mother Cline?
Answer: In the same name field. You can’t assign two completely separate names. If you include both names in the field you will be able to search for either one and retrieve the photo. 

 

 

 

Using Google Earth to Research Your Ancestors’ Neighborhood

Using Google Earth to Research Your Ancestors’ Neighborhood

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 22 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: August 20, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history. 

Please note: As is often the case with technology, sometimes things just don’t work like you think they will. As it turns out, items displayed clearly on my computer in Google Earth were not displaying in the live stream or captured on the video. Don’t worry, if you ever want to create a digital movie of your Google Earth maps, Google Earth has a video recording feature built in so this won’t happen. However, I did everything in this episode live and in real-time through live stream which apparently was at the root of the problem. Keep reading, because I have all the notes for you on what we covered, as well as screen shot images of everything that did not appear on the screen in the video!

Using Google Earth to Capture Your Ancestors’ Neighborhood

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and we are going to have some fun exploring one of my ancestors’ neighborhoods. Along the way I think you’ll pick up some interesting ideas on how you can explore your ancestors’ lives in a deeper way by getting to know their neighbors.

While you may not find it worthwhile to create a project like this for every family in your family tree, it could prove very helpful for:

  • writing a story
  • writing a family history blog post or article
  • writing a book
  • creating a family history story video
  • teaching kids about the family history
  • satisfying your curiosity!

We see our ancestors’ neighborhoods when we review census records. But have you ever wondered what was life really like in their neighborhood? This project can answer questions such as:

  • Did they live close together?
  • Did they share the same backgrounds?
  • Did any of them work together?
  • Did they have things in common?
  • Were there a lot of children on the street?

The Google Earth Neighborhood Project

The genealogy project I’m creating in Google Earth in this video is the neighborhood of my great grandparents who lived in San Francisco from 1900-1912. Now, don’t be discouraged if your ancestors were farmers. Remember, everyone has neighbors and a community. Every community has records.

All the techniques covered in this video are covered in detail in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available here. 

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

The family: Charles Allen & Ellen Burkette

The Census: The 1910 U.S. Federal Census tells us that they lived at 288 Connecticut Street, San Francisco, CA.

Most of their close neighbors, don’t appear on the same page with them. Instead, the neighbors of Connecticut Street appear on the previous page. Always look at the pages before and after the page where you find your ancestor. Often you will find other relatives, close friends, and other people with connections to your family.

For this project we will need the free Google Earth Pro software. Although Google Earth is available in a Web version and an app, these do not include all of the same tools. I always use the software. If you already have Google Earth, check to see if you have the most recent version.

You will also need an a good internet connection to operate Google Earth.

Follow along with the video with the notes below.

Rumsey Historical Maps

In the Layers panel, turn on Rumsey Historical Maps in the Gallery by clicking to check the box. Gold medallion icons will appear on the map. Hover your mouse over the icons to see the title and date. Click the select a map. In the pop-up box, click the thumbnail image of the historic map to automatically overlay it.

The map will be listed in the Temporary Places at the bottom of the Places panel. You can click drag and drop it to any location within the Places panel. 

Videos in Placemarks

Videos before and after the great earthquake of 1906 (See Images) Add videos from YouTube to placemarks by copying the Share embed code and pasting it into the Description area of the placemark.

Video displayed in a Google Earth placemark

Historical YouTube video displayed in a Google Earth placemark.

Map Overlays

Click the box to activate items like the custom map overlay I created using the 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Connecticut Street. Learn how to create map overlays in episode 6 of my Google Earth for Genealogy video tutorial series.

how to use google earth for genealogy

Digital download video tutorial series available in the Genealogy Gems store.

Search for Addresses

Search for addresses like 288 Connecticut, San Francisco in the search box in the upper right corner of Google Earth.

Add Placemarks in Google Earth

Set a placemark for a home by clicking the Placemark icon (yellow pushpin) in the toolbar the top of the screen.

Use Street View to Get a Closer Look

Visit the street up close and person with Street View. Click on the Street View icon in the upper right corner, drag it over to the map, and drop it on the blue line.

Add Photos to Placemarks

Photos can be embedded into placemarks, such as the photo of my Grandpa and his father (See Image) 

Old family photo displayed in Google Earth placemark

Photo of my grandather being held by his father displayed in a Google Earth placemark.

and the photo of my Great Grandfather next to his streetcar. (See Image)

Placemark in the Places panel displaying a photo

Click the placemark to display the photo.

If you add images from your computer, they will only appear when the map is viewed in Google Earth on your computer. If you host the image in cloud on a photo sharing site or your own website, you will be able to share your map file with other people and they will be able to view the images. 

Plot Where Your Ancestors Lived Using Placemarks

Search for each family address and mark the locations with placemarks. 

3D Models in Google Earth 

3D models (like the streetcar I showed) are created by other Google Earth users and are available online. The HTML code is pasted into a placemark. (You can learn more about this in episode 13 of my Google Earth for Genealogy video tutorial series.

Search for Neighbors

Search for the addresses of neighbors you find in the census and other records.

Census photo displayed in Google Earth placemark

The census image displayed in a Google Earth placemark.

In this case I searched for the address I found for Bertin & Lenora Hall (293 Connecticut.) Bertin was a locomotive engineer, born in the United State, and they were renting their home.)

Add a Folder to the Google Earth Places Panel 

You can add folders to help keep your items organized in the Places panel by right-clicking on MyPlaces, and selecting Add > New Folder. Name the folder as desired, and then drag and drop it to the desired location in the Places

Use Historical Maps from a Variety of Years

Comparing the locations with maps from various years helps you see the evolution of the neighborhood. Notice that some maps don’t line up exactly with the modern map. This is due to inaccuracies often found in old maps.

Add Country of Origin Icons

We can learn more about the makeup of the neighborhood by designating their country of origin. Some neighborhoods may be predominately filled with many people from the same country or even village. Others, like my Great Grandfather’s neighborhood, were quite diverse:

Burkett – U.S.
Hall – U.S.
Dunne – Ireland
Becker – German
Harrington – England
Crawford – Scotland
McTiernan – Irish
Rutherford – Canada
Geib – Germany

Customize Placemark Icons

Add custom icon images to represent the family’s country of origin. Images around 40 px x 40 px work well. (Premium Members click here to download the icons I used.)

Customizing the placemark icon

Customizing the placemark icon in Google Earth

The Google Earth Opacity Slider

Use the Opacity slider to make a map overlay being displayed more transparent. Start by clicking the space just below the map in the Places panel in order to select it. Then click the Opacity button at the bottom of the Places Slide the slider to change the transparency.

Add Details to the Placemark Description

I typed information into the Description area of my placemarks such as their occupation, fully street address and country of origin. Typically the first two lines of text will be visible in the Places Click the placemark to open and read or add all of the information desired.

Researching and Recording Occupations

Explore old maps, city directories, county histories and other resources to locate possible places of employment. You can then mark each location with a placemark. I used the “wrench” icon to represent work.

Search for Locations

Where did David Rutherford work? I searched for “Cannery San Francisco” and sure enough Google Earth found a site in the northern part of the city.

The Neighborhood School

Let’s not forget the children – I marked the school attended by my grandfather and a photo of him with his classmates. (See Image Below)

Old family photo - Grandpa and his school mates

My grandpa and his school mates c. 1911.

The Future of the Neighborhood

The neighborhood continued to grow well after they left as revealed by another David Rumsey historic map from 1938 found in the Layers Panel > Gallery.

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