Using Geolocation to Connect Geography with Genealogy

Olivia Harne


Expressing identity has become an interesting combination of both hobby and potential social market, and while many services offer bits and pieces of this idea, no system has currently capitalized on the prospect of a woven together user experience portraying both ancestry information from genealogy enthusiasts with the personal aspect of individual geolocation sharing.

The appeal of knowing one’s heritage has been well documented, and knowing how to utilize this popularity to its greatest effect could be a boon for geospatial information in the personal sphere, as well as a tool for networking giants to reach out to their user bases on another level.

A geographic ‘portfolio scrapbook’

With the renewal of popularized location sharing that Snapchat’s geofilters have made available to its users, the ability to share one’s location in conjunction with social networking may be on the horizon.  

Also resurgent in social media sphere are heredity analytics, as evidenced in sites like, which offers ways to test a person’s genetic makeup and projects possibilities for their ancestors’ origins.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

Heritage and geosharing have become tools for expressing both individual identity as well as cultural heritage. While the ability to convey this data in contingency has been available for some time, the popularity of it could bring about a new advent of location sharing.

Map showing the geolocation of Flickr content.
Geolocation of Flickr content via ArcGIS Online.

The ability to create a potential geographic scrapbook could add a new dimension to the popularity of genealogical research.

The coinciding increase in usage of these two services could engender a new cultural fascination for geolocation sharing that could work in tandem with archiving genealogical data.

Using geospatial to link common ancestry

Similar to the functionality in apps like Foursquare, there’s potential for users to find greater interest in cataloguing data about their research.

Allowing users to link to photo galleries, include audio files, or bring in media from outside sources such as YouTube would bring enhanced customization of an individual’s array of experiences in a geographic format that can be shared with family members – both close relatives and those brought to the fore by DNA testing.

Bringing in mapping will add to the ever evolving complexity of this mapping demographic.

ArcGIS Online, alongside with its constantly updating interface is poised to come the forefront of personal location sharing, though its learning curve could be off-putting to more casual prospective users. Integrating the user bases of systems more prominent in the realm of social networking – from the vastly used Facebook to smaller applications like Periscope – could make the concept far more palatable.

Being able to extract already documented posts and media, and the ability to allow data sharing between ArcGIS and these sites could streamline the process and level the playing field as a way to network and share geographically.

When observing geographic trends, it’s clear that data is no longer a tool for government agencies or planning strategies, it’s a personalized way to convey identity through a comprehensive lens that both displays and shares not only individual uniqueness, but uniqueness of culture; A lens that both displays and shares not only individual uniqueness, but uniqueness of culture and heritage.

About the Author

Olivia Harne is a GIS developer, writer, and student. 


Photo of author
About the author
Olivia Harne
Olivia Harne.