Technology,  Tips & Tricks

How I use Google Maps for genealogy research

My grandparents, John Briner and Nancy Vespa Briner, were traveling ministers in the early years of their marriage. They spent a good chunk of the 50’s and 60’s traveling up and down the east coast, hosting revivals and church meetings. Luckily, these church visits were often heavily publicized, and I’ve found lots of advertisements in newspapers and church newsletters detailing their visits.

I thought it might be useful for my research to track where exactly they visited and when. I decided to use Google Maps to do this for several reasons: it’s free, it’s easy to use, it’s connected to the other Google services I already use for my research, and it’s shareable with other people.

Here’s a sample of my map (click to enlarge):

And here’s how I did it:
1. Go to Google Maps. Specifically, This is my own personal Map creations, not the general map website.
2. Click on “Create a new map.”

It’s that easy! Well, there’s a little more to it, but this post by Miryelle Resek for RootsTech goes into more details on creating a map.

The hardest part was deciding how I was going to organize the map, especially since I ended up wanting to chronicle their home addresses and churches where my grandfather was resident pastor. I decided to do them on separate “layers,” which lets me hide or reveal different locations depending on what I want to look at. I also can color-coordinate them, so church visits are one color while residences are another, for instance.

Whenever I add a visit to the map, I include a link to the source document. Right now I have mostly links, but soon I’ll be switching over to my own document storage on Google Docs (as detailed in this post).

One problem I’ve run into is that some churches no longer exist, either because they’ve closed, sold the building to someone else, or were renamed. I decided to make my best guess at where a church was located at the time of my grandparents’ visit, and use that for my pin location. Sometimes I’ll get lucky, and the building itself is still there and viewable in Google Maps’ Streetview. Then I can screenshot it and add it to my documents archive!

Do you use Google Maps in your genealogy research? I could see it being for tracking: locations of major family branches, personal research trips, places for future research, cemetery locations, and military movement for veteran ancestors.


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