Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

by Sunny Jane Morton

When Lisa blogged recently about Google Earth’s 10th birthday, it reminded me of something on my family history “to do” list. A few years ago I found a postcard of what I thought was an ancestor’s neighborhood. Could Google Earth confirm it?

Jones Street, Olyphant, PA, 1910. Image courtesy of Michael Grayson.

Lisa uses Google Earth’s powerful 3D renderings of the world’s streets to identify where old pictures were taken. I knew from deeds, a plat map, and addresses on censuses and draft registrations that the O’Hotnicky lived on a certain block of Jones St. (now named Grant St.), around the corner from and behind Holy Ghost church.

This postcard of “Jones Street, Olyphant” looks like its viewpoint is from the end of the block behind the church. This would mean the tall tree shown here was shading–and blocking our view of–the O’Hotnicky home.

I opened Google Earth and flew to “117 Grant St, Olyphant, PA.” The initial view, hovering from above, was promising. The camera icon shows where I thought the photo was taken. The left arrow points to the former line of trees, in front of the ancestral address. The right arrow points to the church tower behind.

Unfortunately, when I enter Street View at that exact spot, the new church on the corner and a tall apartment building block the view that would have been seen a century ago. There is no Street View available on Grant Street itself so I couldn’t move up the street toward the church. So I moved into Street View along the side street (parallel to the bottom of the photo).

In the opening between two buildings, Google Earth gave me a glimpse of the church tower. I compared the postcard view with Google Earth’s photo. The church towers look so similar: a simple cross on top, pointed copper roof, arched tower and the building roof line. Even more striking to me is the white frame house. Was this the same white house shown in the postcard view?

These two visuals taken together–the church tower profile and the position of the white house–seem consistent with my theory of where the photo was taken. Which means that yes, indeed, this 1910 postcard shows the trees in front of an ancestor’s home as they appeared 105 years ago.

Google Earth can fly you to an ancestor’s neighborhood–and whatever clues its current landscape gives you into the landscape of the past. Click here to watch Lisa’s free video about using Google Earth for genealogy!

 

Here’s How You Can Bring Your Family History to a Big Screen: How to Use Chromecast

display family history photos on TV with ChromecastHere at Genealogy Gems we love using Google for genealogy. Today we have another exciting Google resource that can transform how you share your genealogy with your family – because ultimately, genealogy is all about sharing your family’s story!

While the mobile device era has made communication and sharing easy and instant, sometimes it’s hard to really see the ‘big picture’ on our tiny screens. And crowding around the computer monitor isn’t much better. Chromecast by Google is a tool that allows you to stream content from your mobile devices and computers directly onto your TV!

You can share slideshows, photos, videos, and more while everyone is seated comfortably in the living room. If you are looking for an easy and inviting way for your family to enjoy all the hard work you put into constructing the family tree, Chromecast is for you. The Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player currently sells for $35 and takes a mere 5 to 10 minutes to set up.

Even though I’m Lisa’s daughter, I am not a techie person at all, so if I can do it in just a few minutes without help, you can too!

 

How to Use Chromecast
After you’ve completed the initial set up, simply open the app you want to stream (YouTube, for example) and tap the Chromecast icon. Streaming is now enabled. (Chromecast primarily works over wifi, but Google recently announced that Ethernet cables are now available as an alternative.)

While streaming, you control the app functions on your mobile device or computer. For example, if you’re streaming a movie from the Netflix app on your iPad, you would play, pause, and make your selections directly on your iPad. If you want to switch back to viewing on your mobile device (or simply stop streaming), tap the Chromecast icon again.

Dozens of photo and video apps are compatible with Chromecast and all are listed on their website. Here are a few that I think genealogists will really enjoy, and they’re all available on both The App Store and Google Play:

photosPhoto Cast for Chromecast
Free
Premium Upgrades – $2.99 and up

albums for Google ChromecastWhen you open the app, you can view all the photos and videos (including TV shows or movies you may have purchased) on your device. You can also create slideshows by picking individual photos or entire albums and adding songs from your music library. Then tap the Chromecast icon to instantly stream to your TV. It has four viewing modes available. Photo streaming has very little lag, but video streaming could take a little longer to load, depending on your wifi speeds. Multiple devices can stream to the same TV, and slideshows can continue to play on the TV while you use your mobile device for other tasks.

chromecast goog;e slidesGoogle Slides
Free
Google Slides is an ideal tool for Chromecast because it is linked directly to your Google account. I recommend using Google Slides from your laptop or desktop because you can pull pictures from your hard drive (or anywhere – you’re not limited only to the pictures on your mobile device). And personally I find I can work much more efficiently with a full mouse and keyboard for this kind of project. You can create a wonderfully detailed and multi-media slide show or presentation. Then, download the app to your mobile device and your presentations will be accessible there as well. I find streaming from your tablet works a little better than streaming from your computer, but you can still stream from a computer as long as it’s connected to wifi and is close enough to the TV to detect Chromecast.

Chromecast youtube iconYouTube
Free
Chromecast youtube app screenChromecast offers you an easy and convenient way to watch videos from our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel and other favorites on your TV! Open the YouTube app and tap the Chromecast icon. Browse videos as usual. When you select one to watch, it will stream to your TV with no loss of video or audio quality. You can also create a TV queue, specifically for videos you want to watch on the big screen. Tap on a video and a pop-up will ask to either play it or add it to your TV queue. The best part? YouTube will continue to play your video on your TV even if you minimize the app on your device to do other tasks. Before you finish your viewing session, be sure to tap the Subscribe button at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll have easy access to all current and new videos.

Desktop Streaming
Streaming from your desktop browser is another great feature. Anything you are viewing on your browser (videos, audio, website content, etc.) can be projected to your TV. You will need the current version of the Chrome web browser, as well as the Chromecast extension installed. In my personal experience I found streaming video from my browser to be a bit slow and choppy, but results may vary based on browser settings and wifi speeds. It’s worth a try, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this technology continues to evolve and improve.

TIP: How to Update Chrome
Normally, Chrome updates automatically in the background when you open and close your browser. But here’s how to check if you have the most current version of Chrome:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. In the top right, click the Chrome menu
  3. Click About Google Chrome.
  4. The current version number is the series of numbers beneath the “Google Chrome” heading. Chrome will check for updates when you’re on this page.
  5. Click Relaunch to apply any available update.

Another cool thing about Chromecast:
Once you have Chromecast set up, your devices will detect any Chromecast that is nearby, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. So if you’re at a family member’s home and they have Chromecast, you can stream from your device to their TV as well! Can you say “time to share the latest version of the family tree?”

Again, as a non-techie I found Chromecast to be very user-friendly, and a huge value for the price. There are loads of fun apps to explore (music, podcasts, interactive games, and even a karaoke app!). Happy streaming!

thanks youre a gemP.S. If you decide to purchase Chromecast, will you please use this link? Purchasing through our site supports the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Might these collections include your ancestors? And does the Google search tip we’ve added at the bottom help you out?

This week: Kansas newspapers, WWI records for the U.S. and Canada and a unique collection of mid-1800s Shaker photographs.

KANSAS NEWSPAPERS. Subscribers to Newspapers.com can search a newly enlarged database of Kansas newspapers. It “currently has more than 190 papers from almost 90 Kansas cities for a total of 4.3 million pages.” One paper dates to 1840, 20 years before statehood.

SHAKER PHOTOGRAPHS. The Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon (New York) “has launched a newly digitized online catalog of historic photography as a part of its ongoing effort to make available online a full catalog of its collections,” says this press report. Photos include “scenes of Shaker villages from the mid-late 19th Century, as well as a collection of stereograph images from this early period.”

CANADA WWI MILITARY RECORDS. Ancestry recently posted a new collection ofmore than 17,000 historical military records (featuring more than 470,000 images) revealing the First World War military experiences of many Canadian soldiers. The Canada, Imperial War Service Gratuities, 1919-1921  collection contains records of Canadians who fought and served in the British Imperial services.” Note: the above link goes to Ancestry.com but the database is also available on Ancestry.ca.

U.S. WWI PHOTOGRAPHS. The National Archives (U.S.) has a newly digitized collection online: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918. According to the site, “This series contains photographs obtained from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Federal and State government agencies, as well as private sources, such as the American Red Cross and the Central News and Photo Service. The photos depict the unity of the nation and how overwhelming the war effort was, including pictures of public gatherings, peace demonstrations, parades, and activities of libraries, hospitals and first aid stations.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064

Google tip of the week: Some databases are hosted on multiple genealogy websites.  For example, The New England Historical and Genealogical Society has been receiving a lot of new databases from FamilySearch. Ancestry has recently posted several databases from JewishGen, which also hosts them on their site. One site may have the search tools you prefer;  another may be more convenient because you can attach records to your tree on that site. Use Google’s site search tool to see if the database is on a particular site. Enter the keywords in quotes, then the word “site:” immediately followed by the URL without the www. (There is no space between site: and the website address.) A search for the Canadian database above in Ancestry.ca looks like this: “Imperial War Service Gratuities” site:Ancestry.ca. This tip is brought to you by the newly-revised 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, which has an entire chapter on site searching and resurrecting old websites.

 

US Genealogy Records that Came Online this Summer

Not everyone was on vacation this summer. Genealogy companies and archives have been busy adding new records to their online collections. 

US Genealogy Records new this summer

Mississippi Newspapers

In late July 2019 the Mississippi Department of Archives and History announced that “More than 238,000 pages of out-of-copyright Mississippi newspapers are currently online, with approximately 90,000 more pages expected to go online in the next six months.”

According to their press release: Researchers from around the world now have free online access to hundreds of Mississippi newspapers. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) participated in the National Digital Newspaper Program, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize newspapers across the country. The publications are accessible through the Library of Congress on its Chronicling America website, along with papers from other participating states.

“Primary sources are key for students because it makes history relatable,” said Al Wheat, MDAH director of education and co-coordinator of Mississippi History Day. “Every year we send students to the National History Day competition, which offers two prizes to students who made use of Chronicling America in their research. Instead of simply reading about a historical event, students can learn from the people who experienced that event through this exceptional website.”

MDAH has the most extensive collection of Mississippi newspapers in the state, housing more than 13,000 microfilm rolls of papers in its archival collections. NEH provided funding for the Mississippi digitization project through three, two-year grants.

Mississippi content includes titles published between 1820 and 1963 in fifty-three of the state’s eighty-two counties. Ninety antebellum titles, including papers published in Canton, Carrollton, Columbus, Holly Springs, Kosciusko, Panola, Port Gibson, Yazoo City, and Woodville, are online.

Mississippi Newspapers

Twenty-three titles have at least one issue published between 1860 and 1865. Noteworthy Civil War-era titles include the American Citizen published in Canton, the Eastern Clarionpublished in Paulding, the Daily Clarion published in Meridian, the Macon Beacon, and the Oxford Intelligencer.

More than 100 newspapers document the Reconstruction era in the state through 1922. Included are titles from Aberdeen, Bay St. Louis, Corinth, Ellisville, Hernando, Liberty, Okolona, Philadelphia, Ripley, and Starkville.

A number of issues published between 1923 and 1963 will go online within the next six months. Included are several African American newspapers: the Jackson Advocate, the Southern Advocate published in Mound Bayou, and the Weekly Echo published in Meridian. Two newspapers that will go online won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing: the Lexington Advertiser edited by Hazel Brannon Smith and the Chronicle edited by Ira Harkey, Jr.

Access the newspapers for free at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

Another exciting free historical newspaper website!

Click the video below to watch:

Georgia Obituaries and Burial Records

The Madison GA Cemetery Stewardship Commission announced that the Madison Cemeteries website now has over 800 obits for our 4,000 burials, and they are adding more every day.

 

U.S. Genealogical Records at Findmypast

Pennsylvania, Oath of Allegiance

Did your ancestor arrive in Pennsylvania between 1727 and 1775 or between 1786 and 1808? This records hold the names of thousands of male immigrants who were required to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown and the Province of Pennsylvania as well as immigration lists between 1786 and 1808. Within these pages you will find your ancestor’s name, the ship they arrived on, there and arrival ports, and arrival date. Names are organised by vessel.

All males over sixteen years of age were obliged to take this oath and declaration, as soon as after arrival as possible. The lists of foreigners arriving after 1786 including the names of wives and children. The full oath can actually be found on image number 9. An index to surnames begins on image number 675.

Pennsylvania Immigrants, 1727-1776

Explore this 1856 publication which, in its own words, is a ‘A Collection of Upwards Of Thirty Thousand Names Of German, Swiss, Dutch, French And Other Immigrants In Pennsylvania From 1727 To 1776: With A Statement Of The Names Of Ships, Whence They Sailed, And The Date Of Their Arrival At Philadelphia, Chronology.’

As well as names, these records may also provide you with historical and biographical notes. The prefece went on to add that ‘present descendants of the early German, Swiss and French immigrants, now numbering millions living in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and in the Western States, will be enabled, if they procure this publication, to ascertain the time of their ancestors’ arrival and other facts of value to most of them.’

United States, Passenger and Crew Lists has been created by merging all of Findmypast’s existing US passenger and crew lists with over 2 million brand new records covering Boston, Texas and South Carolina.

Spanning over 160 years of travel, this vast national collection brings together records of passengers and crew who arrived in America by ship or by plane, from the East Coast to the West Coast, between 1800 and 1964.

passenger list genealogy records

Passenger boarding in the 1950s.

Including ship manifests, crew lists, flight manifests, passenger arrival lists and more, the records document the arrival of millions of immigrant from Europe, Asia, and South America into the United States, where most settled to create a new life for themselves and their descendants.

A significant portion of the documents available within United States, Passenger and Crew Lists have been produced through a combination of historical records found at the National Archives & Record Administration (NARA) in Washington D.C. A number of the crew lists have also been made available by the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.

The collection also includes records provided in partnership with the John F Kennedy Trust Ltd, an organization which has worked with the Balch Institute, the Ellis Island Restoration Commission and the Battery Conservancy to compile a comprehensive database of Irish emigration to the United States.

Passenger lists are just one of many records that detail your family’s journey to the United States. Transcripts will reveal your ancestor’s birth year, birth place, place of arrival, arrival year and ship name.

Images will provide additional information such who your ancestor was traveling with, their occupation, last permanent residence, and the names of those who died during the voyage. On crew lists, you may discover your ancestors position on the chip, whether they were able to read or write, length of service, as well as a physical description.

United States, Passenger and Crew Lists

Over 777,000 new records from the major port city of Baltimore in Maryland have recently been added to these passenger and crew lists.

This national collection brings together records of passengers and crew who arrived in America by ship or by plane from the East Coast to the West Coast and will reveal where your ancestor was born, where they sailed from, where they arrived and when.

Billion Graves at FMP

Pinpoint your ancestor’s final resting place with new additions to our Billion Graves Cemetery Indexes. Our latest update includes:

cemetery and grave research

Tombstones are records too.

Cemetery records are of great importance in discovering where and when your ancestor died. They can also provide you with information regarding their birth and marriage dates.

With an abundance of cemeteries, it can be overwhelming trying to pinpoint the precise cemetery in which your ancestor was laid to rest, and visiting each potential location is costly. However, in partnering with BillionGraves, we aim to make available all the cemetery records held on their site for free, saving you time and money as you search for your ancestor.

BillionGraves is the largest resource for GPS-tagged headstone and burial records on the web, with over 12 million headstone records.

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