Looking Around With Google Earth

If you haven’t checked out Google Earth yet you are missing out on some interesting photos and a whole lot of fun. Google Earth is a program that allows you to look at places all over the earth and view them from the air or at street level.

These are not just maps, they are actual satellite images, aerial photographs, and 3D images from the geographic information system, from various sources—old satellite photos, the US Geological Survey, the State of Ohio, and the USDA Farm Service Agency.

And best of all, Google Earth is free. You can download the program from this Google Earth link. It works best with a fast Internet connection and it does use a lot of data, if you use a data plan like I do.

When viewing the aerial photo images you are able zoom in on an area and see how far above the earth that particular view is. The 3D views make browsing even more realistic. There is a search feature and all you have to do is type in an address or place name and within seconds you see the aerial view. You can also “pin” a location that you want to visit again, sort of like a bookmark.

Chattanooga, Ohio, Google Earth, Feb 2012.

Aerial view of Chattanooga, Ohio, Google Earth, Feb 2012 photo.

Another feature that I enjoy is the Street View. To activate the street view and take you from aerial view to the ground, simply move the yellow person icon to the street area in front of a building or place. The yellow icon is located on the right side of the screen. Street view appears as though you are standing in the street looking at the building or place. You can rotate the street view 360 degrees and toggle back and forth between aerial and street view by clicking the Exit Street View button in the upper right.

Drag the yellow person in front of a building to activate Street View.

Drag the yellow person in front of a building to activate Street View.

Street view photos are panoramic photos that were taken from a “camera car” as it drove down the road, capturing photos every few yards. Unfortunately the street view is not available for a lot of the rural areas. They photographed the panoramic views on the main roads but not all of the back roads. However, I did notice that Frahm Pike is available on Street View. There is also a ground-level view option, but it is a very flat view.

I have also noticed that the aerial view and the street view were not taken at the same time. In fact the dates of the two views can vary greatly, even on the same highway. At this time, street view images on State Route 49 south of 707 were taken October 2008. Images on State Route 49 north of 707 were taken July 2009. Images on State Route 707 east and west of 49 were taken September 2013. It appears Google is updating their images all the time.

You can do and see a lot with Google Earth.Google Earth enables you to view places and things that no longer exist. For example, Lefeld’s John Deere is no longer north of Chatt, but the street view photos below were taken in 2009, when it was still in operation.

Lefeld's Google Earth Oct 2009 - Copy

Lefled’s John Deere, State Rout 49 north of Chatt, Google Earth, July 2009 photo.

Lefled's John Deere, State Rout 49 north of Chatt, Google Earth, July 2009 image.

Lefled’s John Deere, State Rout 49 north of Chatt, Google Earth, July 2009 photo.

With Google Earth you can view you ancestor’s home or farm without even leaving your home. Below is a nice photo of my great-great-grandfather Friedrich Schinnerer’s home east of Willshire, where he lived in 1880. The photo below was taken in 2013. Notice the improved quality of the photo compared to the above two photos.

Friedrich Schinnerer home in 1880, Google Earth, Oct 2013 image.

Friedrich Schinnerer lived in this home in 1880, Google Earth, Oct 2013 photo.

Here is a photo of the Schumm barn, which is no longer standing. The barn was taken down in 2012 and the photo was taken in 2011. On the slate roof: L. Schumm 1886. Louis Schumm was my great-grandfather.

Schumm barn, Google Earth, May 2011 image.

Schumm barn, Google Earth, May 2011 photo.

This is an aerial view along the St. Marys River, west of Rockford, where I believe my great-great-grandfather Friedrich Schinnerer’s grist mill once stood.

Probable location of Schinnerer's Mill along St. Marys River, Google Earth, February 2012 image.

Probable location of Schinnerer’s Mill along St. Marys River, Google Earth, February 2012 photo.

Occasionally you will see some people in a street view photo. The two men below, from the Willshire area, were probably talking about the 2013 harvest.

Van Wert County, Oct 2013

Farmers near Willshire, Google Earth, October 2013 photo.

Google Earth 6 provides Historical Imagery, which gives a variety of aerial imagery dates to chose from. You can view the old aerial maps by clicking on View in the Menu Bar, and then Historical Imagery. Viewing older images enables you to note changes in the towns and landscape below.

The oldest aerial photos date back to 3 April 1994, taken by the US Geological Survey. Some of the older images are not very clear. Over the years the clarity of the aerial images has improved dramatically and the most recent street view images are also very clear. The new 3D imagery is amazing. I have yet to determine if there is a way to view the older Street View images.

There are other features on Google Earth that I have not tried, such as overlaying a map. I hope to learn to use them some day.

Fun and interesting stuff! You should try it.


Source of photos: Google Earth, photos accessed 30 April 2014.


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