Wednesday, January 04, 2006

mapping cemeteries

from usenet soc.genealogy.computing :-

I have been visiting cemeteries and would like to include GPS data for some of the older private cemeteries that are in very bad shape. I know that the system isn't accurate enough to pinpoint individual graves but would indicate where the graveyard is... or was.

Yes, it is certainly viable to use GPS to capture the location of a small cemetery. If the cemetery is large and you want to capture the location of a few graves within the cemetery, then again GPS is fine to the extent that you (or others) can return to the cemetery later and with a bit of poking around find the grave(s) reasonably quickly (especially if you have a few additional comments like "3rd black headstone from roadway" to help once you are in the vicinity).

We take the GPS data and create KML/KMZ (GoogleEarth) files which we publish on our WWW site of headstone photos from various old cemeteries. This
enables anyone who wants to see where a cemetery is in Google Earth to simply click on the link. Here's an example from our WWW site -- IF you have GoogleEarth installed, click it and it will "fly" you to the Alberton Cemetery at the Gold Coast, Australia. It won't work if you don't have GoogleEarth installed.

Although KML/KMZ files can hold as precise a location as you get from your GPS, GoogleEarth does not have the resolution to *display* to the same level of precision. Therefore, we only make KML/KMZ files to record locations of cemeteries and not of individual graves, although I guess you could use it to record the *approximate* location of a specific grave in a large cemetery (it would depend on just how good the resolution of Google Earth is at that location -- it is extremely variable).

I would also like to use a combination of GPS, mapping software and plotting software to indicate the early homes and land holdings of my ancestors, and how they were divided over time. I know that there are quite a few map packages available. Do any allow you to add overlays... or do what I have in mind..? Are there any packages that have a base topo map and/or allow you to remove all man-made features and start fresh with early 1600 settlements, for
instance..? Are any of you doing something similar..?

You want to bear in mind that most of the GPS receivers comes bundled with mapping software from the same/affiliated company and therefore uses a proprietary data format (vendor lock-in). There do exist various programs (some of them freeware) to allow you to convert your GPS data from your vendor's format to various other formats. The impact for you of all this is that you may well need to start by choosing your mapping software, then
choose a GPS receiver compatible with it (or convertable to it).

A lot of mapping software will allow you to add overlays, but I am not sure about the availability of purely topological map sets with everything else done as optional overlays. Most mapping software are used for contemporary purposes so relating locations to things like roads tend to be more useful to most users, so at least some of this information tends to come as part of the base map (e.g. my base map for Garmin MapSource has highways and major towns on it). And indeed, even for historical purposes, it is useful to know where a historic location is relative to current landmarks (you probably have to drive there to visit it). However, I take your point that you would like to be able to view the data optionally with and without current landmarks, but you may need to settle for being able to reduce the amount of contemporary information rather than turn it all off.

The other issue is whether you want to share your location data with others, and whether or not these people will have a GPS or mapping software (of the same brand as yours or a brand that you can covert to). Most likely the people you want to share with don't have these things. This is where KML/KMZ (GoogleEarth) files are very useful as GoogleEarth is probably the most ubiquitous free mapping software available. Now I know there are many things to be said against Google Earth (poor resolution, doesn't run on Macs/Linux, generally needs broadband although some people say they use it over dial-up), but its installed base is massive compared with anything else. For most people, even if they cannot install Google Earth themselves (Mac/Linux/dialup users), odds on they know someone who can use Google Earth. You can define your own overlays for Google Earth incidentally, including overlaying images (very useful if you happen to have aerial photos or old maps), 3D shapes (e.g. to show the position of old buildings), polygons (e.g. to show the boundaries of a piece of ancestral land), lines (e.g. to show a route or track), and placemarkers (to mark locations of houses, cemeteries etc).

I guess what I am saying here is that when it comes to GPS, mapping and genealogy, there probably isn't going to be a simple off-the-shelf solution for you. It's probably a much too specialised niche market. And looking at the bigger picture of GPS and mapping, it seems likely that Google Earth will become (or perhaps already is) the "default" software mapping tool for most ordinary Internet users, so you might as well factor using Google Earth as a means of sharing your genealogic GPS data into your long term plans.

Having said all that, probably the most important thing you need to have in your mapping software is the ability to export it to plain text which you can cut-n-paste into other formats or other mapping software. Conversion tools are nice but nothing beats plain text for handling the unanticipated situations.
and read the whole conversation (thread)

Google Earth –Explore, Search and Discover

Google Code: Google Earth KML Tutorial


Post a Comment

<< Home