Ever had an ancestor that moved around a lot and you just can’t wrap your head around it? Melissa Finley, of BoundlessGenealogy.com, shared a few tips on how she created a research map to understand her migratory ancestor using Google My Maps.
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If you missed the previous video, Create a Family History Road Trip with Google My Maps and Creating a Virtual Hometown Tour, then click on those videos to remember how to create a map.
Remember, you need to create your Google My Maps on a laptop or desktop but then can access it from anywhere, even on mobile devices.
Why create a research map with Google MyMaps?
If you have a mobile ancestor that seems to be mobile or could be different individuals with the same name, how can you settle the question? You can create a research map featuring the locations for your ancestor and see what explanations (or contradictions) appear.
Melissa shares her research map focused on her quest to understand Joseph John Finley. Be sure to watch it for full details.
She found Joseph found in military records and traced his career throughout Ireland for about 40 years. A timeline of his career indicated he was reassigned to different ports about every couple of years. Meanwhile, family records caused more confusion as the location of his children’s births did not always align with the military career, or did it?
When you are not intimately familiar with the geography, in this case, Ireland, then create a research map with Google My Map for your research project.
A Tool to Consult You Create Your Research Map with Google My Maps
When you work with places of the past, you might not find all of the locations on a current Google Map. Are you out of luck?
Consult a gazetteer. A gazetteer is basically a place dictionary. When your ancestor is listed in records with place names that you can no longer find on a current map, whether that be in Ireland or the United States or elsewhere, find an old gazetteer from the same time period that your ancestor was living.
Melissa found a collection of digitized books including gazetteers on Internet Archive (archive.org), one of which featured Ireland between the 1820s and the 1860s. The year range coincided with when Joseph John Finley was serving in the Coast Guard.
[For more tips about researching the Internet Archive, read this post.]
You can search the digitized books on Internet Archive using the search bar. Type in your place, and press search. Sometimes you may have to use alternative spellings for places as inconsistent spelling also affected localities as well as individuals.
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A Historical Map Bridges the Gap Between a Gazeteer and Your Google My Map
When you find a place in a gazetteer, you’ll typically read a description of the place. You can use those clues to help pinpoint the location from the past onto a modern map.
Be advised, you may also need to locate a map from the same time period that displays the pertinent gazetteer information before you can use modern maps.
With the dates and locations associated with your ancestor’s life and clues to where those would be located if they exist today, you can then plot these locations on Google My Maps to begin to untangle the story of their life.
Map of Ireland from David Rumsey collection
Melissa found places along the Irish coastline that matched Joseph John Finlay’s service history. Many of the ports from the 1830 – 1860s no longer exist.
Highlight a Region on Your Research Map Using Google My Maps
When you do not know a specific town or village, but rather a county, parish, or region, you can use another tool on Google My Maps to mark that area. You access this tool next to the directions tab.
Map of Joseph Finlay’s life vents and Coast Guard Service
After highlighting a county or region, you may begin to recognize clues to solve your research questions and family mysteries.
A Research Map Can Resolve Your Questions
After you have marked your ancestor’s life history on a map, you may finally understand why things happened where they did.
In Joseph’s case, the varying birthplaces of his children begin to make sense. The varying birthplaces align with Joseph’s service record which provides evidence that his family moved along with him.
Imagine the possible discoveries you can make when you map out your ancestor’s life on Google My Maps. If you have a very mobile ancestor, create a Research Map using Google My Maps.
This post wraps up Melissa’s three-part series on Google My Maps. Be sure to support her research efforts by visiting her websites BoundlessGenealogy.com or her YouTube Channel, Boundless Genealogy, where she teaches you how to squeeze more clues out of the documents you find in your family history search.