Using Google Maps to Support Genealogy Research
One of my many hobbies is genealogy. I have been researching my family tree since 2001 ans am the self professed family historian for both my and my husbands families. In the last two years, I expanded my research to my husband's family lines. My husband is Irish and Finnish on his paternal lines and Eastern European on his maternal side. After conducting Ancestry DNA tests, I was contacted by an administrator of a Facebook group that focused on descendents from a particular villages in the former Galician region of present day Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. This led me to another Facebook group the Lemko DNA and Ancestry group. This group is again focused on making DNA connections of descents with Lemko ancestry. After a time, I began to realize I could volunteer my technical skills to assist in managing the many surname and village lists. Many of the members expressed a want that they wished they could see a map with all the villages to help with making connections. I had one of those lightbulb moments and thought about the Google Treks I had made in the past for some lessons. As such, the Lemko Ancestry and DNA map database was born.
“Maps are an essential part of your genealogical research for a variety of reasons. Maps can show you where and when boundaries changed. Some maps provide you a bird's eye view of the city your ancestor lived in. They can help you recreate your ancestor's community leading you to additional resources. Maps can show the migration route your ancestor took.” (Ortega, 2011). The area identified as Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire has been ruled by many different countries over the years, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Ukraine. Maps are scarce for this region.
Using Google Maps, I created an online map database that visually connects members of the Lemko DNA and Ancestry group and their ancestral surnames and villages. Pinned ancestral villages include links to cadastral maps, photos, member surnames, links to metrical document scans and more. The members of the group are connected through DNA connections as identified through the GEDMatch website. However, known common ancestors are often a struggle to find. Members of the Facebook group can search the map database for ancestral villages and common surnames, and locate resources for their genealogical research. Connecting through surnames provides additional avenues of research for our family trees, in the hopes that a common ancestor will be identified.
The Lemko group Google Map Database is comprised of user contributed information. Over 350 respondents provided surnames, village names, filial parish, links to document scans or personal websites, immigration year, occupation and church affiliation information though a Google Form as well as original collaborative Google sheet. I have mapped over 300 villages with associated surnames in Eastern Europe. Villages encompass not only the former region identified as Galicia and Lodomeria, but also areas east and south into Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine.
Surname, village, cadastral, metryical, personal websites and village photographs resources are consolidated into one place. This consolidation provides a visual depiction of data and resources but also provides members additional avenues to connecting with DNA cousins. Using Google Maps in this methods allows the Lemko group to compile different surname spellings, connect and share information with shared surname contacts, as well as to track migration of family member through several villages.The database additionally includes "new world" villages, locations where immigrant ancestors settled, as well as church affiliations and "new world" occupations. These additional locations allow for additional connections between families to be made as well as additional resources that can be searched for family information.
The Google map also allows for KML/KMZ map overlays such as the early 20th century ethnographic group boundaries for the ethnicities such as of Lemko, Boiko, Hutsul, Pokutians, Opolians, Podilians, Volhynians and Polisians that was created by another member. These ethnographic boundaries represent an approximate time period of 1920-1930’s and represent demographic and changes in self-identification and not political identity. These additional overlays provide an additional level of information for group members to assist in identifying ancestor and village ethnicity within a snapshot of time.
To date the Lemko DNA and Ancestry Facebook group has over 600 members.
Ortega, G. P. (2011, December 2). 5 Maps Sites Every Genealogist Should Know. Retrieved from Archives.gov: http://www.archives.com/experts/ortega-gena/genealogy-maps.html