Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Google Earth is a computer program that connects to the Internet, allowing users to view and span the globe, virtually, in detail from their home computer and/or mobile devices. Users can then zoom in and move from place to place at random, or can enter destination points -- down to a specific address, allowing the computer to locate the destination and zoom in. Google Earth also allows users to view the universe, the stars and constellations. This mapping of the earth is made possible through the use of satellite images, aerial photography, and geographic information system (GIS) 3D technology. The standard Google Earth program is free and can be downloaded from the Internet. There is also a commercial application which can be purchased.
Pinpointing ancestors in time and place is at the heart of all genealogy research; thus, Google Earth has many applications for genealogy. In general, Google Earth allows you to zoom in on places your ancestors once lived; track migrations patterns; determine distances from one place to another; mark and annotate places. Because the program resides on your home computer, you can customize the application to your individual family, adding photos, documents, and video. Google Earth not only allows you to view your destination and the surrounding area, but also gives you the exact geographic (GPS) coordinates of that destination. The secret to getting the most out of Google Earth is to do use the program and become familiar with its features. Two GenWeekly articles are of particular interest, Maps Are More Than Paper, and Mapping the World and its Data.