Google Maps Street View Delivers a Taste of Time Travel

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.”Google Maps Street View of GettysburgHere’s an example of viewing Gettysburg with the new feature. 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.

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.

Members Have Been Time Traveling for a While Now
If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium Member then chances are you made a bee-line for the Time Travel with Google Earth premium video as soon as you joined. 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.

Historical imagery Google Earth

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 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.Burkett Family in San Francisco Google Earth for GenealogyMore Ways to Explore and Time Travel Now
If you are intrigued by the idea of using this technology to simulate your own genealogical time travel experience, watch my free video called Google Earth for Genealogy. 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!

 
Further Reading:

3 Sources for Historic Maps that May Surprise You

Old maps are an essential tool for discovering more about your family’s history. If you have exhausted more traditional sources, here are three places to find maps that may surprise you.

#1 Surprising Finds within the David Rumsey Map Collection

www.davidrumsey.com

You’re probably aware that the David Rumsey map collection website is a terrific source for old maps. But you may be surprised by the variety of maps, some which you likely don’t come across every day. Here’s a fun little tactic I took today to see what it may hold in store beyond typical maps. A search of the word neighborhood reveals that their holdings go well beyond traditional maps. Here’s an example from San Francisco showing a neighborhood in its infancy:
google earth maps for genealogy

And the image below depicts the Country Club district of Kansas City in the 1930s. If your family lived there at that time, this is a real gem.

Google earth for genealogy maps

#2 Google Books

www.books.google.com

If you think Google Books is just books, think again. Historic maps, often unique and very specific, can often be found within those digitized pages. Try running a Google search such as: neighborhood map baltimore. 

Click the MORE menu and select BOOKS. Then click the SEARCH TOOLS button at the top of the results list, and from the drop down menu select ANY BOOKS and then click FREE GOOGLE BOOKS:

baltimore search

Select a book that looks promising. Then rather than reading through the pages or scanning the index, save loads of time by clicking the thumbnail view button at the top of the book. This way you can do a quick visual scan for pages featuring maps!

baltimore history

When you find a page featuring a map, click it display it on a single page. You can now use the clipper tool built right in to Google Books to clip an image of the map. Other options include using Evernote (free) or Snagit ($).

Google Image search for maps google books

#3 Old Newspapers at Chronicling America

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Like Google Books, the digitized pages housed at the Chronicling America website contain much more than just text. Old newspapers printed maps to help readers understand current events like the progress of war or the effect of a natural disaster. This map from The Tacoma Times in 1914 shows a map of Europe and several quick facts about the “Great War,” World War I:

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

Here’s one more example below. A search for “San Francisco earthquake” at Chronicling America brought up this bird’s eye view of San Francisco at the time of the major 1906 earthquake. Articles below the map explain what you’re seeing:

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

Learn more about using newspapers to understand your ancestors’ lives in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. 

Want more inspiring ideas for finding historic maps? Below is my FREE 8-minute video on using Sanborn maps. This is an excerpt from my Genealogy Gems Premium video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” (Premium membership required to watch that full video along with others like “Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps.”)

Can You Believe Google Earth is 10 Years Old?? Are You Using Google Earth for Genealogy Yet?

Google Earth 10 years old invitationTen years ago in June, Google Earth was born. The world put it right to work. Within months, recalls a Google Earth employee, “Hurricane Katrina showed us how useful mapping tools like Earth could be for crisis response efforts. Rescue workers compared before and after Satellite imagery in Google Earth to better locate where people were stranded.”

“In the years after,” the blog post continues, “with more than 2 billion downloads by people in nearly every country in the world, Earth has enabled people to discover new coral reefs, journey to the Moon and into deep space, find long-lost parents, clear landmines and much more.”

What about YOU? How have you harnessed the power of Google Earth for good?

What about using Google Earth for genealogy?

Google Earth for Genealogy classIn honor of Google Earth’s birthday, we invite you to watch a free video recording of a special presentation of Google Earth for Genealogy! Check out these blog posts, too:

Google Earth for Genealogy and Toolbox bundleReady to take Google Earth to the next level? Pick up your copies of the video CD series Google Earth for Genealogy at the Genealogy Gems Store.

Google Keep versus Evernote for Your Note-Taking Needs

organize app Evernote google keepGoogle Keep, Google’s note-taking app, is getting better. According to a post on an unofficial Google blog, “Google Keep now lets you add labels to your notes. Just click the 3-dot icon below the note and select ‘add label.’ There are 3 default labels (inspiration, personal, work), but you can add your own labels.” The post goes on to describe the navigation menu, show how to export notes to Google docs and create recurring reminders.

According to the post, “The new features are available in Google Keep’s web app, Chrome app and Android app (Google Keep 3.1).”

Google Keep Versus Evernote

How does Google Keep compare to Evernote? Well, I’m a longtime Evernote user who wrote a genealogist’s quick guide to using Evernote (see below) and provides the Ultimate Evernote Education to my Genealogy Gems Premium members. I might be just a bit biased when I say I still whole-heartedly prefer Evernote–but that’s because of what I do with Evernote, which is full-scale organization of my life and genealogy research across all my devices.

One tech writer’s post on Google Keep v Evernote indicates that she likes the simple functionality of Google Keep for quick notes. Yet, she writes, “I’m a big fan of Evernote as well, because of its strong organizing options–tags and saved searches, notebooks and stacked notes–but it can be overwhelming for simple note-taking. It is, however, cross-platform and, unlike Google Keep, more likely to stick around (former Google Reader users might be afraid to sign up for a new Google app that could be pulled suddenly).” I have to agree with this last comment. Actions speak louder than words, and they are evidence worth pondering.

Another post, though it’s a little older, sings a similar tune: “While there is some overlap [with Google Keep], Evernote is still a much more robust product with a bigger feature set and far greater device compatibility. Google Keep has an attractive user interface and is being met with a pretty positive response—an average rating of 4.4/5 stars in the Google Play store so far, but it’s presently nowhere near Evernote’s capabilities.”

Still a third writer has figured out how to use both apps, just for different tasks. For my part, reading through all these opinions reminded me how fortunate we are that technology gives us so many options to help us meet our needs. The challenge is figuring out how to use the powerful tools we have at our fingertips. That’s what we specialize in here at Genealogy Gems.

For me, I’m sticking with Evernote. One of the most compelling reasons in addition to many (cross-platform functionality, synchronization to all devices, OCR…) is that note-taking is Evernote’s primary focus. It’s not one of dozens of products (which is the boat that Google Keep and OneNote are aboard.) Instead, it is the singular purpose of Evernote’s research, development and execution. I like that kind of dedication when it comes to something as precious as my genealogy research notes.

Resources

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideMy Evernote for Genealogy laminated quick guides for Windows or Mac will get you started right away and keep you going as an everyday quick reference guide.

How to Get Started in Evernote, and the Ultimate Evernote Education

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote be my Digital Archive?

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