11 December 2016

History buffs: With one click, see a timeline of every county, state and country the spot where you're standing has ever been a part of.

Just type in your address or city in the box at www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html, type a year as late as 2000, then click Go! County boundaries as of your chosen year will appear.  (Sorry for those outside the United States -- this only works for U.S. locations)

Now, find the check box just below the map, and click it.

Sit back and travel back in time through every county, state, territory and country your address or city has been a part of!  See the example below showing Durango, Colorado -- part of La Plata County, Colorado today -- all the way back to when it was part of Mexico in 1804!

NEW: You can also set the update interval that controls how quickly the map and list changes as you go back in time.

On a practical note, if you do historical or genealogy research, it's important to know what county your place of interest was part of as of a given point in time.  For example, if your location was part of a different county than what it is present day, that other county courthouse just may have the record you're looking for.

03 December 2016

User-suggested Enhancements to AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search

With the popularity of my AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search tool (over 90,000 hits and climbing), I was overdue in making some enhancements suggested by users of the tool.

If you haven't used it lately, as a reminder, AncestorSearch "builds a better, genealogy-specific Google search using terms you fill into blanks," to quote Family Tree Magazine.  (Thank you once again Family Tree Magazine for the great honor of listing AncestorSearch and my Historical Maps tools in your ranking of the Top 101 Best Websites for Genealogy in 2016!)

The two key enhancements are highlighted in the screenshot below.

First, you can now filter on Marriages, Births and Deaths (or all three!) by checking the corresponding boxes.

Second, you can get a preview sample of your search results as you type by checking the "Show sample of search results as I type" checkbox. This is useful if you want to quickly test alternate name spellings, locations, etc to see how they may impact your search results. When you do that, the sample of results appear as shown below.

IMPORTANT: Search results that appear on the right (above) as you type are only a SAMPLE. You must click the "Run Full Google Search" button to see complete AncestorSearch search results.

Finally, I've also made some performance improvements which should make the tool a bit quicker and more responsive to use.

Be sure and read the "QUICK TIPS" shown in the green box on the AncestorSearch page.  But to make things easier, here's a summary of the tips:

- Type in as many search criteria as you want. Use of alternate names, a second person, place, or year are all optional.
- You can also optionally filter on marriages, births, and deaths.
- Check the "Show sample of search results as I type" checkbox to quickly test alternate name spellings, locations, etc to see how they may impact your search results.
- Click the "Run Full Google Search" button to run your search. Search results appear in a new tab; close that new tab to come back and refine your search.
- Save time by using shortcut keys: Use the Tab key to move to the next field, and press the Enter key to run the full search.
- PRO-TIP: After clicking the "Run Full Google Search" button, you can edit the search string on the Google Search page that appears (this is useful for adding other Google advanced search strings to your search, such as excluding pages that contain certain words by using the "-" (minus) sign).

I hope these enhancements make the tool more useful for you, and as always I welcome your suggestions and ideas in the Comments section below.

27 November 2016

A couple of enhancements to the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool -- and a thank you!

I've recently made a couple of enhancements to the Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps tool that make it easier to read and see the results of the search (see screenshot below). Thank you, The Family Nexus, for your article that had very nice things to say about the tool, and also made me aware that the text was a tad small.

Another enhancement is the addition of a little "maximize" button above the "Go!" button that expands the map window for much easier viewing (see the little square in the top right of the above screenshot).

Finally, one last enhancement is the option just above the map for "Show Research Locations" that shows you the courthouses, cemeteries, churches and libraries on the map -- all places for potential ancestry research in your area of interest.  (Note:  use this option once you're zoomed in pretty tight on an area, as it won't do much good if you're looking at the whole nation or even a state.)  Once you've checked the box and the icons have displayed on the map, you can click each icon on the map to see the name, address, and website of each library, courthouse, or church.  And in the case of cemeteries, there's also a link directly to its Find A Grave listing.

Best Tech Tools for Genealogy in 2016
Finally, I want to give a heartfelt (if belated) thank you to Family Tree Magazine for the great honor of highlighting my Historical Maps and AncestorSearch tools in your ranking of the Top 101 Best Websites for Genealogy in 2016!

From their Best Tech Tools for Genealogy in 2016 article, "This lively blog stands out for a pair of cool tools: One makes it easy to compare past and present locations in the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries; the other builds a better, genealogy-specific Google search using terms you fill into blanks."

As always, comments and ideas on how to further improve the tools are welcome.

21 November 2015

Take me to the tools

Looking at search statistics on my websites, it seems the vast majority of people who visit this site are looking for a few tools I've created.  So this post is simply to make it easy to find those tools, starting with the most popular:

AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search
Searches using the full power of Google, and automatically applies advanced Google search techniques so you're much more likely to find mentions of ancestors that are otherwise buried in thousands of Google search results.  Great for genealogy and also searching for living people.  Linked to by over 100 professional and amateur genealogy sites, this tool has received over 80,000 visits.

Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps interactive tool
County boundaries change over time.  With this tool, you can make sure you're looking in the right county for the place and historical years you're researching.  Then optionally overlay research locations on the map such as courthouses, cemeteries, churches, and libraries, and link right to them for more information.  Over 30,000 visits to this tool.

Let'sWalkTo, food & fun you can walk to right now
Helps you find restaurants, bars and entertainment within walking distance from wherever you might be, whether at home or travelling.  Just choose what you're looking for and how long you want to walk.  Then optionally filter with keywords, see ratings, link to walking directions and more.

Find the correct world country boundaries for the place and historical timeframe you're researching.

13 March 2015

Let's walk to...

Having recently made a move from the great walkable city of New York to Colorado, I wanted to maintain an active lifestyle and great walkability to restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc.  So, being a bit of a tech and map geek, I developed a new website to help find restaurants, entertainment, etc. within walking distance of wherever I may be.

The website is free (LetsWalkTo.com), and it could be useful if you:
  • are planning a trip and want to find a hotel that’s close to restaurants and entertainment
  • just moved to a new area and want to explore what’s nearby
  • are travelling in a new city and not sure where to go out
  • want to get a good, long walk in on your lunch break, and want to grab a bite along the way
  • are considering relocating and want to ensure you pick a walkable neighborhood
  • you’re stuck in a rut and want to find something new to try
  • want to see how far you could walk in a given time to get in some exercise
  • want to find a place to reward yourself with a beer after your 45 minute walk J

Give it a try, and please let me know in the comments how it works for you and if you have suggestions for how to improve it.