It’s not the first time I have envisionned mapping my genealogy data in order to get a clearer picture of my ancestors’ lives. Like many of my fellow geek genealogists, my first try was by using Google maps (you can read all about it here). It was interesting work and it enabled me to verify my data thoroughly before using it for any project. I was disappointed though that I couldn’t add layers to my map: like for example a specific address over the years (my ancestors moved a lot for employment purposes).
A recent blog post enabled to try again mapping data with Google Maps, I did so using multiple .CSV files: one for biographical info, the other with residence, employment location, etc. It’s tedious work if you do not have your genealogy data saved in that format, it means you have to rewrite it yourself (I’m unsure about this, it’s possible that some genealogy software can export your data in CSV files. If you do, please share the info!). Here’s what it looks like:
But I was still not satisfied with what it “looked like” so I tried out two other mapping/timeline tools: Heganoo and Storymap
Heganoo is a visual app that displays custom maps on mobiles, tablets and pcs. I tried them out using my genealogy data about Paul Genereux. I found it slightly difficult to use at first (remember to hit the “save” button often to see your changes!) but finally simpler by creating a “slide” for each event of my ancestor. The cool part is that you can link your Dropbox account to import images to each slide. You can add more than one image per slide. Although I would have wished a “credit” or “source” field for each image imported I’m well satisfied with the result.
You can also customise the zoom level of each slide: for example if your ancestor was born in Canada (but you don’t know where precisely), your first slide will zoom out to show the entirety of Canada. Then let’s say you found in in the 1901 Canada Census living on Champlain street in Montreal, you can show the map at street-level. There are many other features (free and paid) that allows you to adjust colours, background images and so on.
StoryMapJS is a free tool to help you tell stories on the web that highlight the locations of a series of events. The interesting part is that it offers you to create a “standard” map or a “Gigapixel” map with large artwork images and photographs. It’s very simple to create a map, you choose a location, customise and then on with the next slide. I loved the “credit” field for imported images so I could cite the source, unfortunately I could only add one image per event/slide. There are less custom options than in Heganoo but if you get your hands on the code, I promise that you can pretty much create the map you want.
The only thing that bugged me is not being able to set the zoom level of my events on the map, my guess is that he can only be customised if you import JSON data from a webfile. (I know it sounds pretty technical but here’s an overwiew of JSON).