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.)
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.
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.
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
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:
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:
If 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.
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 counting 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
There 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.
Come 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.
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.