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GPS and Genealogy

Your ancestors had to use many methods to keep from getting lost in their migrations around the world. Now modern technology can be put to use helpng you find them!


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Resource: GenWeekly
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Ever try to locate an old gravesite or maybe the entire cemetery, only to find bushes and trees? Ever try to give directions to a fellow genealogist on where Grandpa use to live, only to get that desperate phone call hours later, telling you they are lost? Ever wonder if you will be able to find that exact spot again several years later? Your ancestors had to use many methods to keep from getting lost in their migrations around the world so that they could start your family tree. Don't compound the difficulties by losing where they were last set to rest.

A new tool is emerging in pin-pointing geographical locations, called the Global Positioning System or GPS for short. In actual fact, GPS refers to an entire 27 earth-orbiting satellites plus other important features, as well as a GPS receiver. But most people only refer to the GPS receiver device when talking about the subject. Basically a GPS receiver will give a pair of numerical numbers which represent the latitude and longitude of where you are. If you are standing over your grandfather's grave, these numbers can then be jotted down as to where the grave is at. If you want more in-depth information on how GPS works I suggest the web site

When the first experimental satellite was launched in 1978, GPS became an important tool in the locating of positions in space and on the surface of earth. In the technology's beginning, it was strictly for military application, but in recent years it has been in use for a wide latitude of applications by civilian groups and individuals. The receiving devices have also come a long way. They are user-friendly, affordable, and have several different, additional applications other than just locating where you are. Receivers can be purchased between $100 to over $800, from over 15 different manufacturers. Much of the price depends on what added features you want to be included. A good web site to look for all the different type of receivers is

In addition to pin-pointing a location by receiving signals from a minimum of four satellites, GPS devices can also be used to judge how far and how long you have traveled, your current and average speed, as well as a record of the path you took from point to point.

Geologists, archeologists, and other scientist have found that by using GPS technology they can pinpoint important physical features and sites. In navigation, whether by car, boat, plane or by foot a GPS receiver can help one find your favorite restaurant, a place to land an aircraft or find a location on the vast open sea.

So it should not be a surprise that genealogists and family researchers can also easily use this relatively new technology for purposes of documenting exactly where ancestors lived and where they were buried. Researchers will be adding to the familiar family sheets another notation with the heading of,"GPS Location." To some it may seem too much to expect family researchers to be so detailed, yet how many times have you reviewed other family profiles, only to discover crucial pieces of data missing. In the near future, writing down the GPS location of Uncle Joe's last farm or where Aunt Polly's final resting place in the woods will be as common as the notating of surnames.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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