Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Using Google Maps

At the CVGS Computer Group meeting today, we discussed and demonstrated using Google Maps to see streets, highways, mountains and other terrain. The zoom in/out capability and panning the image were also demonstrated.

Most of the attendees looked for their current house, ancestral family home, or a cemetery. In addition to the streets, you can select "Satellite" and see a satellite image of the area, or choose "Hybrid" to see the satellite image with the streets overlaid on them.

I often find myself going far afield when I use these maps - several weeks I spent an hour or so "flying over" the entire coast of New England looking for geographical features associated with my ancestors homes. I wish that Google added a topographical feature also so you could see the relative altitude of surface features.

How do you access and use Google Maps? Follow these directions:

1) Put in your browser address line.

2) On the Google page, select the link for "Maps" above the search box - that leads you to

3) Insert a street address with a city or town, and the state, or just a town or city with a state, in the Search Box. I put in "Leominster MA" in a recent search. I also put "290 Central Ave Leominster MA" for a house address. Then press the "Search Maps" button.

4) A street map, with a fairly large geographical area, appears. You can zoom in or zoom out by clicking on the + and - boxes in the upper left hand corner. You can also move the image right, left, up or down by clicking on the arrows in the upper left hand corner. The "ladder" in the upper left hand corner defines how much zoom power you are using. If the indicator is at the top of the zoom ladder, you can't zoom in any further.

5) You can also pan the image by putting your cursor on the map, holding down the left-hand mouse button and moving the mouse right, left, up or down.

6) If you want to see a Satellite image of the map, click on the "Satellite" button in the upper right hand corner of the image. If you want to see the streets superimposed on the satellite image, click on the "Hybrid" button in the upper right hand corner.

7) Just above the map image, there are links to allow you to Print, Email or Link to the map you have on the screen. Click on them and follow the directions.

8) Just below the Google search box are links for "Find Businesses" and "Get Directions" - you can input a term like "cemeteries" in the "Find Business" box and see a list of the businesses on the left hand side of the page and the map displays the locations of the businesses. If you click on "Get Directions" you can enter a destination in the Google search box and the map will show you the route with driving directions on the left hand side.

Google Maps is a terrific tool for finding ancestral locations - the towns, ancestral homes, cemeteries, genealogy societies, etc. Using the zoom feature with the "Hybrid" feature you can see what the terrain around your target looks like, down to individual houses if you zoom in far enough.

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