FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Google Maps – Fewer Trips To Get Lat – Longs

Google Maps is going to save me a lot of money.  I won’t have to retrace many earlier trips to ancestral homes, ancestral burial locations and the waypoints along their migratory paths.  

New features in Google Maps provides the latitude and longitude of these locations.  All I have to do it point at them and read.

gmaps_lat_long

In many locations, the resolution of the aerial images is so good that I can point to my ancestors exact tombstone. 

I’ll miss walking through cemeteries with grandsons just to gather the latitude and longitude information of our ancestors markers, but we’ll find another way to spend ‘together’ time.  

I’ve taken photos of ancestral tombstones and homes over the past decades.  Few of them need to be retaken.  The expense of return visits to gather latitude and longitude data can be budgeted toward other research needs.

The advantages of easily obtaining these addresses is a real benefit to genealogists who document their research with these details.

My data in Legacy is ready for these specific addresses because location fields are available for every location in your database.  Latitude and longitude fields are normally populated automatically for cities and towns, but for special locations like homes, tombstones and waypoints, the fields can be populated manually using the information on Google Maps.

If you don’t use Legacy or a similar program, you can still include the location data in their files.  All of those who later use your genealogical data will thank you for including the exact location information.  You can even use the locations to find great aunt Harriet’s grave after you forget its exact location somewhere down the road.  

Scenery changes with time.  Homes are remodeled or torn down, trees and boulders are moved.  The exact locations associated with your ancestors won’t be lost if you include the data in your database.

Enabling latitude and longitude in Google Maps is simple: 

 

1. Click on the green labs beaker.

gmaps_new_icon  

 

2. Enable one or both of the LatLng tools.

gmaps_lat_long_settings

 

It is just that simple.  Point at the map or satellite images in Google Maps and read the exact location beneath your arrow. 

Genealogists everywhere say “Thanks Google”.

 

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2 May 2010 Posted by | Research Tips | , , | Leave a comment

Genealogy Research Live in Palm of Your Hand

I know that a number of you have iPhones.  You probably aren’t aware that you can purchase an application to let you access new FamilySearch on your phone!  Check out the mobileTree application. 

mobileTree iPhone app I keep much of my genealogy and research on my website (some public, some password protected).  Combine online data with mobileTree and the available GPS application and you have a Killer tool for doing genealogy research!

Imagine…..  The billions of records of nFS, your own data, photos, and ability to interface with all of them using a device that fits in the palm of your hand.   Visit a cemetery, get the GPS coordinates of ancestors graves, take a photo of their headstones and post it all to your site and blog(s) on the spot.  No wasted motion or memory loss!  Wow!

If you have an iPhone, I’ll bet Santa would be happy to give you this application if you ask for it.

Continuing on this theme …..

You may not know that you can post your cemetery, research and other photos directly to your blogs via email.   Both Posterous and blogger.com allow postings this way.  All of the posts to my posterous blog are made that way.  

Suppose you are working with family and friends on genealogy and you are on a research trip.  You can share your finds with them in real-time using this method.  I usually have to find a WiFi hot spot or do a little juggling on a public computer at a library or at the FHL to make on-the-spot posts.  

When you have a active research team but haven’t worked together in real-time, you can’t imagine how the synergy in the groups builds momentum and success in your research.   They help guide your on-the-site search with information they have in their far-flung locations.

I’ve frequently experienced this synergy in real-time and guarantee it happens.   Add Skype to the mix for live video, voice and peer-to-peer file transfers and you too can make it ‘Happen’ — Real Time!

Wow #2!  I may have lived long enough to see some of my dreams become reality!  

The tools are here.  Make it happen.

16 November 2009 Posted by | Family History, Genealogy, GPS, Headstones, Research | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GPS and Lost Graves

I’ve visited the grave of my great grandfather a number of times over the years.  It was usually covered with Memorial Day flowers as were most of the graves in the cemetery.   It is a memory of a sea of color and fragrant smells – folks greeting each other, pointing to headstones and markers – a reunion of sorts.

In the last decade, mylar windmills, balloons and plastic blossoms have almost overwhelmed the iris, peonies, babies breath and snowball floral tributes left by us older folks.  There seem to be fewer of us visiting the burial locations of our families now.   There are too many big boy toys, outing distractions and to some degree, lack of respect for our lineage that has become associated with Memorial Day in recent years.

I try to show our grandchildren where their ancestors are buried with pilgrimages to the cemetery every year or so hoping they will retain the ancestral memories after I’m gone or can’t remember them myself in some future day.

Apparently that future day is arriving even as I write this note.  I couldn’t find my great grandfather’s grave this year.  I couldn’t find my aunt’s grave.

There are only 20,000+ burials in the cemetery where their bodies reside and the old parts really haven’t changed that much but apparently someone moved their graves during the past couple of years.

At first I chuckled.  Then I frowned and visually searched for the familiar landmarks that I’ve known since my youth.  Finding some of them, I tried to triangulate and ‘walk to the graves’ like I’d done as a young man.   That didn’t work.  Someone really had moved the graves!

Apparently, the only thing that had moved were a few synaptic links in my brain because after an hour of walking up and down row after row of markers, I finally found the headstones.  I enjoyed reading the markers during my walk but had other graves to visit, clean and photograph that day.

I’ve visited the graves of my ancestors in Plymouth, Massachusetts several times, but during the last visit, I couldn’t walk right to the ones that “I was sure of”.  When have you fly across country to visit a cemetery, ‘wasting’ time to find a grave that you knew you can ‘walk to in my sleep’ but can’t find any longer is an expensive and frustrating exercise.

Could it be that I’ve now been to so many cemeteries in so many locations that they are starting to merge in to a blended picture in my memory?  Probably so.  Have I lost synaptic connections?  Probably so.  Hence, I purchased a GPS specifically for my traveling genealogy kit.

gps-display Now when I visit a cemetery, any cemetery, I record the lat / long coordinates of the headstones of my ancestors.  That data is entered in my database directly tied to their burial data.  Yes, I know that my commercial GPS handheld is only accurate to 14 feet or so of the real spot I’m standing on, even if it has acquired eight or more satellites, but, that means that I should only have to walk a maximum of 28 feet in any direction to find the grave in the future if I can’t ‘walk to it in my sleep’ that day.  I can do that in short order.

I record the information on Find-a-grave, Names In Stone, Picasa, Panoramio, my own genealogy sites and other websites when I post headstone photos on them as well.  Maybe the information will help someone else in the future.  Additionally, I can use my web enabled cell phone to look at those sites and remind me where the graves are located in future visits.

One thing is certain.  I will continue to visit more and more cemeteries in the future.  The blended memory picture of them in my mind will continue to meld into an even more generic image as time goes on.  I’ll probably forget how to exactly walk to even more of the graves too.

I won’t be alone.  You’re all walking down the same path with me.  Some of you are ahead of me.  Some of you are behind but if you love to visit cemeteries like I do, you are right on track to arrive at the same destination eventually.   If you haven’t purchased a GPS handheld or have the software in your iPhone or other device, you might as well put one on your ‘stuff I want list’ so your family and friends will know what to get you for Christmas, birthday or graduation.

Once you start documenting the exact location of graves, you’ll find that it adds to the fun of cemetery visits and you too will be able to find your great grandfathers grave in the future.

17 June 2009 Posted by | Cemetery, GPS, Headstones, Photos | , , , , | Leave a comment