Ways to Use Google Earth for Genealogy – Elevenses with Lisa Episode 12
Episode 12 Video and Show Notes
Live show air date: June 18, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.
The first 4 minutes of the video is the “Waiting Room.” This welcomes viewers and counts down to the start of the live show. This week’s Waiting Room features a Google Earth tour of about 100 Elevenses with Lisa viewers who have commented in the Chat forum during the YouTube Live show.
The Google Earth discussion begins at the 5:15 mark.
Today Topic: Ways to Use Google Earth for Genealogy
Google Earth Pro is now free and simply known as Google Earth. It’s available in three forms:
- Google Earth Web (in the Chrome browser),
- the Google Earth app,
- and downloadable desktop computer software which offers the most robust set of tools.
This session focuses on the desktop software.
Google Earth provides a 360-degree, 3-dimensional way to view your ancestor’s world! It’s a tool that can be used for solving genealogical questions as well as visually telling the stories of your ancestors’ lives.
From Lynnette: “I love spending time with you on Elevenses. I was especially thrilled to view the google earth for genealogy segment on Episode #11 especially because San Francisco is my hometown (although I grew up in Menlo Park).
All of my great grandparents came to San Francisco in the mid-late 1850’s. So, I decided to jump into Google Earth and see if I could find the homes of my family.
There definitely is a learning curve for Google Earth but I am wading through all of the help you have on your website! I just ordered your toolbox book also. I was thrilled to see that you will be doing Google Earth on June 18 on Elevenses.
My great grandparents, George and Sarah Atkinson’s home was located 1876 15th Street, SF. I entered the address into Google Earth and up popped their home. AMAZING!
Very few changes have been made since they resided there about100 years ago. It is incredible!
My grandfather’s shop was at 1785 15th Street and they had previously lived at 11 Clementina St. Neither on theses places exist now but I have located all of the places on the David Rumsey 1915 SF map although I have not figured out how to add it to Google Earth I have wonderful large photos of all of these places.
My family actually did not live far from yours. Google Earth has added a new dimension to my desire to preserve and share my family history. Thanks again for all of the fantastic hints, inspiring stories, and wonderful ideas and encouragement that you provide! Happy grandmothering! (We have 38 grandchildren!)”
After watching this episode Lynnette followed up on her progress.
“It was fun to see my information on your Elevenses this morning! I really want to put this all together. I have added the 1915 SF map and pinned the home on Clementina and the home and shop on 15th Street. I have added a description but can’t figure out how to add the actual old photo to the description! Will keep working on it! (Note from Lisa: See Chapter 18, page 201 in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)
George Atkinson was a wood turner. He exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. I had fun looking at YouTube videos last night of the fair. You are just giving us too many great ideas! Thank you. (Lisa’s note: Read my article How to Find Family History on YouTube in 5 Steps.)
I also found some other interesting information on your website. The article and map of shipwrecks around Ireland was fascinating. (Note: She is referring to my article 5 Free Online Historical Maps for Genealogy.) I actually located the site where my great uncle George Henry Flack died on the shipwreck of the Alfred D Snow in 1888. You never know what can be found even after an exhaustive search!”
Getting Started with Google Earth
Download the free software by following these steps:
- Go to http://www.google.com/earth/download/gep/agree.html
- Click the blue download button
- Read the Terms and Conditions
- If you agree to them, click the Agree and Download button
- Follow the installation guide
- When complete click Run Google Earth (Your computer must be connected to the Internet.)
Navigating Google Earth on the Desktop
The Google Earth software is comprised of the following components:
View the globe and its terrain in this window. Use the navigation tools in the upper right corner to zoom in and out and view the map from different perspectives.
The toolbar above the 3-D Viewer provides one click access to Google Earth tools such as placemarks, polygons, overlays, paths, tours, historical imagery, emailing, printing, and more.
Locate a geographic location by typing the address, latitude and longitude coordinates, or names of the location (ex. Library of Congress) in the search box.
Save, organize, and revisit your placemarks and maps in the Places Panel. These are your private files, stored on your computer.
Access a collection of points of geographic interest that can be displayed on the 3-D Viewer. Includes features such as roads, cemeteries, churches, and historical maps.
Cemeteries in Google Earth
You can use Google Earth to search for cemeteries in the areas where you ancestors lived. Start by searching for the name and town in the Search box. Google Earth can also show you where cemeteries are. It’s fairly comprehensive but of course may not include all tiny privately family cemeteries.
How to Find Cemeteries and Houses of Worship with Google Earth:
- In the Layers panel click to open More
- Click Place Categories
- Toward the bottom of the list click the small arrow to open Places of Worship
- In the nested menu click Cemeteries. Small cemetery icons should appear on the map. If you don’t see them right away, try zooming in or out depending on how close to the ground you are.
- In this list you can also click to turn on a variety of places of worship such as churches and synagogues.
- Hover your mouse over an icon to reveal the name.
- Click the icon to reveal the pop-up box which may contain more information including a website link or photo.
Rumsey Historic Maps
How to Find and Turn on History Maps:
- In the Layers panel, click to open (Click the small arrow next to Gallery to open the nested menu.)
- Click the box for Rumsey Historic Maps.
- You should see Rumsey icons appear on the screen. If you don’t, zoom farther out until you do.
- Click the desired Rumsey icon on the map.
- Click the map thumbnail image in the pop-up box to overlay the map.
How to Download More Rumsey Maps:
- Click any Rumsey icon
- At the bottom of the pop-up box click the link that says Download links to all Rumsey historical maps.
- This will download a file containing several hundred more historic map overlays to the Temporary folder at the bottom of the Places
- Drag and drop the file onto MyPlaces at the top of the Places
- Save your work in the menu: File > Save > Save MyPlaces.
Search for and download more free historic maps from the David Rumsey website. The features nearly 100,000 historic maps. Read my article The Best Way to Find Old Maps for Genealogy at the David Rumsey Website for instructions on finding and downloading free maps from the David Rumsey website.
Placemarks are the Containers for Your Content
You can use placemarks to mark locations on the map. They can be customized with a variety of icons and can be colored coded. Placemarks can include photos, images, text, website links and HTML code.
How to Create a Placemark:
- In the PLACES panel click the tour folder once to highlight it
- Zoom to the location where you want to add content
- Click the PLACEMARK button in the Google Earth toolbar
- Name the placemark and add a description of what it will include if you wish
- Click OK to close the placemark dialogue box
- Now the placemark appears in your tour folder and on the map.
- To edit the placemark so you can add additional content, right-click the placemark in the PLACES panel and select PROPERTIES
- When done click the OK button at the bottom of the placemark dialogue box
Cooke, Lisa Louise, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Genealogy Gems Publications, print. www.ShopGenealogyGems.com
Cooke, Lisa Louise, Google Earth for Genealogy digital video download series, Genealogy Gems Publications, www.ShopGenealogyGems.com
Use coupon code EARTH11 to get 25% off both of these resources.
Genealogy Gems Premium Member Videos on this Subject:
Log into your membership here on the website. In the menu under Premium click Premium Videos and then click the Geographic topic tile. There you will find 6 videos with downloadable handouts:
- Google Earth for Genealogy (Beginner)
- Create a Free Google Earth Historic Map Collection
- 5 Ways to Use Old Maps for Genealogy
- Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps
- Time Travel with Google Earth (Intermediate)
- Finding and Using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
I picked up my mug a few years ago while on the road to one of my speaking gigs. We stopped by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri and toured the famed author’s beloved Rocky Ridge Farm.
From the Website:
The Historic Farmhouse
“As visitors make their trek to the historic Rocky Ridge Farm, the first sight they’ll see is Laura’s and Almanzo’s beloved farmhouse. It remains as it was in 1957 and stands as an official project of the Save America’s Treasures National Trust for Historical Preservation.
Laura, Almanzo and daughter, Rose, arrived in Mansfield from South Dakota, August 30, 1894. They purchased a forty-acre farm, which had a one-room log cabin near the spring and ravine. After living in the log cabin through the first winter they built a room onto the side of it in the spring of 1895. The next spring (1896) they moved the new room to the present historic house location, where it is now the kitchen. A second room, with an attic space above it, was added to create a two-room house with an attic bedroom for Rose.”
Stay smart and stay brave! Thanks so much for watching friend. I’ll talk to you soon.
Next Episode of Elevenses with Lisa
Episode 13 will air Live on June 25, 2020 at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Set your reminder now here at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.
Live Chat PDF– Click here to download the live Chat from episode 12 which includes my answers to your questions.
Show Notes PDF – Genealogy Gems Premium Members can click here to download the show notes PDF for this episode. (Log in required.) Become a Premium Member here.
I Want to Hear from You
At the end of the episode I suggested that you try and map out your own story starting by setting a placemark in the location where you were born. Did you give it a try? What other projects are you excited to get going on? And of course I’m always interested in your questions and feedback. Please leave a comment below. This is your chance to join our community’s conversation!
4 Steps for Using Google Earth for Genealogy
Use Google Earth for genealogy to find long-lost family locations on modern maps. Here’s how!
It can be very surprising to discover that you lived somewhere that you never knew you lived. That was the case for Professional genealogist Alvie Davidson, who recently wrote to me. He’d done some fantastic sleuthing on his own recent family history, and discovered that his family had lived in Huntsville, Alabama when he was a toddler. “This is the first I have even known they lived in Madison County, AL.” But he was not sure about how to use Google Earth to help him locate the family addresses he’d discovered.
“I have learned from the U S Government that my parents lived at (three) different addresses in Huntsville, Madison County, AL when I was a toddler in 1944….I never knew we lived in Huntsville but I learned my mother worked for munitions productions during World War II at Redstone Arsenal. She worked several months toward the end of 1944 and had to quit due to onset of pregnancy. We moved to Florida shortly after she left employment at Redstone Arsenal because we show up on the 1945 Florida State Census.”
Alvie sent me three family addresses. Then he asked for some step-by-step help instructions on how to put Google Earth to work to identify their location today.
4 Steps to Revealing More with Google Earth
1. Search each address in Google Earth. Enter the address in the search box in the upper left corner of Google Earth. If you get a hit, mark it with a placemark (clicking the button that looks like a push pin in Google Earth’s toolbar) and name it. In this case I found two of the three street addresses.
2. Locate a map of the area for the appropriate time period. With a little Google searching, I found the 1940 census enumeration map for Huntsville at the National Archives website. Here’s what that map looks like. (Image right) I then went in search of each of the three addresses on the map.
In this case, I conducted a block-by-block search of the 1940 enumeration district map for the missing address: 110 Winston Street. Unfortunately, not all the street names were clearly legible on this particular map, and I was unable to locate it.
You can learn more about locating enumeration district maps in my article How to Find Enumeration District Maps.
Genealogy Gems Premium Members: log in and watch my Premium video 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps featuring instruction for locating and using enumeration district maps.
3. Overlay and georeference the enumeration district map in Google Earth to compare the past to the present. Georeference just means to match up known landmarks on the historic map with physical locations on the modern-day map, thereby allowing you to match the two maps up together. By so doing, I was able to locate on the enumeration district map the modern-day locations of the two addresses that I found using Google Earth.
There are businesses in both locations today. Below right is a screen shot showing the current location of one of those addresses. Clearly no longer the old family home.
4. Dig deeper for addresses that have changed. As I mentioned previously, I searched for the 110 Winston Street address in Google Earth with no result. If that happens to you, remove the house number and run a second search on the street name alone. Numbers can change, but it is important to verify whether the street still exists today.
In this case, Google Earth did not locate a Winston Street in Huntsville, AL. Knowing that errors and typos can happen to the best of us, I ran a quick Google search for Huntsville, AL city directories, and verified that indeed Winston Street did exist at that time in history. So, at some point between 1940 and today, the name appears to have been changed.
I headed back to Google and ran the following search query:
“winston street” “huntsville alabama”
The quotation marks tell Google that each exact phrase must appear in all search results. The phrases will appear in bold in the snippet descriptions of each result.
The result above caught my eye because it mentions the “Winston Street Branch Library.” Even when street names change, buildings named for those streets often don’t. However, in this case, the website discusses the history of the library, and the Winston Street Elementary School. According to the website, the library “became a part of the Huntsville Public Library (now Huntsville-Madison County Public Library) in 1943. In 1947, the branch was renamed the Dulcina DeBerry Library.” Perhaps the street was renamed at that time as well.
Genealogy Gems Premium Members: Sign in and watch the Ultimate Google Search Strategies video class to learn more.
Jumping back into Google Earth I entered “Winston Street Branch Library” in the search box, and was immediately taken to the location, which is just south of the other two known addresses! At this point I would recommend to Alvie, who is a Genealogy Gems Premium Member, to watch my video class Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps to track down additional maps from the time frame that may have Winston Street clearly marked on the map.
Once I identified this landmark, I then marked the location with a placemark. You can turn off the 1940 enumeration district map overlay by unchecking the box next to it in the Places Panel. Doing this revealed the location on the modern day map. Finally, I headed to the Layers panel and clicked the box next to the “Roads” overlay to reveal the modern day street names.
You can use this technique when you have more success than I did in finding an old address on an old map. Overlay the map, position a placemark on the location, and then turn the overlay off. With one click of the Roads layer you can now see the current street name for the old location you found on the map overlay.
Further digging online did deliver additional maps from the era and area:
We all have locations in our family history that have given way over time to new buildings and parking lots. By using the power of Google Earth, Google search, and historic maps, they don’t have to be lost forever.
Get Started with Google Earth for Genealogy
FREE video: Get Started with Google Earth for Genealogy
Google Bundle! The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition PLUS learn how to create your own historical map overlays in my Google Earth for Genealogy 2-video CD set.
Use Google Earth to Plot Your DNA Matches
Ancestral Landmark Discovery Using Google Earth for Family History
Thom learned how to use Google Earth for family history after watching my free Google Earth for Genealogy video, and then made a landmark discovery: his ancestors’ pond, business and a photo of his family at work.
This Using Google Earth for Family History success story was recently sent in by Thom, a young genealogist who blogs at The Millennial Genealogist. Be sure to click on the picture that goes with his story–it’s really neat.
Thom’s Google Earth Story
“I am writing to share with you a TOTAL (and entirely unexpected) success in using Google tools for my research.
By way of introduction, I am a young genealogist (age 21) from Massachusetts. I recently discovered your podcast and have been working through the archived episodes on my daily 1.5 hour commute.
I watched your Google Earth presentation last weekend, and had some time to try your tips out after work today.
My family has strong roots in North Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts. So I decided that my first task would be to find a good historical map to overlay. A quick Google search yielded a 1943 USGS map of the greater Attleboro area on the University of New Hampshire website. Some quick adjustments left me with this great result:
My curiosity having been piqued, I began exploring the map. I know that two sets of my second-great-grandparents, Bert Barrett and Grace Freeman, and James Adams and Elizabeth Todd, all lived near Oldtown Church (presently the First Congregational Church). I zoomed in:
Looking at Google’s current street names, Oldtown Church is right by the intersection of Mt. Hope and Old Post (you’ll note the small cross). Now keep following Mt. Hope Street – do you see what I see? Todd’s Pond! I just knew this couldn’t be a coincidence. So I went straight to Google again:
And the very first result, a page within a Google Book on the history of North Attleboro, was astonishing:
“In the days before electric refrigeration, North Attleborough’s homes and stores relied upon ice harvested from either Whiting’s Pond or Todd’s Pond (depicted here).
By the time this 1906 photograph was taken, farmers George, Henry, James, and William Todd found selling ice more profitable than farming and founded the Oldham Ice Co.
Todd’s Pond was located on the westerly side of Old Post Road near the corner of Allen Avenue. The Oldtown Church is visible in the background.”
From North Attleborough by Bob Lanpher, Dorothea Donnelly and George Cunningham (Images of America series, Arcadia; click here to see the picture that goes with this photo, along with other pictures he found with a follow-up visit to the area.)”
Mentioned by name are great-great-grandmother Elizabeth’s four brothers, George, Henry, James, and William Todd. What a spectacular find!
I plan to reach out to the local museum that prepared the book to see if they can provide a better copy, and even additional media should I be so fortunate.
In short, I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU so very much! Had I not been exploring Google Earth at your suggestion, I’m not sure if I ever would have ever noticed “Todd’s Pond.”
The Power of Google Used for Genealogy
I hope you are using Google Earth for family history! Paired with Google Books and the rest of rest of Google’s genealogy tool box, it can help you unearth fascinating facts about your family history.
Here’s an image I found (using Google Images) that shows the process of harvesting ice, a profession long gone with the age of modern refrigeration.
Resources for Using Google Earth for Family History
In my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, I’ll teach you how to use Google Earth for family history, along with Google Books, Google Images and more.
My Google Earth for Genealogy video tutorial series will then round out your education.
Both are packed with step-by-step instructions and examples from my own family history research to inspire you. Google and all its powerful tools are FREE. Why not invest some time in learning to harness its power?
More Google Earth for Family History Success Stories
Click below to read more Genealogy Gems articles on how you can use Google Earth for your family history research:
Alvie Discovers His Unknown Childhood Home: 4 Steps for Using Google Earth for Genealogy
Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood?
Have you had success using any of these techniques? Please leave a comment below.
How German Address Books at Ancestry.com are Helping Bust Brick Walls
My genealogy research looks a lot like yours. Some family tree lines go back to pre-Revolutionary War. Other lines are richly researched well into the early 19th century.
And then there’s THAT family line. You know the one I mean. The one where the courthouse containing the records we need has burned down, or the records were microfilmed ages ago but are still sitting in the FamilySearch granite vault due to copyright issues. Or worst of all, it appears the needed records just don’t exist.
Don’t let these obstacles allow you to give up hope.
Every day, new records are being discovered and digitized. Records that have been languishing in a copyright stalemate might suddenly be cleared for publication. Or a cousin could contact you out of the blue and has the letters your grandmother sent hers. We never know when the records we’ve been waiting for, searching for, and yearning for, will bubble up to the surface.
Today I’m happy to share my story of a recent breakthrough that I never saw coming. Follow along with me as I take newly unearthed rocks and use tools to turn them into sparkling gems.
This is Almost Embarrassing
My one, agonizing family line that stops short in its tracks ends with my great grandfather Gustave Sporowski.
It’s almost embarrassing to admit. I’ve been at this nearly my whole life, and genealogy is my career for goodness sake! But there it is, a family tree with lovely far-reaching limbs except for this little stub of a branch sticking out on my maternal grandmother’s side.
I was about eight years old the first time I asked my grandma about her parents and their families. (Yes, this genealogy obsession goes back that far with me!) I still have the original page of cryptic notes she scratched out for me during that conversation.
She had several nuggets of information about her mother’s family. However, when it came to her father Gustave, she only recalled that he was the youngest of seven brothers. No names came to mind. I’ve always felt that if I could just identify some of the brothers, one of them may have records that provide more details about their parents.
According to his Petition for Naturalization, Gustave Sporowksi and Louise Nikolowski were married in LutgenDortmund, Germany. This indicated that both moved west from East Prussia before emigrating. While I knew Louise’s immediate family were in the LutgenDortmund area as well, I had no idea whether Gustave moved there on his own or with his family.
Gus (as he was later known) emigrated from Germany in 1910, landing at Ellis Island. He toiled in the coal mines of Gillespie, Illinois, and eventually earned enough money to move his wife and children west to California in 1918.
After filing his papers and years of waiting, he proudly became a U.S. citizen in 1940.
On that paperwork, he clearly states his birthplace as Kotten, Germany. You won’t find this location on a map today. In 1881, the year he was born, the area was East Prussia. I remember the hours I spent with gazeteers many years ago trying to locate that little village nestled just within the border of Kreis Johannisburg. Being so close to the border meant that he could have attended church there or in a neighboring district.
The records in the area are scarce, and today the entire area is in Poland.
Surprisingly, the records situation is quite the opposite with his wife Louise, also from East Prussia. She lived not far away in Kreis Ortelsburg, and the records for the church her family attended in Gruenwald are plentiful. I’ve managed to go many more generations back with her family.
And so, poor Gus alone sits in my family tree.
I periodically search to see if there’s anything new that has surfaced, but to no avail. I even hired a professional genealogical firm to review my work and suggest new avenues. I guess it is good news to hear you’ve pursued all known available leads, but it’s not very rewarding.
Over time, we tend to revisit tough cases like this less frequently. They become quiet. Digital dust begins to settle on the computer files.
And then it all changes.
German Address Books at Ancestry.com
I regularly make the rounds of the various genealogy websites, making note of new additions to their online collections. I typically publish the updates on a weekly basis here on the Genealogy Gems blog. It makes my day when readers like you comment or email, bursting with excitement about how one of the collections I mentioned busted their brick wall. I love my job.
This week I’m the one who is bursting!
It started simply enough. My third stop on my regular records round-up tour was Ancestry.com. The list of new records was particularly robust this week. The word “Germany” always catches my eye, and the second item on the list jumped out at me:
Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974
I should have had a healthy dose of skepticism that I would be fortunate enough to find anything. But to be perfectly honest, I felt instinctively that I would! Have you ever just had that feeling that your ancestors are sitting right there ready to be found? If you’ve been researching your family history for a while, then I’m guessing you have. Such a nice feeling, isn’t it?
So, I clicked, and I simply entered Sporowski in the last name field and clicked Search.
Experience has taught me that there haven’t been a lot of folks through history with this surname, so I’m interested in taking a look at anyone who pops up in the results. And yippie aye oh, did they ever pop up!
The results list include 31 people with the surname of Sporowski!
These names came from the pages of address books much like the city directories so common in the U.S. Since this collection was new to me, I took a moment to read up on the history.
GENEALOGY RESEARCH TIP: Learning the History of the Genealogy Record Collection
To truly understand what you are looking at when reviewing search results, we need to acquaint ourselves with the history of the collection.
- Why was it created?
- What does it include?
- What does it not include?
Look to the left of the search results and click Learn more about this database.
It’s definitely worth clicking this link because the next page may also include a listing of Related Data Collections, some of which you might not be aware. These could prove very useful, picking up the pace to finding more records.
In the case of foreign language records, look for a link to the Resource Center for that country. There you may find translation help and tips for interpreting handwriting and difficult-to-read script.
On the Learn more about this database page, I learned some important things about these search results.
First, not every citizen was listed. Only heads of households were included. This means that wives and children would not appear. I did find some widows, though, because they were the head of their household.
Second, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) was used on this collection. Ancestry suggests looking for errors and providing corrections. But this information about OCR also implies something even more important to the genealogist. We must keep in mind that OCR is not perfect. In this case, I planned on browsing the collection after reviewing the search results to ensure I didn’t miss anyone. This would include targeting people listed in the “S” section of directories for towns I might expect the family to be.
I was particularly thrilled to see the name “Emil Sporowski” on the list.
Several months ago I found a World War I Casualty list from a newspaper published in 1918.
On it was listed Emil Sporowski and he was from the village of Kotten. This was the first mention of Gustave’s birthplace in the record of another Sporowski that I had ever found. So, you can imagine my delight as I stared at his name in the address book search results.
The icing on that cake was that he was listed in the address book of Bochum. That town name was very familiar to me because I had seen it on a few old family photos in Louise Sporowski’s photo album. Although the photos did not have names written on them, I could easily identify the folks who had the facial characteristics of Louise Nikolowski’s clan, and those sporting the large eyes with heavy lids like Gus.
Spreading the German Addresses Out with Spreadsheets
With one and a half pages delivering a total of 31 Sporowski names, I knew I had some work ahead of me to tease them apart. This got me thinking of Genealogy Gems Podcast episode that I’m currently working on, which features a conversation with professional genealogist Cari Taplin. When I asked Cari how she organizes her data, she told me that she uses spreadsheets. I’m not typically a spreadsheet kind of gal, but in this case, I could see the benefits. Spreadsheets offer a way to get everybody on one page. And with the power of Filters and Sorting you slice and dice the data with ease. My first sort was by town.
GENEALOGY RESEARCH TIP: Free Genealogy Gems Download
Click here to download the simple yet effective spreadsheet I used for this research project. If you find your German ancestors in this collection, it’s ready to use. Otherwise, feel free to modify to suit your needs in a similar situation.
As you can see in the spreadsheet, these address books include occupations. For example, Emil was listed both as a Schmied and a Schlosser. A simple way to add the English translation to my spreadsheet was to go to Google.com and search Google Translate. Words and phrases can be translated right from the results page.
You can also find several websites listing German occupations by Googling old german occupations.
I quickly ran into abbreviations that were representing German words. For example, Lina Sporowski is listed with as Wwe .
A Google search of german occupations abbreviations didn’t bring a website to the top of the list that actually included abbreviations. However, by adding one of the abbreviations to the search such as “Wwe.” it easily retrieved web pages actually featuring abbreviations.
One of the top results was by friend of the podcast Katherine Schober and her SK Translations blog post called 19 Most Common Abbreviations in German Genealogy.
GENEALOGY RESEARCH TIP: Use Search Operators when Googling
Notice that I placed the abbreviation in quotation marks when adding it to my Google search query. Quotation marks serve as search operators, and they tell Google some very important information about the word or phrase they surround.
- The quotation marks tell Google that this word or phrase must appear in every search result. (If you’ve ever googled several words only to find that some results include some of the words, and other results include others, this will solve your problem.)
- They also tell Google that the word(s) MUST be spelled exactly the way it appears on each search result. This is particularly helpful when searching an abbreviation like Wwe. which isn’t actually a word. Without the quotation marks, you will likely get a response from Google at the top of the search results page asking you if you meant something else.
Click here to receive my free ebook including all the most common Google search operators when you sign up for my free newsletter (which is always chock full of goodies).
Katherine was my guest on Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #151 available exclusively to our Premium eLearning Members. She’s also written a couple of articles for Genealogy Gems on German translation:
When to Use Google Translate for Genealogy–And Best Translation Websites for When You Don’t
Translating German Genealogy Records: 9 Top German Translation Websites
Deciphering Place Names Just Got Easier
I’ve written an article you may find helpful not only for translation but also to help you with pronunciation called How to Pronounce Names: Google Translate and Name Pronunciation Tools.
As it turns out, Wwe. stands for Widow. This tells me that Lina’s husband was deceased by 1961.
Finding the German Addresses in Google Earth
The most glorious things found in these old address books are the addresses themselves!
Google Earth is the perfect tool to not only find the locations but clarify the addresses. Many were abbreviated, but Google Earth made quick work of the task.
Unlike other free Google Tools, Google Earth is available in a variety of forms:
- Free downloadable software
- Google Earth in the Chrome Web browser
- A mobile app
Each has powerful geographic features, but I always recommend using the software. The web version and app don’t have all the tools available in the software. All versions require an internet connection. You can download the software here.
In the Google Earth search box I typed in the address. Don’t worry if you don’t have the full address or if you think it may be spelled incorrectly. Google Earth will deliver a results list of all the best options that most closely match.
In my case, reliable Google Earth not only gave me complete addresses, but also the correct German letters.
Soon I found myself virtually standing outside their homes thanks to Google Earth’s Street View feature!
Here’s how to use Street View in Google Earth:
- Zoom in close to the location
- Click on the Street View icon in the upper right corner (near the zoom tool)
- Drag the icon over the map and blue lines will appear where Street View is available
- Drop the icon directly on the line right next to the house
- Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate in Street View or simply use your mouse to drag the screen
I went through the entire list. As I found each location in Google Earth, I checked it off on the spreadsheet.
GENEALOGY RESEARCH TIP: Create a Folder in Google Earth
When you have several locations like this to plot, I recommend creating a folder in the Places panel in Google Earth. It’s super easy to do and will help you stay organized. Here’s how:
- Right-click (PC) on the MyPlaces icon at the top of the Places panel (left side of the Google Earth screen)
- Select Add > Folder in the pop-up menu
- A New Folder dialog box will appear
- Type the name of your folder
- Click OK to close the folder
- You can drag and drop the folder wherever you want it in the Places panel
- Click to select the folder before placing your Placemarks. That way each placemark will go in that folder. But don’t worry, if you get a placemark in the wrong spot, just drag and drop it into the folder.
It didn’t take long to build quite a nice collection of Sporowski homes in Germany!
The beauty of Google Earth as that you can start to visualize your data in a whole new way. Zooming out reveals these new findings within the context of previous location-based research I had done on related families. As you can see in the image below, all the Sporowskis that I found in the German Address books at Ancestry.com are clustered just five miles from where photos were taken that appear in Louise Sporowski’s photo album.
I’ve Only Just Begun to Discover my German Ancestors at Ancestry.com
We’ve covered a lot of ground today, but this is just the beginning. There are additional sources to track down, timelines to create, photos to match up with locations, and so much more. In many ways, I’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities. But I need to stop writing so I can keep searching! 😊
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this journey with me. Did you pick up some gems along the way that you are excited to use? Please leave a comment below! Let us all know which tips and tools jumped out at you, and any gems that you found.