Since most of us don't have famous, well-documented ancestors, much of our work as genealogists entails solving mysteries and connecting the dots of details of people who lived somewhere else in a different era. Part of the fun can be channeling our inner Sherlock Holmes (sorry, couldn't resist) to tease out the solutions to these old mysteries.
Visualizing where our ancestors were is crucial to understanding them, and as a result maps have always been important in genealogy. Google Earth has been such a boon for anyone trying to solve new or old mysteries (from crime analysts, to real and armchair archaeologists, to genealogists of course), so I wanted to do a little round up of the cool genealogy-related stuff people are doing with the tool.
Wikipedia's article on Family tree mapping (defined as "the process of geocoding places in family tree files to produce geospatial data suitable for viewing with a virtual globe or 2D mapping program") includes a listing of past and present genealogical computer programs. Some of these programs use Google Earth and/or Google Maps.
Mickey Mellen's Google Earth Blog covers everything Google Earth, including some uses for genealogy (although I think anything map related is grist for the genealogy mill), while Eric Stitt has devoted an entire little blog, Genealogy through Google Earth, to the topic.
Nancy Hendrickson's post about using The Newberry Library's Atlas of Historical County Boundaries layer is helpful for anyone trying to get a handle on the ever-changing county boundaries in the American colonial era to the present. Hendrickson gives the steps to incorporate the boundary changes right into Google Earth.
Dr. Margaret McMahon (from A Week of Genealogy) has a tutorial on how to take the information of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) General Land Office (GLO) Records and display them in Google Earth. This is incredibly useful for those of us with American ancestors who bought land from the Federal government in the 19th and 20th centuries, and want to visualize those properties on Google Earth. (NOTE: The BLM site itself allows you to map land patents but that viewer is powered by Esri. Earth Point is a subscription service that provides a variety of tools to use with Google Earth, although I haven't tried it yet. I personally use HistoryGeo.com, a subscription service that maps the land boundary for each land patent by the BLM, but I don't see a way to transfer that mapping easily to Google Earth.)
Lisa Louise Cooke has two videos (they appear to cover the same material) showing some creative ways to use Google Earth for genealogy. Here is a 2011 .pdf outline of the videos. I don't have her proprietary software, but I think it is very nice that she shares free information online. Very smart! After seeing Ms. Cooke's presentation at her local genealogical society, Linda (from the Empty Branches on The Family Tree blog) was inspired to list good sources for historical maps to use in Google Earth.
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