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I had the idea some time back of working on an app that would take a GEDCOM and identify the geo-coordinates of each person's birthplace, then map these on a Google map. Do you know of any app that does this already. My last go at it showed that the hard part might be mapping places as expressed in my GEDCOM to standardized place names. I think maybe Library of Congress's GeoNames API could do this with human intercession.

Just thought I'd see if this has been done.

  • How finely-grained is your placement? Doing place names as towns is one thing, but if you try to do street-level placement of people in a neighborhood, there are difficulties with street-renaming and renumbering, where the address recorded historically may not match up with modern-day Google Maps. – Jan Murphy Mar 22 '14 at 17:38
  • I have taken information from online GIS systems (by hand) and added it to my research material, but that's not at all what you are asking about. – Jan Murphy Mar 22 '14 at 17:39
  • No, not street addresses. I only intended to map to the town level. – user1199 Mar 23 '14 at 3:45
  • This may be too broad for what you want to do, but there is Splatter: timforsythe.com/tools/splatter – Jan Murphy Mar 24 '14 at 16:06
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Splatter, mentioned earlier by Jan Murphy, is now located at http://gigatrees.com/toolbox/splatter. It creates a distribution heatmap of all event locations for all persons found in your GEDCOM. It places markers on the map within a 50ft radius, which is dependent on how closely the place or address description found matches that found in the mapping service databases. Info bubbles are provided for each marker showing a list of every individual found at that location, as well as the mapped location's name and coordinates. And so that you are not overwhelmed with thousands of markers displayed on the map at once, it uses cluster markers indicating the count within each cluster, and then zooming in expands the clusters automatically. The link has a photo which may be easier to understand than this description.

Also, Gigatrees, http://gigatrees.com/toolbox/gigatree, builds and hosts an entire website built around your GEDCOM file that includes a Population Distribution Heatmap, which is essentially the same thing as Splatter, except that all those locations and individual names are hyperlinked. Additionally, Gigatrees provides an Ancestor Distribution Heatmap as a tab on each person's profile page, which is similar to the Population Distribution Heatmap, except that in includes only ancestors of the person whose profile page is being displayed, and includes only their birth locations, which is I believe what you were originally asking about. A working Population Distribution Heatmap can be found on my page as an example: http://gigatrees.com/tree/the-forsythe-saga.

Sorry for the long winded clarification.

Disclaimer: I am the software developer of the free genealogy tools and services available for anyone to use at Gigatrees.com.

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  • This type of mapping tool is exactly what I wanted to find, but Gigatrees is now CLOSED. Can anyone suggest anything similar??? – Canadian Girl Scout Jun 3 '16 at 17:51
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    Gigatrees is now UNCLOSED. gigatrees.com – Deleted Apr 11 '17 at 0:32
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There is a new feature in Family Historian 6, the Map Window, that may give you a display similar to what you want:

Use the new Map Window to map the locations of all the places and events in your projects. View family movements over time, using the Time Slider. Choose any combination of people and events, and filter on event types, using the same or different markers. Click on a marker to view all events that occurred there in a popup window. For example, you can show all your ancestors’ birth places marked in red, and all your spouse’s ancestors’ birth places marked in green. Moving around the map, and zooming in or out to see more or less detail, is easy and fun. And you have a choice of two different map styles.

Family Historian uses GEDCOM as its native storage format, so it should be easy to import your existing GEDCOM file. There is a trial version available for download (30-day free trial).

There is also a plugin that worked with Family Historian 5, Map Life Events which worked with the Google Maps GeoCoder. However, I think the plugins require the paid version of Family Historian, and do not work with the trial version.

Disclaimer: I am not connected with Calico Pie (the developer of Family Historian) or the author of any of its plugins. However, I do use Family Historian and am a member of the FHUG.

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There has been some work on using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for family history and genealogy but it is crying out for more so I wish to encourage your efforts.

For example, I just googled and found Mapping Your Ancestry with Google Maps.

My own efforts so far have been based on using different GIS software:

In terms of importing GEDCOM there are some Open Source GEDCOM Parsers available and this blog posting led me to a Python GEDCOM Parser on GitHub that I started to investigate a year or two ago but have back burnered my efforts on for now.

Disclosure: I am the author of the ArcGIS examples and tutorial linked above

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You're right that the hard part is finding the geographic locations of historical place names (and, working out incomplete and misspelled names).

Places

Do you have a link the LoC geonames api? The only Geonames api I'm aware of is at geonames.org, and there's also NGA geonames. Both are really limited to modern names.

There's the FamilySearch Standard Placename finder which does have more historical names, but it has significant long-standing errors that make it unreliable to use. Example: the town of Midlothian in Maryland, USA, has been given the same alternative names as the Scottish county of the same name.

One of the better historical place name locators is from Dallan Quass, very good for alternative names, but it's far from complete.

Websites

There are at least of couple of websites that try to do the mapping from GEDCOM, such as Ancestral Atlas (commercial site) and an apparently abandoned project: Map Your Ancestors.

Programs

GeoGenealogy (somewhat out of date) has some links to mostly Windows programs (mostly commercial) that were supposed to map from genealogy files, but some may no longer exist or work on current machines.

There are also various abandoned undocumented projects like Genealogeo.

So the problem has been tackled many times, but I don't see a up-to-date easy to use answer. There's certainly still room for a better solution.

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  • Thanks. The LoC work that I was thinking of was probably a linking of LCSH names to GeoNames data. I'm a lurker on the library technology lists, so I only have conceptual acquintance with the data that's out there. An I'm only a dabbler in genealogy, so I probably only see the tip of the iceberg in how historical names are a much bigger namespace than current data. I'll check out the links you've given. Thanks much! – user1199 Mar 22 '14 at 15:59
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Take a look at Google Docs Fusion tables I know that several One-Name Studies are making use of them for mapping name distribution. This is a link to the Google info on Fusion tables. I haven't used them so just a suggestion on another piece of software to try.

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You could also import your GEDCOM into the free Gramps genealogy software and use the Google Earth plugin. However, you probably need to run the Place completion tool first, so that your latitude and longitude information is added to your places.

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  • Welcome to G&FH.SE! We encourage all users who are new to Stack Exchange to take the tour and to look over the help center since SE does things a bit differently than other sites online. If you have questions about the site, you can ask them in Genealogy & Family History Meta. Hope you have fun exploring the site! – Jan Murphy Aug 28 '15 at 22:58
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I maintain my own geneaology site using PHPGedView (http://www.phpgedview.net/). This is an open source project that has very nice Google Maps integration.

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    Please be aware that PhpGedView's last release was 3 years ago, and that the replacement webtrees en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webtrees is what you should use for new sites. – Sam Mar 28 '14 at 3:42
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I have a Windows C# program that plots events from a GEDCOM file on google maps and presents them in a timeline. It geocodes using the google maps API. I use to plot my exported Family Tree data. This runs under Windows 7 or higher, using NET framework. I know this an old post, but if anyone is interested, I would be happy to email it.

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    If anyone wants this emailed then I recommend that they have an email address shown in their user card, and then to let you know that they would like a copy and to look there for contact details. Email addresses should not be provided in any posts (questions, answers or comments) but user cards give you with the freedom to advertise one. – PolyGeo Aug 17 '15 at 0:02
  • OK - That seems to be the best way. Thanks – H.Williams Aug 18 '15 at 1:08

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