Google Earth: Expand Your Research

by JL Beeken on 1-02-2007

Google Earth

Let’s fly into the New Year with the holistic viewpoint: Google Earth.

If you haven’t already, you might think about installing Google Earth because there’s every reason in the world to do it and no reason not to. (Unless you have an oddball graphics card on your computer. Check the requirements.) It will be the most fun you’ve ever had since … I don’t know … the last time you had the most fun you thought you’d ever had. It can also be highly informative for genealogy research as well as general education.

It’s your own personal space-craft for flying around the globe at your choice of altitude and tilt; over mountains, and oceans and farm fields and cities. Everything that’s out there. Plot locations for your ancestors and imagine how these families interacted and see what kind of terrain they had to navigate. Zoom in on cemetery locations and look around the neighbourhoods. Save pictures for inclusion in your family history projects.

In my family there’s a home that was built in the 1830′s that’s still standing, and still a family residence. I haven’t been there since I was 6 years old, and back then, of course, I didn’t know what it was. Now it sends a shiver up my spine to get in my Google-craft and fly in low over the roads and fields where my g-g-g-g grandparents walked.

The more you tilt the earth, the flatter the buildings look, but some of the larger cities show buildings with a 3-D overlay to compensate. Go to London, England and cruise along the Thames. Visit China. Play with the “layers” list and see what happens.

You don’t need to be an astronaut to make Google Earth work. Just type in a location, even a specific address and watch the globe take you there. There’s much more you can do but I’ll leave you to look around.

There are professional versions of Google Earth that cost thousands of dollars. I would think for that price you could probably land at someone’s front door and walk right in. Unless you’re working for the CIA you probably don’t need to.

If you’re feeling impish, email a cousin a picture of their rooftop and tell them you can see them working in their yard. (At most what you’ll see is a grey dot on a still picture, but it’s fun to make them wonder.)

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