How can you keep up with new online information on your family history that may appear at any moment? You can’t, unless you run constant searches on your web browser, and who’s got time for that? Google does! And it accomplish that incredible search feat for you through Google Alerts.
Google Alerts is like having your own virtual research assistant! When you key in your favorite searches, Google Alerts will automatically email you when there are new Google results for your search terms.
How to Create a Google Alert for Genealogy
1. Go to www.google.com/alerts.
2. Sign in to your Google account (or create one).
3. The first time you create an alert, click where it says, “You don’t have any Google Alerts. Try creating one.” Fill in the screen that pops up:
4. Type in your search query. In the example above, I’ve entered my specific search: “Larson” “Winthrop” Minnesota.
5. Make selections to further refine your search alert:
- The type of content you’re looking for: news, blogs, videos, discussions, books or everything.
- How often you want to receive the alerts by email.
- The type of results you want to get. You may want to receive all results, not just the best results which will give you an opportunity to see how your search does. You can always change settings later.
6. Enter the email address where you want the alert emails to be delivered. Google will alert you to new content when it is posted on the Web.
Resources for Getting the Most Out of Using Google Alerts
Learn more about how to conduct effective Google searches for genealogy research, Google Alerts for genealogy, and more in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition. This fully-revised 2015 edition is packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online!
Genealogy Gems Premium Members can also watch my full length Google search video classes:
- Common Surname Search Secrets
- Ultimate Google Search Strategies
- Digging Deeper into Web Sites with Google Site Search
See the complete list of Premium video classes here.
Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership here!
The online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is a go-to resource for determining old U.S. county boundaries. Its popular, interactive map will re-launch later this fall. Meanwhile, you can still access county boundary data and even Google Earth compatible maps.
For quite some time, the online U.S. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries has flashed the following message at the top of its webpage:
The first time I saw this message, I panicked. This is my favorite resource for quickly researching historical county boundaries in the U.S. The interactive map feature lets you click on a state and then on a county to see its boundaries on any exact date. I realized the rich data that feeds the interactive map is still there and you can still get to it.
Several months later, I noticed the out of order message was still there. I emailed the Newberry Library in Chicago which hosts the Atlas to see what they could share with Genealogy Gems about the Atlas and its future.
Curator Matt Rutherford replied right away: “We love Genealogy Gems! It’s such an excellent podcast.” (Lisa says “Thanks! We love you, too!”)
He explained that the online Atlas was originally meant to serve a small group of historians. When the interactive map’s code became outdated, the thought was to just let it die. He credits genealogists with giving it a future.
“Newberry heard loudly and clearly from the genealogy community about their love for the online Atlas,” says Matt. “It is because of the popularity of the Atlas among genealogists and due to Newberry’s commitment to serving the genealogy community that [we’ve] decided to dedicate resources to the interactive map’s redevelopment.”
When will the interactive map be back? “We do anticipate a launch in the fall, but we don’t have an exact date yet,” he says. “It takes time and funding to redevelop an interactive tool that is as data-rich as the Atlas. Once we got ‘under the hood,’ we realized that the redevelopment needed to be more extensive than originally anticipated.” (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear the full scoop from Matt in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #137.)
How to find county boundaries with the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries in three steps
1. From the Atlas home page, click on the state of interest from the national interactive map.
2. From the state page, click on View Index of Counties and Equivalents. This will show you all current and past county names. (See image.)
3. From this page, click on your targeted county. You’ll find a timeline of that county’s boundary changes.
Use the timeline to discover what county your ancestors belonged to at any given time. Perhaps you’ll discover you should actually be looking for an ancestor’s marriage record or probate in a parent county, one that existed there before the current county, or in a successor county later carved out of this one.
Google Earth Bonus: The Atlas of Historical Boundary Changes state pages include downloadable maps compatible with Google Earth and Google Maps. If you are not using Google Earth for genealogy yet, watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s free video to see how and why you want to use this amazing 3D map of the world for your family history!
More Gems on Using Interactive Maps for Genealogy
Illuminating Time-Lapse Videos Show Our Changing World
Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online
Family Maps and Migration Routes Traced with New Tech Tools
Google Earth is known for its ability to virtually “fly” us to locations around the world. We can use satellite imagery, terrain maps, 3-D views of city streets and more to understand all kinds of places–even places of the past.
In this video class you will learn how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads.
And there’s good news: Google Earth Pro is now available for free. Everything I cover in this class can be accomplished in both versions of the program. The main difference is that Google Earth Pro can print and save HD quality images. Today, the current “Pro” version of the software is now simply called “Google Earth.”
Below the video player are more resources to help you get the most out of Google Earth for genealogy. We hope you enjoy this webinar video class!
Length: 66 minutes
How to host map images online
(Free downloadable PDF)
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 3rd edition by Lisa Louise Cooke. This book has 7 full chapters on Google Earth! Available in print here.
Google Earth for Genealogy Video Training by Lisa Louise Cooke. Available now as a digital download here.
Learn how to use Google Earth for genealogy with Lisa Louise Cooke’s video tutorial series available in the Genealogy Gems store.