Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is Full-Service Again

The Newberry Library’s online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is finally fully updated and interactive! Read the good news here–and my preference for using the powerful geographic data that drives the Atlas.

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at The Newberry Library’s website has been undergoing upgrades for quite some time. Genealogists who rely on this fantastic online resource to research  old county boundaries in the U.S. have been able to access the basic data that drives the map (dates and geographic boundary changes). But they haven’t been able to use the popular interactive map. Great news: the Atlas is finally fully interactive again.

Changing Boundaries Reflected in the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Understanding changes in county boundaries over time is key to doing genealogy research in the United States. Boundaries have changed repeatedly–and some dramatically. County governments typically keep important genealogical sources: vital records, court records, land records and more. We need to know which county would have housed our ancestors’ records during specific time periods so we can find the records we want.

What’s New at the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

According to the Newberry Library’s press release, users can now:

  • view a base layer map that allows an overlay of boundaries on top of cities, towns and other geographic features;
  • zoom in and out of maps and expand the view to full screen;
  • select a date of interest from a drop-down box with all border change dates for that state; and
  • view information about border changes in a hover box that changes as users hover over different counties.

Here’s what the new interface looks like:

Google Earth Pro vs. the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

It’s great to see improved functionality on the Atlas site. But after reviewing the update, I still think the experience of using data from the site is superior in the free Google Earth Pro (GEP) program. To use the entire data set in Google Earth Pro, simply download the KMZ data file onto your computer,and when you click to open the file, your computer will detect the KMZ format and know to automatically open Google Earth Pro (as long as you already have GEP installed on your computer.)

download files at Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Using the file in GEP allows you to use the data in conjunction with the rest of your genealogical information (such as placemarks indiciating places lived & schools attended, historic  map overlays, embedded old family photos and home movies, etc.). This provides a more integrated genealogical research experience. Learn more by clicking here to watch a free video I’ve made about using Google Earth for genealogy.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Google Earth Converge

Google has announced that it is bringing Google Earth to the HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) headset. Here’s what that could mean for family historians.

Virtual Reality Google Earth
Google Earth VR (virtual reality), which is available through Steam, allows users to visit various landmarks around the world, providing a 360-degree, immersive view. According to Google, “you can fly over a city, stand at the edge of a mountain, and even soar into space.”If you’ve read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, then you already know the potential genealogical goodness that Google Earth can bring to your family history. (If you haven’t, visit my Google Earth for Genealogy page to see what I’m referring to and you’ll quickly embrace the idea.)
And, if you’ve had the opportunity to sit in on my presentation The Future of Technology and Genealogy at a conference or seminar, then you’ve followed along as I explored the potential application of VR to genealogy. It’s a match made in heaven. VR does not only allow us a deeper exploration of our ancestral homelands, but could potentially intertwine with historical imagery.

According to Polygon.com, right now “the app is only available to use through the Vive. Google has not said if it plans to make the program accessible through its new, lower-end VR headset, the Daydream. The company recently released its ultra-powerful, VR-capable phone, the Pixel, so there’s a good chance that Google will eventually bring the app to specific phones.”

Since Microsoft announced in October it was working on a program called HoloTour (which allows headset wearers to visit different cities around the world through VR), the competition should encourage expansion beyond just global landmarks. But, it’s a start!

Watch this video to see it in action.

Learn More About Virtual Reality and Genealogy Tech

10 Genealogy Tech Tools You Can’t Live Without is an hour long video lecture and it’s available in our Premium Member features! Click the title to pop on over, or if you are not a Premium Member yet, become a member today.

Did you have the View Master toy as a kid? Well, see how virtual reality is changing your favorite old play thing into something magnificent by reading, View Master Toys are Going Virtual Reality.

Calculate Lot Size for an Ancestor’s Property with Free Online Tool

Use this free online tool to calculate lot size for an ancestor’s piece of property. The drawing tools overlaid on Google Maps help you determine the area of a lot and distances along its perimeter. 

Researching a family piece of property can be tricky for several reasons. But there’s an easy and free tool you can use to help you calculate the size of an ancestor’s lot. It’s FindLotSize.com. This is what it looks like to use:

findlotsize 1 calculate lot size

Here’s how to use it to calculate lot size:

1. Go to FindLotSize.com.

2. Enter a street address and click Go. (If you don’t know an exact street address, get as close as you can, then zoom around on the screen until you can see the property of interest.)

3. Zoom in (or out) to the level that you can see all the lot boundaries.

4. Click on one corner of the lot. A red marker will appear. Then click on the other corners in sequence to draw the perimeter. You don’t need to “close the gap” by clicking a second time on the starting point; the site will automatically assume you mean for the last point you enter to connect to the first. The site will calculate the lot size in square meters/kilometers, square feet/yards and acres.

Here are a couple more tips for using the site:

  • findlotsize 2 calculate lot sizeIf you wish to know the distance around the perimeter, click Distance. (You can measure individual distances, such as the width of the lot at the back, by only clicking on the points between which you want to measure.)
  • In the upper left are options to view satellite or map images. The satellite view is a bird’s eye view of the land today. You’ll see fence lines, roads, hedges and other practical clues to property boundaries. But sometimes these are obscured by tree cover. If you click on “map,” you’ll see a simple line rendering, like a traditional map, but with many buildings outlined. Depending on the tree cover, you may find this view helpful.

georeference historic map overlay in Google EarthMore Genealogy Mapping Gems

Google Earth + Old Map = Family History Discovery

4 Great Local History Apps for Genealogy

4 Steps for Using Google Earth for Genealogy

NGS 2016: Attend Virtually with Streaming Sessions

NGS 2016 offers a virtual streaming package for online attendees this year–and Lisa’s new Google Earth class is part of it!

The National Genealogical Society (U.S.) is colive streaming from ngs 2016unting down to its annual conference on May 4-6 in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Now you can count down the days, too, even if you can’t attend in person. NGS 2016 is offering registration packages with remote access to 10 live-streaming lectures that you can watch from your own computer or mobile device.

One of Lisa Louise Cooke’s NGS lectures, “How to Follow and Envision Your Ancestor’s Footprints Through Time with Google Earth,” is among the classes being streamed.  Here’s a quick run-down of the two days:

Day 1: Land Records, Maps and Google Earth:

  • Mapping Apps for Genealogists, Rick Sayre, CGSM, CGLSM, FUGA.
  • Private Land Claims, Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA (on foreign land grants and subsequent records that proved legal ownership in territorial areas prior to U.S. acquisition)
  • Are You Lost: Maps and Gazetteers for English and Welsh Research, Paul Milner
  • Deed Books: More Than Just Land Records, Vic Dunn, CG
  • How to Follow and Envision Your Ancestor’s Footprints Through Time with Google Earth, Lisa Louise Cooke

Day 2: Problem Solving with Proper Methodology, Historical Context and DNA

  • Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • Sharing With Others: How to Convey Evidence, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG
  • Systematically Using Autosomal DNA Test Results to Help Break Through Genealogical Brick Walls, Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • Helen F. M. Leary Distinguished Lecture, Ethics in Genealogy— Professional and Personal, David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA
  • Doughnut Holes and Family Skeletons: Meeting the GPS through Negative and Indirect Evidence, Stefani Evans, CG

NGS 2016 official social media badgeThere are Live Streaming access registrations options for each day (5 lectures each for $65/$80) or a bundle for both days ($110/$145). (Prices are for NGS members/non-members.) It’s a fabulous price to access classes that were hand-picked from among the top-notch instruction provided at NGS. The lectures will air as they happen on May 5-6, but virtual attendees will have access to the classes for a full 3 months (through August 7, 2016).

For NGS members who purchase access all 10 classes, they’re paying just $11 per class! Click here for more info and to register. And watch the calendar–registration for NGS 2016 Live Streaming access ends April 22, 2016 at midnight.

Picture3Come see us at NGS 2016! After a fabulous response last year, Genealogy Gems will once again host FREE presentations in the Exhibitor Hall. Join us in our brand new Genealogy Gems theater. Our popular sessions help you think outside the box for greater genealogy success (and have fun and get free swag while you’re at it). Click here to check out the full Genealogy Gems Theater schedule.

Lisa Louise Cooke Coming to CA: OCCGS Genealogy Bash

occgs genealogy bash Lisa Louise CookeAre you in or near Orange County, California? Come see Lisa Louise Cooke this weekend at the OCCGS Genealogy Bash!

On March 5, 2016, Lisa Louise Cooke will be speaking at the Orange County, California Genealogical Society. “A Day with Lisa Louise Cooke” Genealogy Bash and Book Faire will have something for everyone! Lisa will be giving four of her popular lectures:

  • Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries
  • Google! Everything New that You Need to Know for Genealogy
  • How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case
  • Future Technology and Genealogy

WHAT: Lisa Louise Cooke at the OCCGS Genealogy Bash
WHEN: March 5, 2016
WHERE: Huntington Beach Central Library, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach, CA
REGISTER: Click here for more information

In addition to Lisa’s lectures, the OCCGS Genealogy Bash will offer:

  • A huge genealogy book sale (bargain prices for over 1000 books),
  • Free beginners classes (limited seating–see the society website) and
  • Chances to win fabulous prizes, including a year’s Ancestry World membership worth $300, a 3-day stay at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, and other prizes worth a total of $2000.

The day before, on March 4, Lisa will be at Aliso Viejo Library (OC Public Library system) in Laguna Hills, California. She’s teaching Google Earth for Genealogy at 10:00 am.

Attending both days will give you the ultimate Google for genealogy experience: Lisa’s Google search methodology PLUS her unique take on Google Earth. You’ll come away with powerful new tools and strategies for finding your family history in free Google resources that are literally at your fingertips every time you go online.

Google Earth for Genealogy and Toolbox bundleCan’t attend? You can still learn Google expertise from Lisa in her book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (2nd edition completely updated in 2015) and Google Earth for Genealogy, a 2-CD set that’s also available as a digital download. Purchase these products individually by clicking on the links above, or bundle and save!

More Google for Genealogy Gems

Google Earth for Genealogy: A Free Video Introduction

Google Search Tips 101: Keyword Search Tips

7 Google Search Features Everyone Should Use

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