Google Maps - Wow do I love this application. I recently had the opportunity for a first time ever trip to the Northeast US. I am a west coast gal, through and through but have always wanted to visit the East. I used Google Maps extensively to plot our two week trip through Rhode Island, Massachusettes, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut. I used it to find the old cemeteries I wanted to visit, the historical societies I wanted to visit and the roads we needed to travel. But now I want to try to use it to view the places my parents lived and the places their parents lived. It works pretty well for that but some of the more rural areas don't have the greatest resolution. Hold on, there is a new kid on the block, well not that new but maybe new to some of you. Google Earth. It is much like Google Maps, except it is an application you have to download to your computer. But man oh man is it worth it. You can get down to ground level, just like you are driving your car down the roads of the WORLD. Not just the US, but the whole world. How great is that. I am still learning about it thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke and her very interesting session during the recent Mesa Family History Expo.
There is a wonderful option to overlay old maps onto the present day map on Google Earth, using the Rumsey Historical Map collection. Lisa has hinted at the ability to use your own maps for this same functionality but I'm still working on how to do that. Many of my areas of interest are much more rural areas with no maps available through Rumsey but I'm hoping I'll be able to figure this out. Yeah, I found where you can overlay your own maps. This will definately need some more play time. Check either one of these options out. They will be very useful in visualizing your ancestors migration or just movement within a state. In my case my gtgdparents were in Red Oak, Creston, Clarinda, and Vilisca, Iowa. It might sound like they did a lot of moving, however after looking at the maps, those towns are all within about a 60 mile area.
Take some time and go exploring with Google Maps and Google Earth. You will be amazed at what you can see.
Another great option is to create a migration pattern map using Google Earth. You input the different places your ancestors were and the map draws the migration lines for you. Again, still working on fine tuning this, but what a great visual tool.