What I Have Learned About Google for Genealogists, Part 2

google-translate-exampleGoogle Translate (http://translate.google.com) has helped me many times. I do a lot of research in Sweden and do not speak Swedish, so I have learned to translate information I do not understand. Several years ago, I found a death record of a sibling to one of my husband’s ancestors. The young man was only 18 years old, so I wondered what had happened. The Swedish words are “konstruktion olycka.” It means that he died in a construction accident. He worked in construction and died on the job. What a revelation. This Google feature has speeded up my research.

Have you used Google Maps (https://maps.google.com)? Who knew all the detail found in areas I had only seen on flat maps. You will find as much detail as you need to find specific locations. If you are looking for a city address, you might find that the house you expected to see has been torn down to add a freeway. You’ll discover that when you combine Google Maps with Google Earth (http://earth.google.com). Lisa Louise Cooke has created several YouTube’s to show how to combine them and see what the area looks like now. You can also add old maps such as those found at David Ramsey’s site and overlay what the area looked like when your family lived there and what it looks like today. Be careful. You might get so excited using these features that you don’t get any research done!

Google Drive (https://drive.google.com) allows users 5GB of free document storage and use of Google Docs, which includes word processing and spreadsheets. These are shareable, easy to publish on your blog or website and you can invite others to edit or collaborate the documents. This collaboration allows you and your cousins to share family information and research findings. Have you used these features?

Several years ago I created a book for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday to show a brief corn-sheller-patent-information-examplehistory of her family since they arrived in America. A friend joined me to help put it in order and fill in some missing details. We discovered that one of her grandfathers, Joseph Duhachek (1849-1906), had a patent in his name. We found it at https://www/google.com/?tbm=pts. Since he had died before she was born, the family didn’t talk about him and never shared his patent information. This brought her such joy.  (If you want to read the whole story, it’s on my blog at http://familyscribe.us/wordpress/joseph-duhachek-patent-for-a-corn-sheller/.

Another feature of Google that offers help for genealogists is Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). You can sign up to receive daily or weekly email updates for specific searches. Be careful not to request too many or you may become overwhelmed. I don’t use it for common surnames, but I have used it for less common ones. I have also placed delimiters such as dates and/or location to cut down on suggested finds.

You can use Google+ (https://plus.google.com) for its social networking platform, including joining groups or creating “hangouts” with a limited number of participants at one time.

Other features you might check out include Google Calendar (https://www.google.com/calendar) for keeping your calendar entries in one place; Google Play (https://play.google.com) for music, movies, books and apps; and, Google Shopping (http://ww.google.com/shopping) to shop for genealogy products, supplies, software, and other items.

I may have missed some features, but these are the ones I know and use. I hope you find this useful.

Images taken from Google as examples of what I share here.

One Way to Get Acquainted with your Ancestors

A few months ago I watched a webinar by Lisa Louise Cooke entitled, “3 Reasons to Map Your Ancestor’s Hometown.” I learned a lot, but I’m going to take this in a complimentary direction. Geography lets us know more details about our family than we realize.

First, let’s look at people who live in a city. Look at city directories and censuses for addresses of where the family lived. Find a map of the city and locate each of the homes. You might find photos of the area or home where they lived. If you know their religion, you can find the nearest church and narrow down the search for their records. If they filed citizenship papers, you can find the nearest appropriate court who handled these records (especially appropriate before 1906). Courthouses also hold wills and probate. Finding them will provide new clues about your family.

Storage of records about our families may no longer be associated with the location where they were created. Check with the local genealogical society to find out where they are.

People who lived in the country may have owned their farm or ranch. Land records provide a good sense of the size of their property, the various purchases and sales, and the crops/livestock they kept. When you find the ancestor’s probate, you may discover the division of property that explains why some family members left the area while others stayed.

We have found homes and land for various family members and it helped us better understand their lives. For example, on a trip to Blekinge, Sweden many years ago, my husband and I stayed in the home his grandmother had grown up in and was still in the family. What a wonderful experience to walk the land around the house, go into the church she attended, and look inside the school she attended.

If you have the opportunity to visit the homes of your ancestors, please do. You will be rewarded. But, if you cannot travel to that location, Google Earth’s Street View can show you what the area looks like today.

According to Lisa Louise Cooke in her presentation, she said, “Street View offers you a panoramic view from various positions on the street. Launched in May 2007, Street View was available for only a few major US cities. Today, Google offers images of nearly every street in America, and its coverage is spreading quickly around the world.

“Just how does Google do it? A fleet of cars equipped with nine directional cameras drive up and down each street and snap photographs from all directions every few seconds. When faced with narrow streets, such as those in Rome, similarly equipped Google Trikes (tricycles) make the journey.

“Getting your directional bearings can be difficult once you’re in Street View. To locate an address, you can hover your mouse over the camera icons that appear along the street. If unsure which particular house is your ancestor’s, look for addresses on buildings as well as on the curb. To get a closer look at a particular area, double-click on the spot on the image, and Google Earth will slowly zoom in.”

With this information, I hope you will try to find where your ancestors lived and locate their homes using Google Earth. Have fun and let me know what you find.