Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Taking My Genealogy Obsession To the Next Level

I know what you are thinking. If I am already obsessed with genealogy and I think that it pretty clear so how could I take it to the next level? I accidentally stumbled on a way.

Several times in the past few months, I have taken trips, business and personal, that has taken me past the general vicinity of a graveyard that has some genealogical interest to me. The problem has been that I hadn't realized it until after I left the house and I didn't know the address or the information that I needed to look for at that particular place. In the case of cemeteries, I often didn't even have an address for them so finding them is very difficult. I needed a way to take this list along with me and tell me how to get to the place in question when I realize I am near. Enter the world of technology.

As I expressed in this blog entry, I wanted to purchase a Garmin Nuvi GPS navigation device and I did so before my mother-in-law arrived opting for the Garmin Nuvi 200W. It allows me to enter both addresses and coordinates to various locations and save them in a favorites folder. The drawback to this is that your favorites folder gets very cluttered and hard to search going down a highway at 70 mph and you can only give a simple description up to twenty-some characters long. Entering a list of coordinates and the twenty-some character descriptions through their menus can be very time consuming to do. Plus, their system only lets me enter known coordinates and so far, nobody that I have found has compiled a list of coordinates to cemeteries, probably because most of the people interested in such a list are already there and six feet down.

So I turn to a free program on the Internet called Google Earth. Once I know the general vicinity of the graveyard in question, I track it down using satellite technology and find out the coordinates. Because I can input these coordinates into my GPS, I was now confident that I could find the cemetery but still needed a way to write down some notes that would help my locate the graves such as name, section and row. When you have over a thousand ancestors that you are tracking down and many have lived in Iowa since it was a state, it becomes hard to remember which one was where. So once again I turned to the Internet where I found a wealth of knowledge of others wanting to do the same thing but for different reasons. Soon I learned that I could create my own custom Points of Interest (POI) file where I can list up to 256 characters of information, plenty for my purposes. A few minutes of typing, a quick download onto the GPS via a USB cable and now I have my own Genealogical Global Positioning System or as I'm referring to it now, a GGPS. Yes, I have now gone to the next level.

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