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Friday, November 27, 2009

See your world (and history) in a new way

Many of the newer versions of genealogical database programs now contain some form of a mapping program. But the world of maps has changed and unless you have investigated the possibilities lately, you cannot imagine how interesting and dramatic the mapping world has become and you have missed the boat unless you know about 360 degree spherical views of places around the world.

First of all, there are several mapping programs on the Internet that provide ultra-detailed maps of the entire world, both from a street map format and from satellite photographs and even from topographical maps. The two most popular places to go for these maps are Google Maps and MapQuest. Both will give you aerial views of the entire world in detail. The amount of detail depends, to some extent, on the density of population and the economic level of activity, but the whole world is now available.


Times Square in New York City

But what if I want to look at the house where I lived when I was in grade school or the house my great-grandfather built in Pennsylvania (0r where ever)? Yes, you can go right down to the ground level and look at a vast number of streets, from St. Johns, Arizona to Paris, France and millions of locations around the world. This feature in Google Maps is called "Street View" and is available on any Google map view. In Google Maps you look for the little outlined yellow person in the zoom bar and drag it onto the map. If the roads turn to blue outlines, you can drop the little person on any road and the map will zoom into street view. Arrows let you drive down the streets and turn corners.

But wait, there is a lot more. You may also be familiar with a program called Google Earth. This is free program from Google you can download to your computer. You get the same zooming kinds of maps that are in Google Maps but with a twist. The program is loaded with on site photographs submitted by users. It is these photographs you want to see. When you are using Google Earth there are choices called "Layers." When you open the program, some of these layers are immediately available by default. The one layer you want to check is called "Gallery." It is not usually checked by default. In the Gallery layer are all the different photographic options. Embedded in this post is one from 360Cities. The photograph of Times Square in this post comes from 360Cities. You may want to go to each of the other Web sites and see the photographs from around the world. It will give you a whole new perspective into the possibilities for viewing familiar and unfamiliar places. You may wish to incorporate some of these fabulous new kinds of views in your blogs and Websites.

Think of doing a 360 degree tour of your old family home, or the place you grew up, or your grandfather's farm. Think of the possibilities!

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