Saturday, March 8, 2014

Overlay... Window to the Past

The next feature in the Google Earth toolbox is the Overlay. This is by far my favorite component to use for my family history, but it can also be the hardest to get correct. When I say overlay I am talking about taking an image and stretching it out over the globe like a magic blanket. I say magic because not only can you lay it out over an area, but you can turn on the terrain and make a three dimensional overlay, so if you are in a mountain range then you can still see those features instead of just a two dimensional picture. But wait there is more, just like Polygons you can adjust the transparency of the overlay to see what is underneath it too.
Stargard, Germany abt Oct 1944
Like I said earlier this is my most used tools, I have used overlay for flying routes, shipping lanes, and mostly used for plat maps. I love plat maps, it's like my little window to the past. You can take a plat map, stretch it over the township your ancestors lived in and then use that to figure out where things from the past laid in today's land. For instance, how many times have you see a old farm field turn into a subdivision. What I have done is place that plat map over the township and then used placemarkers to mark the Church, School, and Cemetery and then my polygons to mark the farm.
New York Township, Caldwell Co, MO 1930
You can find historic plat maps in a county atlas, or even googling for plot maps will lead you to all sorts of digital images of different counties and townships. Just make sure you watch your copyright laws. Just like all the other tools in google earth overlays too have a description box. This is a perfect place to put your source citation. Any notes you have on that particular overlay, even just jot something down about how you feel about that family discovery. Overlays I think are a key piece when sharing with family too. You all have heard the phrase “You can't be a prophet in your own land” (Luke 4:24), sometimes your family might find it hard to believe that your placemarker marks the location of Great Great Grandpa's farm house. That's where the overlay is nice because it is someone elses drawling of the land, who was alive at the time that your ancestor lived there, all you did was overlay it onto a modern map. The last thing I usually do with my plat map overlays and I have started adding to all my google earth tools, is adding a time stamp. Its by no means required it just adds another layer of realism to the story you are telling. The time stamp also allows you to have multiple files clicked ON while not having them became a huge pile of mess. The time stamps can be set to only show then activated by the time slider.

I hope you all will find a piece of your families history to overlay and create your own window to the past.  

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