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).

 

 

 

 

Heritage Bracelet Idea: Family History Jewelry

family history jewelry braceletRecently Linda sent us this inspiring idea for making a heritage bracelet. “I made a bracelet for my mother for a birthday present a couple of weeks ago,” she wrote to us. “I printed out pictures of some of her female ancestors and glued them on small pendant photo frames I found at my local craft store. It took a while to figure out a design to get them to stay in place hanging on the bracelet but I think it turned out quite nice.” (Visit Linda’s blog here.)

If you like to make jewelry yourself, you can copy her pattern for this pretty piece of family history jewelry. You can also click here to order a custom bracelet through the Genealogy Gems store. The similar design we offer has 5 photos in it. This kind of gift not only celebrates the past, but becomes an heirloom piece itself.

A custom family history bracelet like this is available for purchase through the Genealogy Gems store.

A custom family history bracelet like this is available for purchase through the Genealogy Gems store. Click here to order!

Love this kind of post? Check out our Pinterest board featuring family history-themed jewelry! Or click here to read a post about a cute hair clip Lisa improvised from a single earring from her grandma.

BillionGraves Challenge for June: Win a FitBit!

BillionGraves June challengeAfter a long winter in the U.S., it’s finally warming up! Just last week I did my first BillionGraves cemetery field trip of the season. So I’m pleased to see that they’re offering a BillionGraves challenge to those who take pictures or index:

“This month we are giving away Fitbit’s 5 cutting edge fitness monitoring devices to the top 5 photographers AND transcribers! Read the details on our blog HERE.

“It can’t be any better than doing your favorite thing- taking pictures of headstones and transcribing them, AND winning prizes! So take advantage of the rising temperatures to capture some headstone images at your local cemetery or get your transcribing game on.”

We’ve blogged about BillionGraves before: it’s a leading site for capturing cemetery headstones around the world. Their free app (for iPhone and Android) makes it easy to find a cemetery near you (wherever you are) that needs imaging; use your smart phone to take geo-tagged tombstone photos; transcribe any images you care to; and upload them to their site. (I always upload when I return home so my phone will upload images using my home’s wi-fi instead of charging me data.) But you can also participate in the challenge by indexing records already on their site, if cemetery visits aren’t your thing.

Got kids who are out of school and looking for something to do? Take them with you to image headstones. My kids don’t necessarily prefer this to going to the pool, but they’re game sometimes, especially if a stop at an ice cream stand is part of the deal. Here’s Lisa Louise Cooke’s interview with BillionGraves staffer and tips for getting started:

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope

Backblaze butlerNot so long ago, my computer backup plan against various calamities looked something like this:

  • Against flood: keep my laptop off the floor.
  • Against fire: grab my laptop in one hand and my youngest child in the other.
  • Against theft: hide my laptop under a different pile of blankets every time I leave the house.

 

No lie, this was my plan. You don’t have to tell me how terrible it was.

Fortunately, I’ve improved somewhat. I stash copies of important files in Dropbox. Older photos and files are backed up online and on an external hard drive. I started using cloud-based email.

But last week my laptop got sick. First it ran a fever, then shut down entirely. My computer repairman, usually an optimist, said, “Please tell me you have everything backed up.” I hesitated. He sighed.

That crash took three days to resolve and resulted in a prescription for a cooling fan and the dire news that my laptop is living on borrowed time. I was sternly instructed to back everything up, because in those three days I had discovered considerable gaps in my backup plan.

Fortunately, Lisa had just announced buy pain medication online legally Genealogy Gems’ new partnership with Backblaze. I figured if Lisa could entrust thousands of audio, video, image, text, communication and other files to them, I could do the same. So….I signed up for Blackblaze. It’s $5 a month ($50 a year). Less than I spend on Redbox movies for my kids.

It’s taken Backblaze a few days to process my initial backup of over 120,000 files. It’s running continuously in the background and will continue to do so as I work. Like a little data butler, waiting to tidy up after me and be there for me when I need it. Backblaze will even backup my external drives, too (“no extra charge, madam”).

It’s so comforting to have Backblaze that I’ve stopped hiding my laptop under blankets when I leave the house. Because I was still doing that.

If your backup plan needs a little help like mine did, consider Backblaze. It’s easy to sign up, it’s comprehensive and it’s just a few dollars a month. Click here to check it out: www.Backblaze.com/Lisa. Whatever your backup strategy, watch our blog for more on disaster planning and prevention.

4 Easy Steps to Preserving Old Letters

Preserving old family letters is one of the best things you can do to be sure their precious content is available to future generations. Follow these easy steps from The Archive Lady, Melissa Barker, to organize and preserve the old correspondence in your family history archive.

Writing letters has become a thing of the past! If you are fortunate enough to have a collection of old family letters, you have a true treasure.

In addition to digitizing them, physically preserving them is one of the best things you can do to save the genealogical information contained in those old family letters. Here are some simple steps to preserve the old letters that you may have.

Preserving Old Letters in 4 Easy Steps

1. Arrange letters chronologically.

You can go by the date on the letter itself or by the postmark date on the envelope.

It is important to put your old letters in chronological order because sometimes there is information in those letters that continue from letter to letter and you want to make sure you read them in the order originally written.

If you have groups of letters from different events such as WWII letters, college letters, or vacation letters, you could group them together and then organize each grouping by date.

Preserving Old Letters Archive Lady

(Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.) Old letters like these need careful preservation.

2. Unfold old letters.

Once you have put your letters in chronological order, it’s time to do some preservation work.

I am asked all the time about letters and whether to leave them folded and in their envelopes. I can tell you that all archivists remove the letters from the envelopes and archive them unfolded. The creases made by folding and unfolding letters can cause damage and eventually those creases get weak and can cause the letters to tear into pieces. It is always best to unfold old family letters.

preserving old letters 4 steps

3. Encapsulate the old letters.

The term encapsulates means “to enclose something or to completely cover something.”

Now that you have unfolded and flattened your letters, you will want to encapsulate them in archival safe sleeves that can be purchased at any online archival supply store. Look for reputable preservation supply companies like Gaylord.

Preserving Family Letters Family Archivist

An encapsulated letter

Be sure to put the envelope with the letter in the same sleeve so that it doesn’t get lost or mixed up with another letter that it doesn’t belong to. When you’re working with many letters in a collection, the letter can easily be separated from the envelope. But envelopes may include crucial details such as dates, the identity and address of the writer, and interesting postmarks, so you want to keep them together.

4. Filing and storing old letters.

After you have put your letters in chronological order, unfolded them and encapsulated them, it is now time to file and store them.

Archivists prefer to put their encapsulated letters into archival file folders and then into archival boxes, being sure to keep the chronological order intact. (Click here for Gaylord’s Family Archives Document Preservation Kit, complete with archival folders and an archival box.)

This process gives you three layers of protection for your letters to ensure they are completely preserved and protected from bugs, dust, and anything else that could get to them and damage them.

Following these guidelines to preserving your family letters will ensure they are protected and saved for you to enjoy and for your future descendants to enjoy!

Perserving Old Family Letters (3)

Next step: Digitize your old family letters.

Old letters can fall prey to many unfortunate situations. Ink can fade and paper can crumble. If this happens, the messages on your old letters may eventually be lost, despite your best efforts. It’s also possible that the entire file folder full of the original letters could be lost, damaged, or even destroyed!

Digitizing your old family letters lets you digitally preserve the content for future generations. It’s the best way to added another layer of protection. Duplication is a fundamental key to preservation. 

In the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 144, host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke talks with The Family Curator Denise Levenick about digitizing and organizing your family history. Click here to hear their conversation and start preserving your own family letters and other original documents. 

Free-Podcast-292x300 preserving old letters

You’ll Never Regret Preserving Your Old Family Letters

As you can seem it’s actually pretty easy to preserve your old family letters. I encourage you to get started today so that you’ll never have regrets in the future. 

About the Author:

Melissa Barker is a Certified Archives Records Manager, the Houston County, Tennessee Archivist and author of the popular blog A Genealogist in the Archives and an advice columnist. She has been researching her own family history for the past 27 years.

Images courtesy of Melissa Barker and Houston County, TN Archives.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, Genealogy Gems earns from qualifying purchases. This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU