Research With Google Maps

Have you thought about using maps in your research? Well, I have so; as a result, I started to use them more than just looking to find the location of a particular relative at the time I was researching. They provide resourceful information about our ancestors. That is our mission to discover our loved ones, who have loved each other, how they raised a family, sacrificed so they could provide a comfortable life for their families.

We know many fathers had to find work away from their loved ones; why? What was life like where they were living? Did they live in town or the country? Did they farm and have to supplement their income? Where did the children go to school? These are all questions that can be answered by mapping our ancestors.

Our First Map Should be Basic

Using maps in genealogy research is valuable; they tell us a story about an ancestor. Once we pin on a map;

  • where a person was born(birth records)
  • where they lived during their lifetime(census records)
  • where they were living when they died(death certificate)
  • the location of the cemetery where buried(death announcements)

It brings a whole new perspective. These individuals come to life as we see a pattern that tells the story of their families’ lives. There are many types of Maps, and we may need to use some of them down the road, but for now, this is what we need.

Yes, our first map should be a basic map to use as a base for tracking our ancestors. Moreover, we are going to follow our research using My Google maps.

Mapping With Google

Log in to your google account and access google maps. Naturally, you will see your location on the map and the “Search Google Maps” bar, but instead of searching, we will open to a different area. So let’s select the box beside the search bar.

A Screen Shot Picture of Google Maps opening page. Shows your location.

We now are a section where we can create different map views to assist in our everyday lives, which quite possibly you have used before; for this purpose, we will look down the list and select “Your Places.”

A Screen Shot of Google Maps. Create different maps area.

Now that we are in Your Places section, we want to choose a different view “Maps.”

Research With Google Maps - Maps section

Create Your Map

Now that you have selected the “Maps.” Button. We are in the Maps Section; as you can see, I have a map already created, but for this purpose, you need to Create Your Map.

A Screen Shot of Google Maps. Maps section, a my ancestors map, a create your map button

Now think of a name you want to for Your Map. You can change it again later if necessary. Click on the Bubble Untitled Map, and a different screen will open; enter the name of your map and a description. (Save) Then click on the Bubble Untitled layer, title this layer something like Fathers Lineage, Ancestors, Family(personal choice). Under this title, you will be entering your Fathers Ancestors Map Pins. Go ahead now and create another Layer entitled Mothers Lineage, Ancestors, Family.

Screen Shot of Google Maps Creating Name for new map. Creating Name of Layer.

Tracking our Ancestors

Here I have a picture collage with Pins of My Ancestors Map, My Mothers Lineage, and My Fathers Lineage. You can keep adding and editing. (see next picture) Keep this process going using your pedigree chart or family group sheet (five generation pedigree chart if color coding).

Screen Shot of Google Maps. Pins of My Ancestors on Map

To add a Pin, select either the mothers or fathers section, then using the search box, find your location. A Pin will drop, the information box will open,(Click) Add to map, once added, notice Pin changes, now you can edit the Pin (Click Pencil) with a title and information.

A screenshot of Google Maps adding a pin to your map. Editing the pin and how the pin changes.

As you can see, you can; Edit a Pin, Add multiple Ancestors to the same Pin Location, Color Code a Pin. You can also add as much information as you would like to each pin location.

Screen Shot Google Maps Collage x4. Views, edit pins, add info, color code pins.

From the map below, you can also change your Map’s look in the Base Map dropbox. You can change the look of your Map at any time. Arrow represents the Map View that you see in these screenshots. I also added a Cemetery view with three different surnames of my ancestors buried in the same location. Pretty cool.

A screenshot Collage of Google Maps. Shows Base Map and Cemetery Locations.

Google Maps the beginning

I love my map, and what I love about it is the ability to have my whole family’s history in one place. I love to add a new location where another family lived, raised a family, and see how that family branched out into another family. I like to tap on each pin and see what family or families lived in that location; I enter not only the family members’ names or surname of a family but the date they were there with a description of the event. As you might have noticed, the majority of my ancestors at this point are in the United States; in the fifth generation, I have just started to map in other countries; all I have to do is click on the ancestor pin in the list on the left, and it will take me to that location.

Now, what if I were to run into a situation where I cannot find a town located on my basic map? Moreover, why would it be that I could not find the location? Maybe, the village doesn’t exist anymore, or the name changed, I would still mark the area as close as I can and add the information. So the question is now, how does this help me find the actual location when my ancestors lived there? The answer to that question is that as we get farther back in the generations, we might have to consider finding the location with historical maps.

Where do we find these Maps

  • Historical Atlases
  • Census
  • County, Parish or Provincial
  • Landownership
  • Military
  • Railroad
  • Topographical
  • Historical newspapers

to name a few.

Finding older Maps is a must for a genealogist when moving into the old world countries around the world. Finding the latitude and longitude in Old Maps can help us identify our Google map’s exact location.

In conclusion

Using maps in genealogy research is another beautiful way to enhance your research perspectives. We can derive so much information as I have alluded to prior in this article. I get quite excited about viewing historical maps; it would be nice to find a library full of them and be able to search until my heart’s content. However, until that day arrives, I will find other ways to track my ancestor’s locations by using my map style and incorporating the historical as I find them. The Google Map keeps me organized with my ancestor’s areas. I sure you will find it beneficial as you begin to build your Ancestral Map.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and please feel free to voice your opinion on the topic in the comments section.

Kindest Regards


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