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Putting your ancestors on a map

June 30, 2018

Connecting with distant relatives over the internet and finding a common ancestor can be hard at first for the unprepared. Sure, you might already have a huge pedigree branching out all over the place, but these family trees are sometimes hard to navigate through.


 Luckily, Google offers a service called “My Maps” where you can drop pins and draw lines and shapes on a map, add comments and then share it with your fellow researchers. It’s free, fun, and it’s also guaranteed to be appreciated by the others as well. Here’s how to do it:


1) Create a Google (Gmail) account for free


(Chances are you might already have an account with Google. If that’s the case, just log in and skip this step.)

If you don’t have one yet, click on the following link and set up your account:




2) Create a new “My Map”



- Navigate to this page:


- Click on the red “Create a new map” button in the top left.

Your new map should be ready to customize and already saved to your account.


3) Customize your map


- Click on “Untitled map” on the details page on the left. This will enable you to name your map to something like “Ancestors.” You can also write a short description in the field below it. After done, click “Save.”


- My Maps offers you the possibility to manage different layers. Every pin you drop, every line or shape you draw will be bound to a layer that’s currently selected. After creating your map, it will already have a base layer called “Untitled layer:”


- Layers can be used to differentiate between paternal and maternal lines or basically whatever you need to have a clearer overview. They can be toggled on or off to show or hide all content bound to them.


- Name your first layer by clicking on “Untitled layer” on the details page on the left.



- You’ll find the buttons to add a pin and to draw a line or shape below the search bar. Click on “Add marker” and click on a part of the map. This will drop a pin where you clicked and open up its details page. Give it a title in the first field and a description in the field below. You can even add photos to the description by clicking the little camera icon. (I usually give the town’s name as the title and list all ancestral surnames in the description.)



- Click save and your pin will be saved. You can now edit its style by clicking on the bucket icon on the bottom. You can choose from a range of colors and icons. If you don’t find the icon you’re looking for, simply click on “More icons.” Once done with the customization, you can simply click somewhere else on the map to close the pin’s details. It will automatically be saved.



- Need to move the pin or edit the title or description? Just click on the pin to open its details. Now you can drag-and-drop it wherever you want to. To edit the text, simply click on the pencil icon. If you don’t need it anymore, you can delete it with the trash icon on the right.


- To add a line, click on the “Draw a line” button below the search bar. You can draw lines by dropping points similar to pins. Google will automatically draw a straight line between two neighboring points. To finish the line, simply click on the ending point once again. You can customize it from here the same way.


- To add a shape, start drawing a line but instead of clicking on the ending point, click on the starting point to close the shape.


(Tip: if you’re working with both pins and shapes, it’s a good idea to separate them into different layers.)


- Instead of customizing each pin and shape individually, you can choose to set a uniform style to a layer. Click on “Individual styles” under your layer’s name on the details page on the left. In the first dropdown menu, select “Uniform style” and close the small tab. You’ll see that the items under the layer will say “All items.” Hover over them and a little bucket icon will appear. After clicking on this icon, you’ll be able to customize the style for the entire layer. You can set different uniform styles for different layers.


- You can also select what map type you want to use by clicking on “Base map” on the left. You can choose between the good old “Google Maps” style, satellite, terrain and others.



4) Share your map or hide it from others


Click on “Share” on the left. This will bring up a new window where you can copy the link to share with others, set the privacy settings to either hide it from everyone besides you and those whom you invite, hide it from the public (but not from those who have the link) or make it completely public. Once you’ve set everything to your liking, click “Done” and you’re all set.


(Tip: if you follow my pattern of giving the town names as titles and surnames as details, people will be able to search for them in the search bar on the top.)


Did you like this little guide? Feel free to share your ancestral map in the official Hungary Exchange Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HungaryGenealogy/

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