Google Earth for Genealogists: Plot Your Ancestors’ Lives

Most of us never get to travel to all the places our ancestors lived, but you can follow in their footsteps—virtually. Google Earth, a free software program, lets you experience faraway locations from the comfort of your own home. In Google Earth for Genealogists, you’ll tap into the program’s robust features to bring depth and a new perspective to your family history research.


  • How to save, share and organize information in Google Earth
  • How to overlay historical maps
  • How to plot your ancestor’s homestead
  • How to create a virtual “family history tour” to share with others


$99.99 ($89.99 for VIP)

Course Length:

4 Weeks


Lisa Louise Cooke

Start Date:

View upcoming course schedule for dates.


“This is a great way to quickly learn Google Earth. The instructions were informative, easy to understand and relevant to the subject. It would have difficult to navigate Google Earth without these lessons.”

“Ms. Cooke was an excellent instructor. She really knows Google Earth inside and out. I really learned a lot from her.”


  • Family researchers who would like to see where their ancestors lived
  • Genealogists who want to share their research in a dynamic way


  • Free Google Earth software (you can download it from
  • This course is designed for students who have a basic familiarity with Google Earth. If you are new to Google Earth, you should get acquainted with the program by doing some trial searches before the class begins.
  • This course assumes you understand the basics principles of genealogy and have done some investigation into your family history. If you are a total beginner, consider taking the Discover Your Family Tree course before enrolling in this class.
  • Students should have a basic understanding of how to use their computer and the web. If you’re new to the web, consider taking our Computer Boot Camp class first.
  • Recommended study materials: Google Earth for Genealogy DVD: a Video Tutorial Series by Lisa Louise Cooke and Google Earth for Genealogy Volume II: the second installment of the Google Earth for Genealogy DVD series. Buy both from and save 15%! Use coupon code SFT140 when checking out.


Lesson 1: Getting Started

  • Introduction
  • Locating Ancestral Homes and Locations
    • Exercise: Plot an Ancestor’s Home
    • Getting a Closer Look
    • Exercise: View Your Ancestor’s Home with Street View
  • Exploring Additional Locations
  • Lesson Quiz

Lesson 2: Saving, Organizing and Sharing

  • Introduction
  • Placemarks: Creating, Naming and Organizing
    • Exercise: Create and Name a Placemark
  • Folders
    • Exercise: Create Surname Folders
  • Moving Placemarks Between Folders
  • Deleting Files or Folders
  • Organizing Files
  • Saving Images
    • Exercise: Sharing Grandma’s House
  • Copying Images
  • Emailing Locations
  • Printing
  • Lesson Quiz

Lesson 3: Historic Images and Maps

  • Introduction
  • Historical Imagery
    • Exercise: Revisiting World War II
  • Rumsey Historical Maps
    • Exercise: The Streets of San Francisco
    • Exercise: Save the 1915 San Francisco Map to the Places Panel
  • Creating Your Own Custom Historic Map Overlay
    • Exercise: Create Your First Custom Historic Map Overlay
    • Tip: Find Plat Maps Online
  • Saving and Sharing Custom Historic Map Overlays
    • Exercise: Save Your First Map Overlay to Your Computer
  • Where Google Earth and the Census Intersect
  • Going Visiting
  • Lesson Quiz

Lesson 4: Plotting Your Ancestor’s Homestead

  • Introduction
  • Plotting An Ancestor’s Homestead
    • How to Search the BLM Website
    • Tip: Saving and Printing Land Patents
  • Land Patent Details
    • How to Plot an Ancestor’s Land Patent
  • Don’t Stop There
    • Exercise: Virtually Visit the Old Homestead
  • Get to Know the Community
  • Lesson Quiz

Lesson 5: Fun with Images and Videos

  • Introduction
  • Genealogical Images in Placemarks
    • How to Add an Image to a Placemark
    • How to Rename a Placemark
    • How to Revise a Placemark
  • Adding Videos to Google Earth Maps
    • How to Add a Video to a Placemark
    • Exercise: Add Existing Video to a Google Earth Map
  • Focusing on an Area
    • Exercise: Outline the Area of Focus
  • Recording a Family History Tour of Your Embellished Map
    • Exercise: Record a Family History Tour
  • Adding a Virtual Tour Guide Placemark
    • Exercise: Create a Virtual Tour Placemark
  • Saving Content Rich Family History Maps
    • Exercise: Pulling It All Together
  • Sharing Content Rich Family History Maps
  • Conclusion
  • Lesson Quiz

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