Use Forensic Genealogy Tools: Technology Sheds New Light On History

forensic genealogy toolsThe forensic investigator pulls up to the crime scene and snaps a fresh set of rubber gloves. She props open the trunk of the car and carefully, slowly, sweeps a tube of florescent light back and forth inside the trunk, watching with an eagle eye for the glimmer of something that shouldn’t be there.

It’s a familiar scenario – well, that is, if you watch Court TV or CSI or one of the other of myriad of television shows featuring forensics. If you’re like me, you’re fascinated by this type of investigation. Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists: they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

So it will be be no surprise that this recent news item grabbed my attention:

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Poetry and pictures drawn in the margins of a medieval manuscript–and then erased–have been rediscovered using modern imaging techniques. The Black Book of Carmarthen is the oldest known surviving Welsh language manuscript. Written in 1250, it’s now “throwing up ghosts from the past after new research and imaging work revealed eerie faces and lines of verse which had previously been erased from history,” according to a National Library of Wales blog post.

“A combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software” were used to better see ancient doodles that had been erased from the margins. The process revealed “images, and snatches of poetry which are previously unrecorded in the canon of Welsh verse.”

We’ve featured several types of forensic analysis as applied to genealogy over the years. In fact, forensic genealogy principles inspired my popular presentation, How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case (if you’re a Premium Member of this website you can sign in right now and watch it under Premium Videos).

Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists:
they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes 89 and 90 features Dr. Robert Leonard, a forensic linguist featured on an episode of Forensic Files on TV. It was such a riveting interview that I brought him back for Premium episode 48 where his brother Dr. George Leonard joined us. And way back in the pioneer days of this podcast (2008) Episode 18 featured “Vehicular Forensics.”

vehicular forensics genealogyIt was my genealogical take on using alternative light sources on not the trunks of cars, but rather their faded license plates as they appear in old photos. That episode has been “retired” but will soon be Gems ebook remastered and available for listening (stay tuned to the free Genealogy Gems email newsletter for the publication announcement.) In the meantime you can read about it in depth in my very first book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.

Have you looked to see what lurks on the pages and photos of your ancestors? Email me and we may share it in an upcoming blog post or episode.

The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries

When I’m not at the podcast microphone, you can usually find me on a plane. And on one of those recent flights I had the privilege travelling along side a few of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.

Toni Frissell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The History of the Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen was the common name given to a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. Before the 1940’s, African-Americans had not been admitted to the U.S. Army Air Corps flight training program. In 1940, this changed with the formation of a segregated unit to train black pilots and ground crews at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground crew of the Tuskegee Airmen are credited with over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their service. The Tuskegee Airmen continued flying and fighting until the end of the war in 1945.

Meeting A Tuskegee Airman

After the flight, I collected my luggage and found a spot on the curb outside to wait for my husband to pick me up. It was then I noticed I was standing next to one of the Tuskegee group who was sitting quietly alone waiting for his ride. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his service. A warm, friendly grin greeted me from under the Tuskegee baseball cap and we easily fell into conversation.

Faces of U.S. Military Veterans WWII
He explained that a handful of retired Airmen were returning home from a national conference held each year. I also learned, to my great surprise after looking at the patch on his suit coat, that I was speaking with Brigadier General James T. Boddie! Tim (as he likes to be called) is a retired deputy director for operations J-3 of the National Military Command Center and Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

Boddie was born in Baltimore in 1931 and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1949, just behind the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. Later in his career (starting in 1961,) Tim served as the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program commandant of cadets at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He also taught military aspects of world political geography and international relations to senior cadets.

When I asked him what some of his most cherished memories were, he didn’t hesitate. Although he has a long and decorated history of service, he fondly reminisced about the young men he has met and assisted along the way. “Our country needs good men now more than ever,” he stated emphatically. He said that he has made it his mission since retiring in 1983 to mentor servicemen in their military careers. He pulled out his smartphone and happily whisked through a series of photographs he had taken with young up-and-coming cadets.

Great! He likes pictures, I thought. There was no flinching when I asked the 85-year-old to take a selfie with me. “Absolutely!” he said enthusiastically as he set down his own smartphone.

Boddie’s face radiated with pride and patriotism, wisdom and strength. This brought my thoughts to the United States heroes who bravely faced peril and sacrificed their lives for our country. Wouldn’t it be stunning to be able to see the faces of our ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the wars that followed? Well, it’s not as unlikely as you might think.

The American Revolutionary War

I didn’t think it was possible to find pictures of the faces of American Revolutionary War heroes, but it is! The pictures are exceptionally rare because few of them lived long enough to have their faces captured on film.Revolutionary War Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

A Utah journalist named Joe Bauman spent three years collecting images of the faces of these veterans. To view his collection of these great men, click here.

The last known Patriots of the American Revolutionary War were John Gray, who died in 1868 and Daniel Frederick Bakeman, who died in 1869. [1]

See more riveting faces of Revolutionary War veterans in Maureen Taylor’s books The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation and The Last Muster, Volume 2: Faces of the American Revolution

   

The War of 1812

Sometimes considered the “second war for independence,” the War of 1812 was in part due to the desire for Americans to expand west.

The fighting that originally started between the U.S. and Britain, soon included the American Native tribes. The defeat of the British at the Battle of Tippacanoe convinced many Indians in the Northwest Territory (including the celebrated Shawnee chief Tecumseh) that they needed British support to prevent American settlers from pushing them further out of their lands.

The valiant faces of the this war can be more readily found, perhaps even in your own family history. Many wonderful images can be found by simply Googling War of 1812 Veteran, and then clicking the Images results tab.

Hiram Cronk was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812 at the time of his death in 1905. He died at the age of 105.[2]

The American Civil War

Did you know that children of American Civil War veterans still live among us? Two such “children” share their fathers’ stories in an article titled “Children of the Civil War Veterans Still Walk Among Us, 150 Years After the War.”

Not only will you find inspiration in the children’s stories, but the stories of many Civil War Veterans who lived to tell their remarkable tales. You can see faces of Civil War veterans in many places online, but the collection of Portraits of Named Civil War Enlisted Men at the Library of Congress is especially moving.

The last known surviving Union Army soldier was Albert Henry Woolson. He died in August 1956. [3] 

Spanish American War

The Spanish American War of 1898 led to the U.S. control of Cuba (who later became an independent nation), Guam, the Philippine Islands, and Puerto Rico. The war only lasted a short 10 weeks.

Whether your ancestors were fighting for the Spanish side or the American side, there are lots of fantastic pictures of our fighting heroes. Check out the 917 pictures of the Spanish American War at GettyImages.com.

Spanish American War

World War I

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

The handsome Frank Buckles born in Bethany, Missouri was the last surviving veteran of WWI, dying at 110 years of age. You can see his name among a list of last surviving WWI veterans by country here.

WWI, also known as the Great War, ravaged the European continent for nearly three years before the United States joined their allies to fight in the war. Many of our young men and women lost their lives to serve and protect in the first of two World Wars.

You can enjoy hours of viewing images at the Library of Congress’ digital collection titled World War I in Pictures: An Overview of Prints & Photographs Division Collection.

Remembering Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

I hope my story of meeting Brigadier General James T. Boddie has inspired you to look for the faces of your family’s military veterans. Even if you never find a photograph of your veteran hero, it is important to learn their stories of bravery and sacrifice, both on and off the battlefield.

Do you have a special veteran hero in your family history? We would love to hear about them in the comments below. While you are at it, if you have a picture of your veteran, please post it to our Genealogy Gems Facebook page. We love to hear from you. Thanks for reading, friends!

More Gems on Finding Your Military Veterans

Find Your WWII AncestorsFacebook_Logo

Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

 

Plotting Land with Google Earth Pro

The places where your ancestors lived can tell you a lot about their lives. I’m going to show you a free and easy technique for plotting land in Google Earth. 

plotting land in google earth

episode 67

Would you like to be able to find your ancestor’s property on a map today? Keep reading and watch the video to learn how. We’re going to take U.S. government survey legal land descriptions found in sources such as Federal Land Patents and quickly and easily plot the boundaries in Google Earth Pro. I’ll also show you an easy way to do it for property in Canada too. 

 

Episode 67 Show Notes 

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In the video I show you how to plot the boundaries of a piece of land in Google Earth. We’re going to take U.S. government survey legal land descriptions found in sources such as Federal Land Patents and quickly and easily plot the boundaries in Google Earth Pro. I’ll also show you an easy way to do it for property in Canada too. These strategies come from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox,

Download or Update the Free Google Earth Pro Software

These days there are actually three versions of Google Earth:

  • Google Earth downloadable software
  • Google Earth for Chrome Web browser
  • Google Earth app

All are free, but they are not the same. The app and web browser versions are sort of “Google Earth lite.” The software is what you want because it has all the bells and whistles that will allow you to do all the things I’m going to show you today.

Plotting legal land descriptions in Google Earth has its advantages. If you’re plotting the land of your ancestors, you’ll be able to see what the area looks like today and what the current street names are. In Google Earth you’ll also have access to additional tools that you can use in conjunction with the boundaries you’re going to create, such as historic maps, area photos, and a wide range of data sets that provide more information about the area.

The first thing to do is check to make sure you have the most current version of Google Earth on your computer. Again, we’re using the software so you need to do this on your desktop or laptop computer. You want to make sure you have Google Earth Pro – LINK – A tell tale sign that you don’t is if the Google Earth globe icon on your desktop is grey and not blue. Open it and in the menu go to Help > About Google Earth. Here it should say Google Earth Pro and you can see the version number.

Check the current version number here, and if you don’t already have the program, go ahead and download it.

Now that you have it on your computer, open it up and leave it running in the background. You’ll need a decent internet connection for it to run.

Next pull up the legal land description that you want to plot. Here’s one that I have for some property owned by George Burket. I found this at the Bureau of Land Management Government Land Office Records website. This free website is where you can search for land patent that your ancestors once held.

legal land description - plot in Google Earth

Legal land description at GLO

Even though the Bureau of Land Management places it on the map on their website, you can’t download this or add to it. The advantage of plotting this in Google Earth is that you will have access to much more geographic data, you can add many more details to the map, you can use it in conjunction with other related mapping work that you’re doing, and you can save and share it.  

This description gives us the exact coordinates of the property. Jot down the land description or keep it open in your browser tab so you can refer to it.

In a new browser tab, we’re going to type in http://www.earthpoint.us. This will take us to the Earth Point website.

Search by legal land description

Search by legal land description at Earth Point

This website is free, although some of the features are available only with a paid subscription. Thankfully, the tool for plotting your ancestor’s land patent is free. Some of the free features do require that you sign up for a free account. The feature we are going to use currently does not.

On the Township and Range – Search by Description  page you will see a field for each piece of information found in the land description. It’s important to enter this information in the order presented starting with the State. Select the state from the drop-down menu. Pause a moment to allow the fields to recalculate. This allows the appropriate data to be loaded into the next field based on your selection.

searching land description to plot in Google Earth

Entering data at Earth Point

After you have made each selection, click the Fly to on Google Earth button. This will generate a KML file which can be saved to your computer. KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language, which is the file type that Google Earth uses and understands. KMZ are zipped KML files which also are used by Google Earth.

Save the file to the desired location on your hard drive. Then click the file to open it. It will automatically open in Google Earth (which you already have open). The KML file is now located in your Temporary Places folder in the Places panel. The land is has now been automatically plotted on the map.

The orange outline is the township. In this example it is township T20N R14E. Click the orange ball in the center of the township for details. In the details you’ll find the total number of acres in the township, the latitude and longitude coordinates for the center of the township and corners.

Township in Google Earth

Township in Google Earth

The pink / magenta outline is the Section where the property is. Click the pink center dot for the details:

Land section in Google Earth

Land section in Google Earth

In this example Section 9 consists of 648 acres.

Notice that Earth Point was able to plot the land down to the Section level. However George Burket did not own the entire section. We must return to the land description for the Aliquots.

Aliquots in Legal Land Description

Aliquots in Legal Land Description

In this example, the land was the southeast quarter (SE1/4) of section 9. The land was a total of 160 acres.

We can use the Polygon tool in Google Earth to plot the 160 acres. In the toolbar, click the Polygon tool. This will open the New Polygon dialog box. Type a title, description and source citation.

As you hover your mouse over the map you will notice that the cursor is now a square shape. Click the screen on each of the four corners one at a time in order to set the four corners of the property – in this case the southeast quarter of the section. Once you have drawn the shape you can click on the handle on any corner to adjust precisely.

Click the Style / Color tab in the New Polygon dialog box to adjust the color and opacity of the acreage polygon. You can add color and thickness to the outline, and color and opacity to the fill of the shape. When you have it set the way you want it, click OK to close the New Polygon box. The Polygon is now set.

Moving Plotted Land in the Places Panel

On the left side of the Google Earth screen you will see a series of panels: Search, Places and Layers. At the bottom of the Places panel is the Temporary folder. This is where the KML file was placed when it was opened. However, like its name implies, this is a temporary location. If you want to keep it, you’ll need to move it to a filed location within the Places panel. This will not change the position of the polygon on the map, only where it is filed and saved in the Places panel.

To file a polygon, click on the file in the Places panel, drag it to the desired location, and drop it.  Next, go the main menu and click File > Save My Places. This will save your work so that when you close the program it will not be lost. Google Earth doesn’t auto-save.

Turning Google Earth Polygons On and Off

The polygon plotting the acreage will be visible on the map when the box is checked in the Places panel. If you uncheck the box for the polygon it will still be there, but it will not be visible on the map. This allows you to create and save many items of interest without always having to have them displayed and cluttering up the map in Google Earth.

How to Edit a Polygon in Google Earth

After your land polygon has been set, you may want to rename it. There are two ways to do this:

  1. On a PC right-click on the polygon, either on the map or in the Places panel, and select Rename from the pop-up menu. Type the new name and then press Enter on your keyboard.
  2. Click to select the polygon in the Places panel (highlighting it in blue) and then go to the main menu to Edit > Rename. Type the new name and then press Enter on your keyboard.

You can also restyle the polygon and edit the text. Start by going to the Places panel and click the arrow pointing at the Polygon’s globe icon. This will open it and show the nested content. Click to select the Polygon. Now you can right-click it (PC) and select Properties – OR – go to the menu under Edit > Properties. Either way it will reopen the Polygon dialog box so that you can make the desired changes. When you’re done, click the OK button to close the Polygon.

Saving and Sharing Plotted Land

Snagit is the tool I used to capture the various views of the land I plotted in Google Earth. Learn more about Snag it by watching my videos and reading the show notes for episode 61 (for beginners) and episode 66 (advanced). 

Plotting Canadian Land

Although the Earth Point website doesn’t plot Canadian land, the Legal Land Description Converter website does. It can help you find land in Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan & Manitoba) subdivided by the Dominion Land Survey (DLS) and the Alberta Township System (ATS).

How to Plot Canadian Land

  1. Go to Legal Land Description Converter at https://www.legallandconverter.com.
  2. Enter the Section, Township, Range and Meridian information from the land description.
  3. Click the Calc button.
  4. Click the generated KML file and save it to your computer.
  5. Click the file to open it in Google Earth. It will open in the Temporary folder.
  6. It will fly you the location on the map and outline it for you.
  7. Rename the file if desired, and add source information.
  8. Add source citation.
  9. Drag and drop it to the desired location in your Places panel.
  10. Save your work: File > Save My Places.

Resources

These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership
 
Watch more videos about using Google Earth for genealogy in the “Geographic” section of the on-demand Premium Video classes. (membership required)

Answers to Live Chat Questions

Gwynn: ​I would like to know how to match plat with GPS coordinate/ current street address.
Answer: I cover how to overlay a plat map in Google Earth and discover the current street address in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

Roger D​: How exact do you need to be in picking points? Does Google snap to mid-points of lines? 
Answer: Try to be as exact as you can, however as I showed in the video you can reposition them as needed. Google Earth doesn’t snap. 

Lyn: ​Can I do this with English tithe maps?
Answer: There isn’t a website converter that I know of. However I do cover how to overlay digitized maps in Google Earth in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

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Genealogy Gems Podcast Reaches 1 Million Download Milestone – Infographic

Sometime over the first busy holiday weekend in December 2012, The Genealogy Gems Podcast reached an incredible milestone:  1 Million Episode Downloads!

In early 2007 when I  published the first episode, podcasting was in its infancy, having just come into being in mid-2005.  It was like being part of a new Wild West of technology. For the first time anyone with an interesting idea, a computer, and a willingness to work long hours could produce a worldwide ‘radio’ show. The day I listened to a podcast for the first time, I knew this medium was what I had been waiting for to reach genealogists.

Apparently a lot of other folks were also anxiously looking for new and valuable genealogy information. From long time genealogists to dabbling family history newbies, they flocked to the free podcast available through Apple’s iTunes Store and the Genealogy Gems website (www.GenealogyGems.com). Over the next five years they listened in to soak up genealogy research strategies, expert interviews, tips on harnessing the power of technology in their research, and creative ideas for sharing their findings.

There’s a lot of noise out there online that can be overwhelming. My goal has always been to spend my time sifting through all of that information, and chiseling out the gems – the items that are really worthwhile  – so that you, my listeners, can have faster and greater success . Ultimately I hope that the genealogy gems I provide on the show lead to your own genealogy gems: your precious ancestors!

What started as a single podcast episode has turned in to a multi-media genealogy publishing company. Genealogy Gems now encompasses offerings, many that are free, that accommodate every learning style: audio, video, articles, books, dvds, toolbar, live classes, and online webinars. The Genealogy Gems mobile app (available in the iTunes App Store, and an Android version through Amazon) gives genealogists the flexibility to hit the road and take it all with them. I’m very proud of the team of talented individuals that I’ve assembled who have made this expansion possible.

I speak at events across the U.S. and internationally, but not everyone can get out to a genealogy conference. It’s critical to me that we meet people where they are, and that’s what the Genealogy Gems website, YouTube channel, app, and toolbar are all about. The fact that the podcast has now been downloaded 1 million times confirms that that we are accomplishing that goal.

I hope that you will share this fun, celebratory infographic on Facebook, Pinterest and other social networking sites to help spread the word to others interested in discovering how podcasts can help them reach their genealogy goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Facts about Genealogy Gems:

The Genealogy Gems Podcast launch date: March 1, 2007

Number of free episodes published: 146

Number of countries with listeners: 126

Top 10 Listening Cities in the U.S.:
Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Salt Lake City, Washington DC, Dallas , Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix.

Genealogy Gems App publish date: 2009

Podcast rating in iTunes: 5 Stars (including 53 written reviews)

Recognition:
101 Best Websites List by Family Tree Magazine
Named one of the top 10 apps by App Advice’s “iPad Apps for Hobbyists”

Number of views of the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel:
191,000 and counting (www.youtube.com/genealogygems)

Celebrities featured on the podcast include:
Lisa Kudrow (Friends, Who Do You Think You Are?),
Henry Louis Gates (Oprah’s Roots)
Tim Russell (Prairie Home Companion)
Darby Hinton (Daniel Boone)
Kathy Lennon (The Lennon Sisters)
Ali Selim (Sweet Land)
Tukufu Zuberi (History Detectives)
Linda Chavez (Fox News, Finding Your Roots)

 

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