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October 13, 2010

YouTube & Genealogy

Have you ever wondered about the town or village your great-great grandmother was from? I have. My maternal grandparents were borth born in Ramsgate, Kent England. Their ancestors (and thus mine) were born in various towns and villages in Kent, Sussex, Devon and other Counties. I've never been to England and have long wondered what the towns they grew up in were like.

I've used Google Maps Street View to look for their homes (using addresses on the various census records). I've looked at historic postcards. But I've never thought of checking YouTube until recently.

Much to my delight there are many videos, both amateur and professional, giving overviews of various towns and villages in England! Some videos are put out by tourist boards. Some are by people living in a specific town and just walking around while filming. Some are by tourists. But wow, what a treasure trove!

One of my ancestors (Hannah Philpot) was born in 1805 in a tiny village called Pluckley, in Kent. I'd no idea it is considered the most haunted village in all of England until I found dozens of YouTube videos about it. Using the videos in conjuction with Google Maps, I am now able to have a good idea of what Hannah experienced and saw with her own eyes.

Hannah later moved to Lenham Kent when she married Edward Golding, and a quick search of Lenham in the YouTube search engine brought 103 results. Some of course are more interesting to the genealogist-historian than others!

Searching for Ramsgate, where both my grandparents and their parents and their grandparents and so on waaaay back were born, gave me over 2,000 hits. I have only watched a half-dozen but now I have a much better idea of places my grandmother Ruth Fuller talked about.

Youtube has added a whole new dimension to my genealogy searches and knowledge of my ancestors. It adds much needed detail and definitely fleshes out those ancestral bones.

1 comment:

Colleen Greene said...

I regularly search YouTube for historical film footage, or just photo montages, of my ancestral places. Vimeo too (because they allow longer videos, so more organizations and producers are starting to migrate to that host).

For example, there's a lot of good stuff on the German Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum in Buffalo, where my maternal grandfather and his brothers resided in the late 1920s/early 1930s. Being able to watch that mix of present day footage set against historical photos really helps me get a glimpse into my deceased grandfather's childhood.

Flickr is another great spot to check. Again, I found really cool photos of the present-day ruins of that Buffalo orphanage.

As more and more archives and libraries realize that their patrons are demanding digital access to their collections, these organizations are flocking to free social hosting sites like Google and Flickr to meet their immediate access and budget needs.

And like you, I too use Google Maps Street View to search for ancestral addresses. I love that I have indeed sometimes been able to view a photo of a building there that just *might* date back to year in which my ancestor lived or worked there.

Colleen Greene
Librarian & Genealogist
Colleen's Commentary