Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google Maps -- a help to genealogical research

Over the past year or so, Google has been extensively adding to the capabilities of its mapping program, Google Maps. One of the innovative functions is Street View. Now, using Google Maps Street View, you can actually see the streets, houses, buildings and lots of myriads of places across the world. This function was only available in larger cities and downtown areas, but has since spread to thousands of smaller locations around the world. If you need to travel to a location, you can actually preview your trip by using street view.

The Google Maps are also tied to specific photographs, submitted by users, of virtually the entire country. In addition, if there is a Wikipedia article about a location, you have the option of showing the existence of those articles. I was recently able to put myself right at the entrance to a local cemetery and could actually see the streets in the cemetery and the entry way with the sign. Most of the photos are of acceptable quality, but some are decidedly poor. However, the street views are constantly being updated and it is likely that more recent photo will be better than the last. For example, the current photo of my own house is extremely overexposed and has a city repair truck parked right in front, blocking the view.

This is one of those WOW type Web sites that you just can't get enough of. Look for ancestral homes, cemeteries, farms, practically any where you want to get down on the street.

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