Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Genealogy Research Aids

Author and podcaster, Lisa Louise Cooke, posted a new vidcast on her site recently about a new ‘beta’ tool called Google News Timeline.   The timeline tool displays news, magazine, book and other documents that discuss events in history.  Enter keywords and / or dates in your search and you’ll see results presented by day, week and month of the year.  Google News Timeline is a significant resource to family history researchers.

See Lisa’s vidcast at the bottom of this post. 

The Google News Timeline is located here.


Of course, published materials decrease significantly the farther you go back in time, but don't let that deter your timeline searches.   You may be surprised with the results from these searches.

Recently, I noted that the New York Times is now posting a lot of old articles on their site.  Search for names or events on the search box on the site.  The old articles are in .pdf format.  Most are free but some of the more lengthy articles require a subscription to the archival services at the Times.

Listening to Lisa's vidcast, I wondered if she had ever seen the wonderful articles about the San Francisco earthquake that the USGS has posted.  They include Google Earth (free download) files that show the fault lines and 'shake' values of the quake during the event.  Additionally, they have added before and after photos showing the destruction down to the house level.   Even though the earthquake is called the 'San Francisco earthquake' it affected a significant section of California and the Google Earth files show its impact in those rarely noted locations. 

If you don't have Google Earth installed on your computer, download it from here, then install the free program.  The files associated with the earthquake are listed as links on in the articles on the USGS site.  Browse to the links from the home page and you'll see them under each article heading.

If you haven't used Google Earth before, you are missing a real treat.  Not only does it let you view all locations on the earth, but it also includes the sea floor topography for all the oceans on earth and it also includes a full view and tour of all the celestial bodies.

Why am I focusing on Google Earth?  The answer is simple.  Technology has pushed through the brick and mortar walls of schools and extends knowledge, learning and research opportunities to our home computers, mobile laptops and mobile phones.  Google Earth is one of the tools that enable the spread of virtual education and knowledge. 

Mashups of various technological tools allow educators and folks like you and I to create interesting presentations of our research, stories and topics of interest in ways that exceed anything known just a few short years ago.  We are only limited by our imagination and desire to learn the use of technology.  The technological tools that most family history researchers will embrace is actually very simple to use.  We just have take the time to read the instructions and then apply the knowledge.

I know most folks think they can't create presentations, podcasts or vidcasts, but you really can.  Believe it.  You CAN produce presentations that will help you in your ancestral quest.  They WILL draw the interest of family members and others who are researching your common lineage if you post them on a blog or on your website and tell folks about it.

Now is the time to use the tools at hand to accelerate your research efforts.  Go for it!   You are the only person saying that you can't do it.  You know how much you love proving wrong that surprisingly older stranger that you see in the mirror every morning.

Start today by installing Google Earth.  Then use it to find the cemeteries where four or five generations of your ancestors are buried.  Mark them and create a slideshow of them to show to your family.   Change the angle of the inward zoom.  Spin the earth under you.  Label your bookmarks.  Put them in the order you want then save the file.

Once completed, you'll be able to send the file to family members and other researchers.   Remember that sharing a file like this almost always produces information in response and it frequently is the information or clues that you are seeking.

In another blog post, I referenced a Google Earth file that takes you on a flight to all the cemeteries of my ancestors on the island of Bornholm in the North Sea.  Now that you have Google Earth installed on your machine, download my file from the link near the bottom of the posting and see how a simple file used for genealogical purposes looks on your screen.  It is very simple presentation but it only took me ten minutes to create and it graphically conveys the information I wanted others to see in a format not available before.

One last time…   Try it ...  Mikey, Gina, Charles, Annette (insert your name here)....  You'll like it!