Finding United States Locations Using On-Line
Aerial Photos and Topographical Maps

With the internet, new features appear and refinements of older sites occur constantly.  Some of these  features can be used as genealogy research aids or for simply finding locations for places such as old cemeteries.  The capability now exists  to very precisely locate places that once were difficult to find.

As a demonstration of this, I've used the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System    (GNIS), above, to find cemeteries in Arkansas with my surname, GOAD.

PictureAccording to GNIS, there are two cemeteries  with GOAD in the name, the Goad Springs Cemetery in Benton County and the Goad Cemetery  in White County.  The GNIS query provides information that includes feature type, state, county, the map the feature is found on, and the latitude and longitude.

The next step I've taken is to go to the Microsoft Terra Server site.  This site provides aerial photo images and/or maps of the entire United States and some images from elsewhere in the world.

When I entered GOAD in its search box, there was a map available for Goad, Tennessee, which is not what I wanted.  However,  an advanced search Pictureallows more detailed searches on place names and a Geo Coordinate Search that uses latitude and longitude, which I used.  The latitude for the Goad Springs Cemetery in Benton County is 361459N and the longitude is 0940911W.  The values were entered as seen in the example on the left..

The initial result is provided below.  A topographical "locator" is on the upper left of the page.  The initial aerial photo has a resolution of 16 meters for each pixel of the image (represented by the red line line on the selection graph). Three image styles are available, relief, topo(graphical), and photo Picturewith various magnifications.

When I selected topo for the same resolution (16 meters, I  found a stream  by the name of Goad Springs.  It was not in the center of the image as I might have expected.  Rather it was off to the right.

When I clicked on the main image in the area of  the stream, it opened a new map image at a resolution of 8 meters per pixel.   Each time I clicked in the area, the resolution increased by 2 until at 2 meters per pixel, the name "Goad Springs Cem" was shown.



The map and photo images  demostrate a couple of things.  The first of course is that it may not be possible to positively identify some things from an arial photo, but it does provide some indication of the terrain such as fields, forests, roads and structures (Note the two long chicken houses in the map and the photo).  With this map and photo, I could have found this cemetary in 5 minutes instead of the hour it took me in 1999.


The second thing that these images demonstrate is change.  The topographical map is dated June 1980.  The photo is 11 April 1995.  In the 15 years between the two dates, an interstate with a local interchange has been built.

The other cemetery.
The images below show the other Goad cemetery that was listed on the GNIS for White County.

The TerraServer images can be downloaded!

Many places in the United States do not have photo images with  the variety of resolutions of of some of my examples above.  The greatest majority do have photo images at the 1 meter  resolution, like the last example.



Copyright © 1999 - 2000 by Michael Goad. All rights reserved. The pages of this site may be freely linked to. Facts and ideas from this site may be freely used. (Facts and ideas can't be copyrighted.)  None of the following may be duplicated without consent:

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  • The government works presented here are NOT covered by the above statements as they are public domain, except for my arrangement of them.
  • Any material on this site that is copyrighted by others is either here by permission or is used under the provisions of fair use.

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