22 June 2016

Tending to Our Data Farm

Since the Germans from Russia Settlement map was created, it has grown from 103 to 1003 villages. Our main goal has been to provide a Google map with at least three data points for every village: ancestral name, GPS coordinates and current name.  With this information, you can accurately indicate in your research where your ancestral villages were located, add to your family tree, create your own maps, etc.

But behind the scenes, we've also been collecting other data points for the villages that we thought might create additional useful maps in to go along with the big map. While we don't want to stray from our focus of locating villages, the additional information will create some interesting ways to visualize the data and help tell the story of our Germans from Russia ancestors and their lives in the old country.

As we are busily tend to our data farm, adding information and automation, check back often for updated and brand new maps.


21 June 2016

Cooperation Pays Rewards

Back in the summer of 2013, Dennis Bender contacted me through Find a Grave. He noticed I was doing research and setting up memorials for my Germans from Russia families and sent me a few files from a little project he'd been working on for a while.

One in particular caught my eye: a list of GPS coordinates for a handful of German villages in Russia along with their current names and countries.

He was using these to correctly indicate in Find a Grave the current names of the former German villages of his ancestors.  Find a Grave  was not originally set up to be a genealogy resource, but it quickly became one thanks to the volunteers who populated it with photos and memorials. Like most genealogy programs with mapping functionality, many of which tie into the big online maps (Bing, MapQuest, Google Maps, etc.), Find a Grave uses location names as they exist today.  Other than adding a narrative to the biography area, there is no way to indicate ancestral village names or countries at the time.

Knowing the latitude and longitude of an ancestral village changes the game.

Dennis' original list had 55 villages, and was all of two pages long.

In February 2016, while I was proofreading submissions for the March issue of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society's journal Heritage Review, I saw Dennis' list submitted for publication. The number of villages had grown to 103, then four pages long. I contacted him and asked if I could take his data and put it into a Google Map to include with his article in Heritage Review. He said yes, and so I did. From there, things took off in a way I don't think either of us expected. Spurred on by overwhelming positive feedback and encouragement after publication, Dennis stepped up his research.

The little map of 103 villages seeded this past February took spring to heart and blossomed into over 1000 villages by summer solstice.

We recently decided a more permanent home for this work was needed so that it could be shared freely with anyone doing research on Germans from Russia settlements.  In the spirit of sharing, cooperation and paying forward, this site is free for anyone to use with no login or membership required.   All we ask is that you cite us in any of your publications and link back to us in any online posts.  Let us know where you publish so we can add a link to it.

I thank Dennis for this gift he's given all of us with Germans from Russia heritage and for being tenacious and all inclusive in his work.

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