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GPS Preface
by John Cardiff
[2013 Update: Since 2012 we have relied on the GPS function in  our Canon cameras, which record the position of the camera, not the  object photographed.]

You can find small cemeteries that are not on your map, a specific gravestone in a huge cemetery, and historical sites that no longer exist, such as your ancestors' homestead. All you need is a  handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver -- and the location's coordinates. In May 2002 we began adding Norfolk GPS coordinates to this web site.

[2012 Update: Today we have alternatives. May cars now come with GPS built into the dash. Even better, small digital cameras such as Canon's PowerShot SX260 or S1oo can record the GPS location to each photo's EXIF data information.] 
GPS receivers help you get from where you are to where you want to be, using free satellite signals to pin-point your current position. They sell for $99(US) and up, and are available at electronics box stores, boating supply stores, etc. Handheld models fit in shirt pockets. Other models fit on car or boat dashboards. We prefer the smaller, cheaper units that you can carry into the field.

GPS receivers supplement, rather than replace, other direction aids such as a compass or map. They shine as navigational solutions when looking for things too small or old to appear on your map. To find larger locations such as cities, maps get our vote as the right tool for the job.

Even those who do not use GPS receivers themselves may wish to add our GPS coordinates to their genealogies, so other family members can use the coordinates as navigational guides to specific ancestral sites, either now or in the future.

GPS coordinates are measures of latitude and longitude. Don't let that scare you. You do not need to understand latitude and longitude to use a GPS -- anymore that you need to understand how your automatic transmission works to drive your car. Mastering the gear shift is all it takes.

Latitude measures how far north or south of the equator a site is. Longitude measures how far west of Greenwich, England a site is. Since virtually all of Norfolk County is north of the 42nd degree ('parallel') of latitude, and more than 80 degrees west of Greenwich, all we need to find is the number of sub-degrees, called "minutes," to pinpoint any spot within about 25 feet (8 metres) or less.

While "within about 25 feet" may not sound too precise, in practice it is usually more than enough. Today's GSP receivers display "minutes" to three decimal places. Concentrating on just the first two decimal digits (hundredths of a minute) makes finding even small objects like gravestones easy.

Since all of Norfolk County is north of the same degree of latitude -- N42  -- and west of the same degree of longitude -- W 080  -- this site abbreviates coordinates to just minutes, so a typical GPS coordinate is written as "[GSP:32.161/03.210]" which is easily expanded and recorded as -- N 42 32.161 and W 080 03.210 -- for compatibility with today's GPS receivers.

An example: the abandoned Mills family cemetery is on Highway 3 just west of Simcoe. But it is easy to miss unless you know you are looking for GSP:50.320/20.800, which is written out in full as
N 42 50.320; W 080 20.800.

There are more Norfolk examples here: GPS:Norfolk.

Link to Magellan brand GPS web site

Link to Garmin brand GPS web site

Learn more
about GPS

Copyright 2002-2013 John Cardiff