Putting historical context into our family stories is impossible until we know the geography of their lives. Over what paths did they migrate? Where did they live? The term “geographical information system” is daunting, but Rick Sayre shepherded us through the details. He showed us that we don’t have to be GIS professionals to use these tools in our research.

Google Earth is a tool geared to the non-GIS professional. Rick showed us several examples in which historic maps were linked to the Google mapping system. That was just one of more than a half dozen such systems Rick demonstrated. One beautiful use of GIS is the Arlington National Cemetery’s system, available for browsers and smartphones at http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/GravesiteLocator/GravesiteLocator.aspx.

Once we look at visual mapping of geography, there are a myriad of resources. You don’t have to create GIS from scratch. Rick’s syllabus material included three pages listing websites to help us map ancestors around the world. The tools and techniques that Rick shared were just the thing for my family stories.

This session has been taped. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session F321 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.