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From isolation to broad vistas

Feeling cramped? Confined? Isolated?

There’s no need for that, y’know.

The Legal Genealogist sure hasn’t been narrowing down.

Instead, I’ve been expanding my horizons every single day, while still easily maintaining the social distancing we need in this time of pandemic.

I’ve been out to a bunch of United States national parks, including Arches, Badlands, Yellowstone and more.1

I’ve been to the Cincinnati Zoo to learn much more about its baby hippo Fiona.

I’ve been to the Georgia Aquarium to watch the critters under the water.

I’ve toured Buckingham Palace, the Vatican Museums, and the Great Wall of China.

I’ve even been to Mars.

And, just this morning, here as I start another personal trip around the sun, I have visited with my mother, grandparents and great grandmother, at the cemetery in Virginia where they are all buried.

All without leaving the confines of my home in New Jersey.

That last one is the one I suspect most genealogists might want to try … and there are several ways to do this.

You can always start with your favorite maps service online. Mine would be Google Maps. And I simply entered Byrd Chapel United Methodist Church in Kents Store, Virginia. It pops right up at 5371 Venable Road.

Byrd Chapel-Google maps

Now… this is not exactly a metropolis. Zoom in and you get the church, the post office, the fire department, the community center and the funeral home. And that’s pretty much it.

And then you can switch over to satellite view and zoom in again.

Byrd Chapel-Google maps2

Or you can start with the U.S. Geological Survey geonames system — a more complex but more full-featured system, entering Byrd for the feature name, then Church for the feature class (searching Byrd and Cemetery returns no hits), Virginia for the State and Fluvanna for the County. You get two options: Byrd Chapel and Byrd Grove Church. It’s the chapel where my folks are.

Choose that and you get a number of options for mapping services. I kind of like the aerial imagery on Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Byrd Chapel-Microsoft

You could use Google Earth online or even offline if you’ve downloaded and installed it. Same system: enter the search term, zoom in on the location and choose the options. Lisa Louise Cooke has a free class in using Google Earth for genealogists if you want to know more.2

Byrd Chapel-Google Earth

Now the reality is, with all of these, you’re not going to be able to zoom in and read the stones. But you can do what I did this morning… sit for a while with the old folks, and ask them just what it was like 100 years ago in the last truly terrifying pandemic.

And wish you could have heard their answers.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Expanding horizons,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 19 Mar 2020).


  1. For more, check out Ryan Ford, “You Can Virtually Tour A Whole Bunch Of National Parks From Your Couch,” Diply, posted 16 Mar 2020 ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020). Or “Here’s 33 National Park Tours You Can Take Virtually From The Comfort Of Your Home,” ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020).
  2. See “Free Google Earth for Genealogy Video Class” ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020).
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