September 21, 2017

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

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #4 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #4Lisa Louise Cooke’s free Google Earth for Genealogy online video is so popular, the announcement about it was our #4 genealogy blog post for the year! Guess what? The online video is still there–and it’s still free.

Google Earth is one of Google’s most powerful tools for helping us understanding our ancestor’s world. (And if you read our #6 top post about other Google technologies you can use for genealogy, you know that’s saying something!)

With Google Earth, we can use satellite imagery, terrain maps, 3-D views of city streets and even overlays of old maps to learn about an ancestor’s town, neighborhood and even the very property they lived on. Even better, as Lisa demonstrates in her free video, we can also use Google Earth to share those discoveries with others in multimedia style.

Click here to “fly” (as Google Earth would say) to Lisa’s FREE Google Earth for Genealogy class!

We hope you are enjoying this week’s celebration of our Top 10 blog posts. Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 posts on our genealogy blog–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, donated by our friends at Family Tree University. Add any comments you’d like on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.

 

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Google Earth Jones St neighborhood

Jones Street, Olyphant, PA, 1910. Image courtesy of Michael Grayson.

When Lisa blogged recently about Google Earth’s 10th birthday, it reminded me of something on my family history “to do” list. A few years ago I found a postcard of what I thought was an ancestor’s neighborhood. Could Google Earth confirm it?

Lisa uses Google Earth’s powerful 3D renderings of the world’s streets to identify where old pictures were taken. I knew from deeds, a plat map, and addresses on censuses and draft registrations that the O’Hotnicky lived on a certain block of Jones St. (now named Grant St.), around the corner from and behind Holy Ghost church.

This postcard of “Jones Street, Olyphant” looks like its viewpoint is from the end of the block behind the church. This would mean the tall tree shown here was shading–and blocking our view of–the O’Hotnicky home.

Olyphant view Google EarthI opened Google Earth and flew to “117 Grant St, Olyphant, PA.” The initial view, hovering from above, was promising. The camera icon shows where I thought the photo was taken. The left arrow points to the former line of trees, in front of the ancestral address. The right arrow points to the church tower behind.

Unfortunately, when I enter Street View at that exact spot, the new church on the corner and a tall apartment building block the view that would have been seen a century ago. There is no Street View available on Grant Street itself so I couldn’t move up the street toward the church. So I moved into Street View along the side street (parallel to the bottom of the photo).

In the opening between two buildings, Google Earth gave me a glimpse of the church tower. I compared the postcard view with Google Earth’s photo. The church towers look so similar: a simple cross on top, pointed copper roof, arched tower and the building roof line. Even more striking to me is the white frame house. Was this the same white house shown in the postcard view?Olyphant detail view Google Earth

These two visuals taken together–the church tower profile and the position of the white house–seem consistent with my theory of where the photo was taken. Which means that yes, indeed, this 1910 postcard shows the trees in front of an ancestor’s home as they appeared 105 years ago.

Google Earth can fly you to an ancestor’s neighborhood–and whatever clues its current landscape gives you into the landscape of the past. Click here to watch Lisa’s free video about using Google Earth for genealogy!

 

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.

How to Find Cemeteries in Google Earth

Google Earth cemeteries iconDo you ever wish there was a master map of all the cemeteries in the world? Well, there is something like that. Let’s talk about how to find cemeteries in Google Earth!

If you use Google Earth, you know it’s more than just one single awesome dimensional map of the world. There are lots of Layers. Literally. And one of those shows cemeteries in Google Earth.

Google Earth Layers are collections of points of geographic interest that have been curated by Google Earth or its content partners. When you click on a Layer, it brings up all those points of interest on your current view of Google Earth.

You’ll find the Layers panel on the bottom left side of your screen. To display all points of interest within a Layer, click the box next to the Layer title. To open a Layer category, click the plus sign next to the label to open the Layer folder, and the minus sign to close it.

There are lots of genealogically-interesting Layers, including Cemeteries. You will find Cemeteries in the More > Place Categories > Places of Worship layer. Make sure the box next to Cemeteries is checked. You’ll see the little icon showing a tree with a little headstone next to it.

how to find cemeteries in Google Earth

Next, search for a location in the Search box to “fly” to a neighborhood in Google Earth where you’d like to find nearby cemeteries. Look for those Cemetery icons. You may need to zoom in or out for them to appear. While not every cemetery is shown, it’s an excellent start!

Click on a cemetery icon. This will open a dialog box containing relevant information about the cemetery, often including the address and telephone number. If the cemetery title is hyperlinked, click it for even more useful information.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to find cemeteries in Google Earth. You can learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition, fully-revised and brand new for 2015. It’s got five chapters devoted to how to use Google Earth for genealogy that are filled with more tips like this one.

And one more thing: did you know that Google Earth Pro is now available for free? Click here to read my post with all the details.

Happy Googling!

 

What you need to know about Google Earth Pro

earth_keyOn January 28, 2015 Google announced that Google Earth PRO is now available for FREE! Not just a free trial. Google is allowing everyone to get a free key to Google Earth Pro!

In the past the software fee was hundreds of dollars. But now you can get Google Earth Pro for free and gain the ability to do things like “measure 3D buildings, print high-resolution images for presentations or reports, and record HD movies” inside Google Earth.To get your free key to Google Earth Pro sign up here. After submitting the form, you will be emailed the free license key. Copy the license key from the email, then click the link provided to download Google Earth Pro app for PC and Mac.

 

Everything I’ve taught you about using Google Earth still applies, but now you have more tools than ever!

 

Since I announced this in the last Genealogy Gems Newsletter, I’ve received several questions. Here’s what you need to know about Google Earth Pro:

 

From Sheri: “I did get it to finally work…..instead of my phone number running together….I added the dashes between the numbers and then it went through.  FYI….in case you hear an issue from others.”

 

google earth pro downloadThanks for the tip Sheri. Most likely the problem you were running into after the big announcement that Google Earth Pro went free was the sheer amount of traffic the site received. Googlers swarmed the site, and any people found it took several attempts to get a successful download. As time passes, it should get quicker and easier to download.

 

From Kathy: “I downloaded the Google Earth Pro BUT now I have regular and Pro on my computer and all the spots marked in regular seemed to have transferred to Pro—Question—should I now uninstall the regular version?”

 

Answer: That decision is really up to you. I’ve decided to keep both for a while, but only do work from this point forward in Pro. If in a few months everything is still running smoothly, then I will probably delete the old free version just to free up disk space on my computer. For now, it certainly doesn’t hurt to leave  it there.

 

The good news is that both programs appear to pull from the same files on your computer. This means that when you create a file in Pro, you will also see it in your Places panel in the free version.

 

Question from Dea: “I downloaded Google Earth Pro on my main computer.  I now want to use the same license key for my laptop and android, as I signed up for 2 to 5 users.  I assumed that I could use the same license key.  When I tried to sign up on my laptop it said I already was a user, but do not know how I can access it from my laptop. Help!”

 

Answer: Although the sign up page asks how many users will be using the program, my understanding is that each download key is for one device. I would guess that the user question is about how many people might be using the application on that device. (Unfortunately the website isn’t clear on this point.) I’m basing this on the fact that when it was a paid version, you had to purchase a license key for each device.

 

As with the original free version of Google Earth, each device you download Google Earth to has it’s own unique Places Panel. In other words, files you create on your desktop computer don’t show up on your laptop. This is because the files are stored on that particular device and not on the Cloud (for privacy reasons).

 

So the bottom line is that to get another license key for another device you will need to use a different email. If you only have one email address, you could create a second free email in Gmail just to have an email you can use.

 

Dea’s Reply: “Thank you for such a prompt reply.  I am sure there must be more than one of you.  I do not know how you get so much accomplished….saw you at Midwest Roots in Indianapolis and, again, at a webinar for our Genealogy Society in Terre Haute, IN.  You are an excellent speaker, teacher as well as entertaining.”

Lisa: Now I’m blushing!!

 

Answers to more questions:

Do you really need Google Earth Pro? Probably not, because Pro was created originally for businesses. However there are some pretty cool extras that you get by going Pro:

  • Movie-Maker: Export Windows Media and QuickTime HD movies, up to 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution. (Sweet!)
  • High-resolution printing: Print images up to 4,800 x 3,200 pixel resolution. (The free version max: 1,000 pixels.)
  • Spreadsheet import: Ingest up to 2,500 addresses at a time, assigning place marks and style templates in bulk. (My geeky side is getting giddy!)
  • Exclusive pro data layers: Demographics, parcels, and traffic count.
  • Advanced measurements: Measure parking lots and land developments with polygon area measure, or determine affected radius with circle measure.

Resources:genealogy television and video

Want to learn more about using Google Earth specifically for genealogy? Check out this free video class.

Google Earth for Genealogy and Toolbox bundleAnd there are several chapters on using Google Earth for genealogy in my brand new book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition (2015). You can pick up as a special bundle here with my 2 disc DVD set Google Earth for Genealogy.