Using the Google Earth Overlay tool

A few months ago we took a look at some of Eric Stitt’s work on genealogy on his blog, and he continues to produce very useful tips. His latest post goes into detail about Overlays, which can be useful to Google Earth users of all levels.

ny township overlay

In researching his past, overlays can be a very valuable tool as he explains here:

I have used overlay for flying routes, shipping lanes, and mostly used for plat maps. I love plat maps, it’s like my little window to the past. You can take a plat map, stretch it over the township your ancestors lived in and then use that to figure out where things from the past laid in today’s land. For instance, how many times have you see a old farm field turn into a subdivision? What I have done is place that plat map over the township and then used placemarkers to mark the Church, School, and Cemetery and then my polygons to mark the farm.

To learn more, check out Eric’s full post or read more of our posts related to overlays.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. There is a great example of an overlay – very large scale late nineteenth century Ordnance Survey maps of London – created by the National Library of Scotland featured in the Google Maps Gallery here

    where the very precise fit of old and new allows the full functionality of Google Earth and Street View to explore how the past underlies the present. Highly recommended , and search the Gallery for similar overlays of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

    On a less positive note, while GEB has been keeping readers updated on uses of Google Earth, very little seems to be happening on Google Earth itself, supporting Frank Taylor’s ominous GEB post of 25 February. It is now more than two months since the last imagery update KMZ (admittedly a massive one), and even the much heralded launch of the new Google Maps has yet to happen in the UK. What does it mean > slow decline, or major change imminent?

Leave a Reply