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!
Compare this photo with how it appears in Google Earth today in episode 12. (Photo courtesy of Lynnette Bates. )
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.
Lynnette’s family in front of their home. (Courtesy of Lynnette Bates)
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.)
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:
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.
Toolbar 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.
Places Panel Save, organize, and revisit your placemarks and maps in the Places Panel. These are your private files, stored on your computer.
Layers Panel 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.
Use coupon code EARTH11 to get 25% off both of these resources.
Use coupon code EARTH11 to get 25% off
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.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum
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.
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!
Google your family history with Genealogy Gems! Google has a great collection of free online search tools–all powered by the same Google search engine–that can help you discover your family history. In this new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning video, Google guru Lisa Louise Cooke demonstrates how she fleshed out a story on her family tree by using Google searches, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, and more.
Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members may now watch a brand new video tutorial: “Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World with Google.” In this 60-minute video, renowned Google expert Lisa Louise Cooke uncovered a story on her family tree by using a variety of Google tools–then brings all her discoveries together in a compelling video that can be shared with your family.
Lisa’s case study begins with a story from her family archive: a short autobiographical sketch.
Already a rich narrative, the story is just the beginning of what can be learned about this family for free when you run certain details through Google’s many powerful online search tools: Google search, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts, Google Patents, and even YouTube (which is owned by Google).
Google your own genealogy gems
In this video–available exclusively to Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members–Lisa walks you through each step in the Google search methodology process. She helps you formulate “Google-able” questions and know which part of the vast Google search system might best help you answer them. Then she demonstrates how to search Google’s various facets most effectively and efficiently with queries that bring up the kinds of results you want. You’ll learn important tips such as the difference between Google Books and Google Scholar and how to fine-tune your Google Image searches. Finally, you’ll see how she skillfully and creatively threads together her discoveries to reconstruct meaningful stories she can share with her relatives.
Lisa delivered this presentation at RootsTech, the world’s biggest annual genealogy conference, but only as a Premium eLearning member do you have access to the downloadable handout that summarizes everything you need to know.
More about Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning
Every month, Premium eLearning Members get access to a brand new Premium Video just like this one, along with a new Premium Podcast episode. Plus, you get access to an archive of all previous video classes and podcast episodes. Enjoy them entirely at your own pace–all for less than $5 a month! You’ll find all kinds of genealogy topics, but especially DNA, online research, maps and geographical tools, using Evernote for genealogy, organizing your family history, technology, mobile and cloud-based research, and more! Here’s a 10-minute clip from Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 157 that includes an overview of how Premium eLearning works–check it out!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
StoryWorth for Father’s Day: Invite your dad to share stories with loved ones every week, and then get them all bound in a beautiful hardcover book at the end of the year. Go to http://www.storyworth.com/lisa for $20 off when you subscribe. This Father’s Day is actually a gift for you, too!
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
MAILBOX: MILITARY DRAFT REGISTRATIONS
Click here to read about finding military draft registrations
INTERVIEW: JIM BEIDLER ON PENNSYLVANIA RESEARCH QUESTION
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Tours are great way to see highlights in the shortest amount of time. Why not take your relatives on a virtual family history tour? You can do just that using the free Google Earth Pro software.
Read more as Lisa shares some tips and strategies to use Google Earth to create your own unique family history virtual tour.
Hop-on Hop-off Touring
One of the perks of being a genealogy speaker is that I get to travel all over the world and speak to folks who share my passion for genealogy. And it’s an added bonus when a genealogist who attended one of my sessions emails me afterwards. I love seeing their excitement spills across my screen as they share with me how they put into practice what they learned and a genealogical brick wall came a-tumblin’ down! (I LOVE my job!)
High also on the list of perks is the opportunity to see a bit of the local sites and history wherever I am speaking. Time is usually short, so I try my best to make the most of it and hit the highlights. That was certainly the case in Sydney, Australia earlier this year. There was so much to see and so little time to see it! When time is at a premium (and really, when is time ever not at a premium?) and there’s a lot to cover, I find that a tour by someone in the know is a best way to go. In Australia I turned to Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member (and now dear friend) Dot Elder and her husband Roly for advice on the best tour to see the city. Roly quickly dug up tickets to the Hop-on-Hop-off Sightseeing BIG BUS of Sydney. 33 stops, 2 tours, free wifi onboard, and earphones delivering recorded commentary on what was whizzing by us from the outdoor upper deck. It was the perfect way to orient the “Non-Australian” to the fabulous city of Sydney.
with Dot Elder
Bus Top Deck: Bill & I
Sydney Opera House
The Streets of Sydney
Family History Tour
We all have relatives who are not genealogists, and who don’t have time for or relish all the details of our genealogical findings. However, they would likely thoroughly enjoy a high-level tour of the highlights of the family tree with commentary from the expert: YOU! That kind of genealogical tour could come in many traditional forms (a book, a blog post, etc.) But if you really want to WOW your relatives, the closest thing to a Hop-on-Hop-off tour of your family’s history is what I call a “Family History Tour” in Google Earth Pro.
Google Earth Pro Explained
Google Earth Pro is a “geo-browser” (a tool for viewing geographic data) that uses satellite, aerial, and street level imagery. It also includes other geographic data that is accessed over the internet to show related information such as street names, train stations, and much more. Unlike Google.com, which is a website, Google Earth Pro is free software that is downloaded and installed on your computer. It also requires that the user is connected to the internet while using the program.
Don’t let the “Pro” name deter you. This tool is absolutely free, although just a few years ago you would have had to pay around $400 for it. If you have never installed Google Earth on your computer, you can do so here. If you already have, you can easily tell if you have the original free version of Google Earth or Google Earth Pro by looking at the icon on your desktop. If it’s blue, it’s the old version. If it’s grey, it’s Google Earth Pro.
Many people use Google Earth Pro (which from this point forward we’ll just refer to as Google Earth) for mapping, to get a view of where they are headed or where they have been, or for their child’s social studies report. All of these are great reasons to use Google Earth, but wait until you see what else it can do!
One of the most dazzling features of Google Earth is Street View. By clicking the Street View icon (often referred to as the “yellow peg man”) and dropping him on a blue line on the map, you can get a panoramic view along many streets in the world. Street View was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and now includes cities and rural areas worldwide. Check out where Google will be capturing Street View next here on their Street View webpage.
Google Street View also invites you to virtually tour many wonderful places on their highlights reels found here. Not only can you view the streets, but you can enter places you never dreamed possible. “Walk” into the abbeys and garden castles of Europe or dive deep into the ocean. Wherever you have always wanted to go is just a click away.
Example of a Family History Google Earth Tour
So what does a family history Google Earth Tour look like? Hop on the bus by clicking the video below and I’ll show you.
5 Steps to Create a Family History Google Earth Tour
The process for creating a family history Google Earth tour is easy and fun.
1. Outline the story: Like with genealogy research, you can save loads of time with some initial planning. Your first decision is which “story” you want to tell. Keep in mind that the average person’s attention span is short, so trying to include all the locations in your family tree is a recipe for disaster. Instead, pick one portion of your tree. In my example above, I told the story of a 10 year period that my great grandparents lived in San Francisco. This turns a tour into a story, which is much more interesting.
Once you have your story selected, make a list in chronological order of all of the significant locations and events that occurred. This will be your road map for creating your tour.
2. Create a tour folder: Since you will have several locations, it’s best to collect them all in one place. In Google Earth, that place is a folder.
To create a folder, go to the Places panel and right-click on My Places. Select Add > New folder. In the pop-up dialogue box, give your tour a title, and add any description you would like. Click OK to close the dialogue box.
3. Set placemarks at locations: Type the first location on your list in the Search box and fly to that location. Then click once on the folder you created to select it. Click the placemark button in the toolbar at the top of the Google Earth screen. Another dialogue box will pop-up. Fill in the title of the location (tip: keep it short so it doesn’t clutter up the map) and fill in the description (the reason this location is significant.) Click OK to close the placemark dialogue box. Now the pushpin placemark will appear on the map, and it is housed in the tour folder. When you click the placemark, the description you wrote will appear.
The placemark doesn’t have to be a pushpin icon. You can customize it by right-clicking on the placemark and selecting Properties. This will reopen the placemark dialogue box. In the upper right corner of the box you will see the default icon of a yellow pushpin (or you will you will see the last icon you used if you have customized icons previously.) Click the icon and then select for the collection of icons, and click OK. You can also change the color of the icon, upload your own, or have no icon at all.
4. Save your work: Google Earth currently doesn’t auto-save your work, so you will want to do so every few minutes as you work on your family history tour. Go to File > Save > Save My Places. Files saved in MyPlaces are only visible to you and reside on your computer’s hard drive. They are not stored in the cloud.
When your tour is complete, you will want to save the file to your desktop for easy access. In the Places panel, right-click on the tour folder and select Save > Save Place As and save it to the desired location on your computer. The file will be zipped by Google Earth so that all the components are neatly packaged in one file.
5. Share with others: Now that your tour is zipped and saved, you can email it to your family members. Simply attach it to your email as you would any document or photo. It can be helpful if you let your family member know that if they don’t have the free Google Earth Pro software already installed on their computer, they will want to do so before clicking the file. I like to provide a handy link to the download page to make it easy for them. Anyone with Google Earth on their computer can click the attachment and the computer will automatically recognize the file type and open it in Google Earth.
What Story Will Your Family History Google Earth Tour Tell?
Now I’d like to hear from you. What is the first story in your family tree that you would like to tell through a family history Google Earth tour? Sharing your ideas in the Comments below will help you solidify your idea and will certainly inspire others.
We’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Get in depth instructions from these resources:
You can now see New York City street views from the late 1800s and early 1900s as Google Earth street views. Take a virtual visit to the Big Apple as it was 100 years ago! Or travel back even further in time to an 1836 map of NYC conveniently overlaid on a modern Google Earth view. These are just two of the many ways to use Google Earth for genealogy—and for fun.
Vintage New York City Street Views on Google Earth
Over 80,000 original photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s have been mapped into Google Earth to provide what’s essentially a Google Street View map of old New York City!
As you can see from this overview map (below), the old photos are concentrated in the areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Lower and Upper Manhattan. Dots represents historic photos that have been overlaid on Google Earth’s modern map (satellite view is also available).
You can zoom in to click on individual dots, which will bring up one or more individual photos of certain neighborhoods or street fronts:
Select the photos that match up best with your family history interests, such as a shot of your family’s old store front or apartment building. Or choose images that represent the time period in which your relatives lived in the area, so you can get a flavor of what their neighborhood would have looked like. (Click here for some ideas about where to look for your family’s exact address during the late 1800s or early 1900s.)
According to this article at BusinessInsider.com, a developer Dan Vanderkam worked with the New York Public Library to plot all the photos onto Google Earth. (A hat-tip to Genealogy Gems listener and reader Jennifer, who sent me this article because she knows how much I love old maps and data visualization!)
Another Old NYC Street View: 1836 Map
While we’re on the subject, I also want to mention another cool tool for visualizing old NYC street views. At the Smithsonian.com, there’s a cool historic map overlay of an 1836 New York City map in Google Earth. Use the scrolling and zooming tools to explore the parts of NYC that were already settled–and to compare them to what’s there today. You can also swap views to see the 1836 map with just a little round window of the modern streets.
The accompanying article quotes famous map collector David Rumsey about the 1836 map, which is his. He describes how you can see that much of the topography of Manhattan has changed over the years—did you know Manhattan used to be hilly? And I love how he calls out artistic features on the old map, too.
Smithsonian NYC street view 1836
Unfortunately, the old map doesn’t show much in the way of residents’ property lines or buildings. But you can clearly see the street layouts and where the parks and hills were. Comparing these areas with Google Earth’s street view today can help you better understand what things looked like in a much older version of one of the world’s great cities.
Use Google Earth for Your Genealogy
There are so many ways to use Google Earth for genealogy! My free video class will get you started. After a quick tutorial on downloading and navigating Google Earth, see how to utilize its powerful tools to identify an old family photo, map out addresses that may have changed and even plot an old ancestral homestead.