Saturday, September 10, 2011

Using Earth Point to Find Your Ancestor's Land

As I was catching up on my vicarious attendance at FGS2012 blog reading this morning, Shelley at A Sense of Family mentioned attending an FGS session given by Jane Halderman (“From Land Records to Google Earth: Mapping Your Family’s Place”).  During this session,  Earth Point was demonstrated using the township and range from land records or deeds to "fly" to the land identified with Google Earth.

It sounded pretty neat, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I had low expectations -- not because I have doubts about the website or its creators, but because my ancestor's land is in South Dakota and historically it's one of the last states to be included in anything -- but I was pleasantly surprised when I plugged in my numbers.

First, I located the section used to convert township and range to longitude and latitude.  I plugged in the requested information, which I obtained from the land records of my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph Zenophile Lanctot (my blog review can be found here):
After you input the information, you have two options: you can view the conversion data, which looks like this:
or you can "fly" to the location on Google Earth.  The image you receive will show a pin with the section number on it, indicating the area of the land.  
From the records, I knew Zeno's land was in the northwest quarter of section 13.  I'm sure it has changed somewhat since 1885, but I feel pretty confident that the placement of the house and farm is the same.

Some things that should be mentioned about the website are: (1) some states have limited BLM coverage.  Whether this means that Google Earth won't fly there, or if Earth Point can't convert to long/lat, I don't know.  Check the list of states on the website and see if it applies to you.  (2) Earth Point is a subscription site, but only the enhanced features are restricted.  The conversion tools work without a subscription (I do not have one).  However, without a subscription, you will receive a popup message every 10 minutes of use when you are viewing in Google Earth.  I did not encounter the popup message because I was not using the image for longer than 10 minutes, so I cannot attest to how annoying it may be.  

The subscriptions appear to be around $50 per year, but discounts are offered for multiple users (might be beneficial for a society to check into this as a perk of membership).  There is also another option for more infrequent users, which is to deposit funds into a pre-paid account and the costs are deducted as you use the service.

I only played with it for a few minutes, but it seems like it would be a neat tool to keep in your toolbox!

The FGS sessions are being recorded and will be available on CD and MP3 sometime after the conference at Fleetwood Onsite.  I'm definitely putting this one on my list.


Greta Koehl said...

I'll have to give this a try - thanks for the tip!

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