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Premium Episode #109

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Google Maps Street View was given an edge today over Google Earth’s street view when Google launched a “time travel” upgrade. The ability to time travel is high on most family historians list, and Street View imagery for Google Maps desktop provides a taste of that prize.

According to Google’s blog post today they have “gathered historical imagery from past Street View collections dating back to 2007 to create this digital time capsule of the world.”

In many cases, there’s nothing earth shattering to see. But in some locations which have undergone substantial change in that short time period (such as viewing the reconstruction after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Onagawa, Japan) the results are riveting.Google Maps Street View of Gettysburg

Don’t worry if you don’t see Google Maps Street View Historical Imagery feature yet. When you have millions of users it can take a while to roll out upgrades.

As a Premium Members you have been Time Traveling for a while now. I hope you’ve take a few minutes out of your day for yourself to watch the  Time Travel with Google Earth premium video which is one of my personal favorites. In that video we explore some incredibly powerful ways to travel back through our ancestor’s lives and times. And while I still think that those techniques deliver more relevant results for genealogists, this new Street View time travel in Google Maps is exciting in its own way. It offers a glimpse into the future.

Consider this: Google has been amassing incredible amounts of data over its short life including satellite and street view imagery. 7 years in and they can now begin to offer this collection of older imagery in a meaningful way. Imagine what historical street view imagery will look like in 10, 25, or 50 years from now!

After looking back in time, I offer this prediction for the future: While this feature has just rolled out in Google Maps, and is not yet available in our beloved Google Earth, I predict this omission will not last long. You may have already noticed that as you zoom in closer to street level in Google Earth a small clock icon appears at the bottom of the screen indicating historical satellite imagery is available. Next to the icon a date now appears indicating the earliest available imagery. Click the Historical Imagery icon in Google Earth’s toolbar and a time slider indicating the years available will appear.

For most areas of the world this spans about as long as satellite imagery has been around. But in some key areas, such as London and parts of Europe, the historical time slider goes back to the World War II era. Black and white aerial imagery of war torn areas are plainly visible. If you have World War II veterans in your family tree, this is a feature you’ll want to explore. It can only be a matter of time before this same Historical Imagery comes to Google Earth’s Street View.

If you are intrigued by the idea of using this technology to simulate your own genealogical time travel experience, don’t forget there’s also a video called Google Earth for Genealogy that’s free to everyone under VIDEO in the Genealogy Gems website’s menu. In that video, you’ll travel along with me as I uncover the secrets of a photograph taken just over one hundred years ago, pinpoint the location today, and then travel back in time to further explore my ancestor’s neighborhood. From there, the sky is the limit with Google Earth and Google Maps!

 

5000 WWI Era Photos Saved by Former Garbage Man
One man has spent years rescuing thousands of WWI photos, letters and other artifacts from the trash. The full story, reported recently by the U.K’s MailOnline, tells the story of this heroic effort.

According to the article, dustman (garbage collector) Bob Smethurst began started this rescue mission about thirty years ago. As he dumped waste cans, he would sometimes spot old pictures, letters and other memorabilia spilling into the masher. He’d rescue them when he could. Now he’s got an enormous collection.

Mr. Smethurst noticed a lot of this World War I material being thrown out during the 1970s and 1980s as veterans died of old age. He guesses that a similar amount of World War II material has been heading to landfills or burn piles in recent years.

Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist MAILBOX:

From Michelle in Denver, CO
“Hi, Lisa! I love listening to your podcast; and you’ve been one of my main sources of genealogy education during the past year. I finally started my own family history blog just last night (keepcalmandsearchon.blogspot.com)! I have a question about enumeration maps. Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district. Thank you for your help!”

My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps
First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website: “An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.

Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly. The base maps were obtained locally and include:

  • postal route maps
  • General Land Office maps
  • soil survey maps
  • maps produced by city, county, and state government offices
  • maps produced by commercial printers

Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)

Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 is the most accessible. These are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.

What about enumeration district maps before 1940? Consult Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for maps in the National Archives. For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress.  (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.) If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.

109_mapIn cities, there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.

Depending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area.  Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.

GEM: Interview with James Sweany, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress www.loc.gov

Sanborn maps at the Library of Congress:

Overview: http://www.loc.gov/collections/sanborn-maps/about-this-collection/

Sanborn Samplers: http://www.loc.gov/collection/sanborn-maps/articles-and-essays/sanborn-samplers/

COLD CASE BUSTED!:

Cold Case files are as common in genealogy as they are in criminal investigations. So it seemed a no brainer to me that family historians could incorporate some of the same techniques that cold case investigators use. And that is how my presentation How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case was born.Genealogy presentation at Williamson County Texas Genealocial Society

I recently brought this exciting hour to the folks at the Williamson County Texas Genealogical Society and they embraced it with open arms. Eyes were lighting up, and there was excitement in the air at the prospect of pulling some of those dusty old brick walls off their genealogical office shelves. I warned the group that they would be blaming for a sleepless night that night as they burned the midnight oil putting the tips to work.  And as always, I encourage them to let me in on their successes by dropping me an email. I never cease to be amazed at what my wonderful audiences accomplish!

An email from Teresa Hankins of Round Rock, TX landed in my inbox the very next morning. And her message was inspiring:

“I attended your lecture on Genealogical Cold Cases at the Williamson County Genealogical Society’s meeting just last night. It was late when I got home, but I wanted to check out some of your suggestions on cracking hard cases. I was particularly interested in Google Books, as I had just recently discovered it, but hadn’t used it much.

The Case: My 2nd great-grandfather, Joshua, was too young to serve in American Civil War, but he had nine brothers who did serve. These brothers are what first prompted my interest in genealogy, and I’ve spent untold hours reconstructing their movements and histories.

One of the most poignant stories is that of David, the youngest of the  nine. He couldn’t have been more than 17 years old when he joined the Union regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Lone Jack, discharged, and then married Margaret, a young lady from a neighboring farm. They had one child, named Thomas, and then David was murdered by bushwhackers. His young bride remarried and had two more children before she too, passed away at a young age. My unsolvable case was with Thomas, son of David and Margaret, who seemed to vanish from history. He lost his father when he was an infant, his mother when he was about 12, and I wanted to know what happened to him!

Like all good genealogists, I was only going to research a little before going to bed. I wanted to play around on Google Books and see how the searches worked. I typed in a few key words that were unsuccessful before settling on a group of books based on Benton County, Missouri, which is where most of my ancestors in this line resided. I was just clicking on a book and searching for the surname, not looking for anything in particular. I only wanted to see what would come up and how the search engine worked. The next thing I know, I am looking at a record from the Supreme Court of Missouri, regarding some sort of land dispute. There are all the names involved, Thomas, his two half siblings, another family that I know are neighbors and relatives! I now know the month and year that Thomas died. I know that he sold some land one of his uncles. He was living there among family and friends, and though he, too, died young, at least I know what happened! This has opened up a cold case, and now it is on fire with new leads. I can’t wait to see what else I can dig up on Google Books!

Thank you for all the useful information you shared. I learned so much. I can’t wait to try out your other suggestions. You said to send you an email if we cracked a cold case, and that is what I’m doing. Have a blessed day!”

Well, I feel blessed every time I hear from my fabulous students / listeners / readers! I’m a lucky girl!

at the Williamson County Genealogical Society presentationAnd I received one more blessing in Round Rock: At long last I finally got to meet my cousin Carolyn. You “met” Carolyn on the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episodes about contacting living relatives (see below for links.)  Carolyn and I have been collaborating online for nearly ten years on our family history (her mother is my Grandmother’s sister) but we never had the opportunity to meet in person until now. She’s as sweet and warm as she is on the phone – it’s not wonder she has such great success reaching out to family relations.

It’s wonderful to hear from folks about how they have benefited from something I’ve shared, but I could write volumes on the blessings I’ve received in this job that I love.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastEpisode 14: How to Contact Long-Lost Relatives
Episode 15: More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives

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Best Websites for Historical Maps: A New Premium Video!

Best websites for finding historical maps Genealogy Gems premium videoLooking for a pre-1700 map of the Americas as the Europeans found it? Yearning to survey the plot of land your ancestors tilled in Cobb County, Georgia? Historic maps can point you in the direction of your ancestors. But navigating your way to an original map can be a costly and time-consuming trek. Before you venture down that road, navigate your way to the treasury of digitized maps available online!

A new video class can help Genealogy Gems Premium members do just that: Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps. Literally hundreds of thousands of historical maps are available for free online in high-resolution digital format that you can download right to your computer without ever leaving home. The websites I show you offer some of the largest map collections available on the Internet today. I demonstrate strategies for searching the best websites for historical maps that will help YOUR research. You’ll see what’s out there, how to find the right maps and how to download and use them.

Historic_Maps_VideoGenealogy Gems Premium members also have access to my popular online video class, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. Not a Premium member? Get a taste of these classes for free on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel! Check out this free excerpt: “Using Sanborn Fire Maps for Family History and Genealogy.” 

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Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online

Map of New York City, 1857. Click for full citation information.

Thousands of historical maps of New York City, the mid-Atlantic states and even the Austro-Hungarian empire (yes, really!) are now online–and they’re free.

The New York Public Library has published more than 20,000 historical maps dating from 1660-1922. They are free for public use, downloading, manipulating and publishing!  A lot of the maps are from New York City neighborhoods, like the one shown here.

The author of a news item about the collection said this: “We can’t imagine too many people wanting to remix Gangs of New York-era property charts, but it’s hard to object to getting more geographic knowledge at no charge.” Well, we genealogists may not “remix” these old property maps, but we can certainly see the value in them!

Do you use maps in your research? Have you tried overlaying a historical map showing an ancestor’s home with a modern one on Google Earth? Learn more about using Google Earth in your genealogy research in this FREE video. 

And if this post is interesting to you, you should also read this blog post about interactive historical maps of major cities (like New York City).

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Family Maps and Migration Routes Traced with New Tech Tools

family maps and migration routes are easyFamily maps and migration routes can sometimes uncover new record finds and answer brick wall questions. It’s fast and simple to use these free tech tools to map your family’s history! I used them to track my ancestors as they trekked from the eastern seaboard to the Midwestern United States and found some fantastic leads!

There are two online treasures I have just discovered. FamilySearch and MyHeritage family trees can now be mapped with some neat interactive tools. MyHeritage just launched their PedigreeMap saying it is an “innovative way to view your family history,” and I think they are right. I have used migration maps to help me overcome brick walls and questions in my research for years. Using these free online tools have made it really fun and not difficult at all.

Creating Family Maps and Migration Routes at MyHeritage

PedigreeMap is free for all MyHeritage users. To access it, log on or create a MyHeritage account. If you are new to MyHeritage, you will be prompted to begin creating your free family tree when you click Sign up at the top right corner of their homepage.

Once you have created your family tree, find it by clicking Family Tree and choosing Manage trees from the pull-down menu.

family maps at myheritage

To use the PedigreeMap feature, choose your family tree from the list and then click on Apps and choose PedigreeMap from the pull-down menu.

FamilyMaps_2

You will be able to see a map of the entire world in which your ancestors lives are plotted. From my map below, I can see the large concentration in the eastern half of the United States, but also the location of my ancestors from Europe.

Not only are genealogical events like births, marriages, and deaths plotted on your map, but if you put in a location of a picture, it will plot that too. You will notice, on the left-hand side there is a list of all the places that appear in your family tree. The numbers on the list match up to the number of each place in your family tree.

FamilyMaps_3

You can zoom in or zoom out, but my favorite part is clicking a location in the list to the left. For example, if I click on Marion, Linn, another list pops up on the right. This list shows me what events took place in Marion, Linn County, Iowa.

FamilyMaps_4

Additionally, I can see major roads, rivers, and hills. I can even click on the satellite view to see the street where my great-grandparents were married!

There are many more wonderful tools on PedigreeMap that you will want to check out. To learn more about all the unique features, read their article here.

Creating Family Maps and Migration Routes with FamilySearch

RootsMapper has been around awhile and is an interactive mapping website that works with FamilySearch. As you know, FamilySearch allows users to create a family tree online and search all their records for free. Like PedigreeMap, you will need to create your free account and family tree at FamilySearch. Then, go to the FamilySearch Apps page and click on RootsMapper. Now, click Get Started.

Family maps at RootsMapper

When you are redirected to the RootsMapper homepage, click Login to begin mapping. You will use your FamilySearch username and password. By clicking Accept, you give permission for RootsMapper to use your FamilySearch tree data.

The interactive map has various features. I particularly like the lines showing both the migration of my paternal line and my maternal line.

FamilyMaps_6

Did you notice my paternal line goes right through modern day West Virginia? Several years ago, I had “lost” my Walls family line. By plotting their known whereabouts on a map and connecting the dots, I could see possible migration routes. In fact, during that time frame, they likely took nothing but trails into Monongalia, Virginia. I did a search for records along this path and was surprised to find my fifth great grandfather on a tax roll for Virginia in 1790!

You can play around with the settings and map just one generation, five generations, or even ten generations. The options allow for pins, migration lines, changing the root person you are charting and much, much more.

It really is amazing how innovative genealogy research is today. The Genealogy Gems team delights in sharing new tech tools and tips to help you in your genealogy goals. Why not try out one of these family map and migration route tools today and share with us your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

More Gems on Mapping and Migration Routesfamily maps and migration routes with old maps

Mapping U.S. Migration Patterns

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps (Premium Member Video)

3 Sources for Historic Maps That May Surprise You

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