I’ve shared the Marczynski family’s story here before: Casimir Marczynski’s wife, Mary Fabich, died of typhoid fever in 1907, leaving him a widower with six children. His mother arranged for Mary Witkowski–a young woman from Julianowo, Poland–to travel to Dunkirk that summer, and the couple were wed on August 26, 1907 in St. Hedwig’s Church. Together, Casimir and Mary raised fourteen children, opened a successful penny-candy store in town and left their mark for generations. I wanted to find a new way to tell their story, though; my idea? Google Tour Builder.
When I’m not researching my family tree, I’m teaching the technology class at an elementary school in my hometown. And in the weeks before my students’ class field trip, we made virtual field trips on Google Tour Builder, complete with photos of their destination and research about each landmark. Tour Builder allows you to show viewers the places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way–all in Google Earth. You pick the locations on the map–add photos, text and videos–and can share it with your family. And even though the platform was created to give veterans a way to record the places their service has taken them, it’s perfect, in my mind, for genealogy.
1. Create a Tour
To create a tour, you’ll need to visit Google Tour Builder and sign in with your Google account; because the platform relies on the same interface as Google Drive, you won’t be able to create and share a tour without signing in first.
Once you click “Create a Tour” and sign in with Google on the front page, you’ll need to name your tour and provide your name; I chose to call my tour the “Marczynski Family Road Trip,” and I used my site’s name–Applegate Genealogy–as the author. Click “Create Tour” again, and you’ll be taken to the tour builder:
2. Add an Introduction
For my “Introduction,” I added a photo of the patriarch and matriarch of the Marczynski family tree–Casimir and Mary (Witkowski) Marczynski–by clicking “Add a Photo” in the center of the page and uploading a photo from my computer’s media library. You also have the option to add a caption and description for each photo once it’s uploaded.
Next, I wrote a brief summary of my tour in the “Tell the Story” box below:
Below the “Tell the Story” box are advanced options that allow you to change the path color and map style. I want to highlight the third option, though: “Type of Story.” I’ve chosen “Story 3D,” which allows me to follow my ancestors’ journey from Poland through Germany, France and England and on to Ellis Island.
Your ancestor’s story may not follow a linear progression. “Hub” can be used instead to create a central placemark with lines spiraling out and to surrounding placemarks, and “Disabled” removes the lines between placemarks entirely for stories that are not tied to a particular timeline. It all depends on the story you’re telling.
3. Add Locations
To add my ancestor’s first stop–the place where he was born–I clicked “Add Location” on the left. You’ll need to type a location into the search box, choose the location from the list of options that populates and click “Add to Tour.”
Just like the “Introduction,” you can add up to 25 photos and videos that are associated with this location in your ancestor’s story. There’s a box to write your ancestor’s story, and you can add a start and end date (if applicable). I also changed my placemarks to blue to fit my blog’s theme.
You can also customize your view: zoom in or out, switch to “Street View” or tilt the map and choose “Lock this View” to make sure your viewers see the correct landmark.
4. Save & Share
After you’ve added all of your locations, photos and stories, click “Done Editing” on the top right:
To share your tour, click “Share” on the top right. You can make your tour private or public on the web, or you can share your tour with family and friends only–just type in each of their email addresses.
The Marczynski Family Road Trip
Creating a virtual tour–and following my ancestor’s footsteps–has brought the paper trail to life, and it’s been an effective way to share my research with family members–the visual is easier to connect with than the pages and pages of names and dates. For this 52 Ancestors “Road Trip,” here’s my ancestors’ journey from Poland to New York: it follows my great-great-grandfather’s voyage on the SS Patricia to Eckhart Mines and ends with the home that my great-grandparents built. And if you need more tips and tricks for using Google Tour Builder, visit their tutorial–best of luck!