1836 map of New York City compared to modern satellite image, shown with each map in “spyglass” format. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection blog at DavidRumsey.com.
I love showing people how to use online tools to compare historical maps to modern ones. You can map out your ancestor’s address, check out their neighborhoods “then and now,” map their route to work, see if their old home still exists and more.
Well, the online Smithsonian magazine has created an exciting new interface for six American cities. Now you can compare modern satellite imagery with bird’s-eye views of:
You’ll see great city layouts before the fire that claimed much of old Chicago, the San Francisco earthquake, the Lincoln memorial and more. The historical map of New York City is the oldest, but the other maps capture each city at a critical point in their growth. For each city you can look at a historical map with a “spyglass” mouse-over of a modern satellite image, or vice-versa, as shown in the New York City map on the right. Each map is accompanied by a fantastic Smithsonian article; the historical maps come from the amazing David Rumsey Map Collection.
As many of you know, it’s possible to do something similar (or even better) with Google’s amazing mapping tools. Learn how to do that with these three Genealogy Gems resources:
1. My FREE Google Earth Video, which teaches you how to unlock mysteries in your research, from unidentified photographs to pinpointing homesteads;
3. My new Time Travel with Google Earth video, in which you’ll see old maps, genealogical records, images, and videos come together to create stunning time travel experiences in Google Earth. This is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members (learn more membership here).
Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!
“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother. She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863. To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!
“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:
“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco. I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)
“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham! There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”
Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.
The presentation she’s talking about can be found in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Kit, a value bundle that includes my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Volumes I and II of Google Earth for Genealogy (on video CD). Even better, right now that kit is available for 20% off! The 2 discs are also available as a bundle on their own. And thanks, Gail, for sharing your success with us!
Google celebrated Earth Day by releasing Google Earth 7.1 and announcing some great new content! And there are three reasons you will want to make the upgrade:
1. New Hands-Free Navigation Technology
The big news with version 7.1 is Leap Motion support, a touch-free 3d technology that lets you “navigate Google earth with simple hand gestures.” The Leap Motion Controller ($79.99) will start shipping mid-July, so you’ve got some time to get to know Google Earth a little better before you start flying around in it like this:
You KNOW I have to get me some of that!
2. More 3D City Views There’s also exciting new 3D data in Google Earth, most notably for New York City. But there’s also more imagery for other cities around the world: Innsbruck, Austria; Dijon, France; Cagliari, Italy and the Spanish cities of San Sebastian, Santander, Pamplona, Manresa and Burgos. Other U.S. cities with 3D coverage include Miami, FL; Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; Encinitas, CA and Spokane, WA.
3. The Addition of the 50th Country to Google Maps’ popular Street View Feature
You can now view 50 countries buy lasix medication online with Google Maps’ popular Street View feature. The newest nations to be added are Hungary and Lesotho (a tiny country within South Africa), and there’s new or updated coverage for Poland, Romania, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Thailand and other locations worldwide. Google calls this “the largest single update of Street View imagery we’ve ever pushed, including new and updated imagery for nearly 350,000 miles of roads across 14 countries.”
Help for Using Google Earth for Genealogy
How can you access these fabulous features, both for fun virtual travel and for seriously fun genealogy research? Upload the latest version of Google Earth for free (for PC, Mac or Linux). Then check out my Google Earth for Genealogy 2-CD Bundle. There’s a reason is this one of my best-selling presentations: Google Earth is one of the best genealogy research tools around! In these CD presentations, I show you how to locate and map ancestral homesteads; use historical map overlays; identify where old photos were taken; create 3D models of ancestral locations; create custom family history tours and much more.
Google Earth has been hard at work, adding more in-depth image coverage to its already vast 3D visual archive of the world’s places. You can now take a free high-res virtual tour of the following cities:
Little Rock, AR,
Berne, Basel and Lausanne, Switzerland,
Ulm, Germany, and
Want to learn more about using Google Earth for family history? These two videos give you a glimpse into my Google Earth for Genealogists series. Watch these clips and be inspired about the potential of this powerful online tool for mapping and imaging your family past.