and the Addition of Data


What is a GPS and why are GPS data important?


Over the past few decades the US Government has put scores of specialized satellites into polar orbits.  A polar orbit is one that goes around the earth in an orbit that crosses over or near the north and south poles.  At any one time, there are from 3 to 5 (sometimes more) satellites in the sky overhead that you could see if they were not so small and so high.  Each satellite continuously sends out radio signals that identify themselves and their location.  They also send out the exact time and other, usually military, information. 


One of the uses of this information is a Global Positioning System or GPS.  Even though these satellites are moving, if you know the exact position for any three of them and if you know the exact time that you measure their position, you can draw a line on a map and where the three lines cross, that is where you are.  The GPS unit does all the measuring, calculating and plotting for you.  Instead of giving you a point on a map, however, it gives you the exact latitude and longitude of the point where you are standing.  Click for more information on Latitudes and Longitudes.


The GPS is so good that it can give you the exact latitude and longitude of your position within about 10 to 20 feet.  That is pretty good considering the circumference of the earth is about 24,000 miles. 


A GPS unit is relatively cheap selling for under $100 in the year 2005.  They are quite small being about the size of a cell phone.  So, it is quite reasonable to measure fairly exact positions (as latitude and longitude) of things of interest to our family history.  For example, you may want to be able to know the exact latitude and longitude of things like your grandparents home, cemeteries and even the grave sites of certain relatives, churches, schools, centers of towns like Woodsfield, Lewisville, Miltonsburg, Graysville and Way, etc.  With a GPS, all these can be measured to an accuracy of about 10 to 20 feet.


One reason for wanting to have the latitude and longitude of these locations, of course, is to be able to locate them easily.  Another reason is so that people 50, 100, 200 or more years from now can pin-point these things on earth because they will have their exact coordinates.  Many of the places like those above will no longer exist.  For example, there is no longer any trace of towns such as Way, Graham, Sprague and many of the other small towns that used to be common knowledge among our grandparents’ generations.  Many ordinary cemeteries and grave sites become obscure with time.  If exact latitude and longitude coordinates are known, these sites can be located even though they may have dropped from public sight and memory.


It is important that the latitude and longitude data of places that we measure not become meaningless because of some man-made or natural event.  Such an event might be the abandonment of the use of latitude and longitude measurements in favor of something better.  Or, conceivably, something like a nuclear war or other catastrophe could disrupt GPS-type measurements. To protect against such a possibility, we need to include the exact coordinates of some major features on earth like a mountain, or island or something that is likely to survive unchanged over the decades and centuries.  These would be fixed reference points for calibrating GPS data.  If such major features can be found and if their latitude and longitude coordinates can be determined, they can be used to calibrate other data.  Several such major features have been included in the list of references on this site.


GPS data are being used to precisely locate points of interest on earth.  It is a cheap and easy way to preserve historical and genealogical information that would otherwise vanish with time.


How can I add GPS data to the Monroe County Historical and Genealogical Website?


You are encouraged to provide GPS data for measurements of sites of historical importance.  If you would like to provide GPS data and information to be used on this Web Site, send it to the webmaster Richard Harrington  Be sure to include all the information that is contained in the format used on the web site.  The format is given below with a brief explanation of each item.


Name of Site: (Name of the site – for example the name of a church, the person’s grave, store name, village name, etc.)


(Site #)  (If you use a site number or other reference to identify your data, please provide this site number or other data.)


Elevation:  (This is the elevation of the site you are measuring.  Please adjust the elevation measurement to ground level if at all possible.)


Latitude: North yy o’  (Provide the latitude as precisely as your GPS unit will measure; preferably in degrees, minutes and decimals of minutes.  Provide the data exactly as your GPS unit measures it – please, do not convert it to different units.)


Longitude: West yyyo’  (Provide the longitude as precisely as your GPS unit will measure; preferably in degrees, minutes and decimals of minutes.  Provide the data exactly as your GPS unit measures it – please, do not convert it to different units.)


Description: (Describe in detail the site/object/place to which your GPS measurement applies.)


Measurement made on date at time and name: (Give the date and time (if possible) that the GPS measurement was made.  Give the name of the individual who made the measurement.)


Accuracy of Lat/Long as stated by the GPS device:  (Provide the accuracy of the reading as measured by your GPS for the measurement you are reporting.)


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