I know I tend to talk about research and documents more than I do about other things, like memories. So how about something that will help with both? Maps should be an important part of your genealogy toolkit. In fact, they are irreplaceable, especially if you live far from the locations you are researching. They are at their most helpful when they show the geography and/or political boundaries as they existed when your ancestors were living. Today, I’m going to mention two such tools that are very useful.
Let’s start with Google Earth Pro. Starting 30 January 2015, Google has made the professional version of Google Earth available for free. It used to cost $399.00 a year, so it’s great value. Here are some instructions on how to download and install it.
We are all familiar with Google Maps, I’m sure. Great for getting directions and finding your way around, and it’s more accurate than Apple’s map feature which, frankly, I have turned off on my iPhone. But Google Earth Pro is so much more powerful, and has the ability to overlay historical maps so that you can see how the area may have looked when your ancestors were alive.
I especially like the fact that you can get pictures of buildings using the street view. Like this one of the house where I lived from about age 4 to age 7. This is where I learned to ride a bike, and where I first had piano lessons. But, wouldn’t it be great if this were a picture of a house where your ancestor lived, even if it now has some modern touches?
Next, the National Library of Scotland. You may find this recommendation surprising since most of my research is in England, but it also includes maps for England & Wales. In fact, it goes even further afield, with maps of World War I trenches in France and Belgium, for example. Not only that, but the search tool allows you to search anywhere in the world. It’s fair to say, though, that its main focus is on Great Britain (despite being a Scottish website). One nice feature is the ability to choose an historic map overlay. You can change the transparency of the overlay to switch between today’s view and the historical view.
And, while that is all well and good, how can maps help with research and memories? Well, a few things spring to mind. For example, two people from villages 20 miles apart get married. How might they have met? Perhaps there was a market town roughly half-way between the two. Also, with a contour map you can get the feel of the countryside, such as how steep the hills are and how good the grazing might be as a result. Can’t find a baptism in the parish you think somebody is from? Grab a map and look for other villages within a 5 to 10-mile radius where they may have lived.