This article might be subtitled “How to Have Fun with Your GPS Receiver and Simultaneously Provide a Public Service for Others.”
A new hobby has appeared that is a "natural fit" for genealogists, historians, and many others. It is called "waymarking." It is fun, gives you a chance to get a little exercise, and also provides a great public service. If you join in the waymarking activities of today, you can help future genealogists and others for decades to come.
Waymarking is a game/project/obsession which uses GPS coordinates to mark locations of interest and share them with others. You can even post online digital pictures of the location for others to see.
A waymark is a physical location on the planet marked by coordinates (latitude and longitude) and contains unique information defined within its waymark category. Pictures may optionally be recorded as well. Through the use of your waymarking efforts, you can share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet.
Waymarking is great for genealogy applications. For instance, you can waymark the locations of ancestors' graves, homesteads, places of birth, a battlefield where an ancestor fought, the place where great-great-granddad shot the bear, schools attended, and much more. Later on, other descendants can travel to the same locations easily, thanks to your pioneering work. If you also provide pictures, still more people can visit the location “virtually,” even if they are not able to travel there physically.
Of course, this effort is not limited to genealogy work alone. Waymarking has many, many other applications. I particularly like it for recording the locations of historical events: locations of the first railroad station in a town, the first cabin of early settlers, the old mill that has since disappeared, buildings that are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, historical markers along highways, and many more famous and not-so-famous events in history.
For instance, Sir Hiram Maxim gave his first public demonstration of his newly-invented automatic machine gun in 1890 at 45.032442 degrees North, 69.295632 degrees West. That is a location in my home town of Dexter, Maine, and I was told the story of Maxim's invention and demonstration many times when I was growing up. Not much else ever happened in that small town; so, the first public demonstration of the world's first machine gun was big news for decades! Some future historian researching the history of firearms may appreciate finding the location I recorded.
Even better, the inclusion of a digital photograph can be a big aid for people who are unable to travel to the location. Future genealogists, historians, and others can obtain a quick glimpse of the location, thanks to your photograph. Again, I suspect that others will appreciate your work.
NOTE: Waymarking is loosely similar to geocaching (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching), but with one major difference. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a GPS receiver to seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and a "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value. While geocaching provides a “treasure” for the individual that visits the location, waymarking is a “treasure hunt” for information, not for a toy or trinket. Everyone can later find the “treasure” online, thanks to your efforts.
The location you record does not have to be the scene of a major event in history. Indeed, the machine gun's public demonstration site that I mentioned earlier rates a tiny footnote in recorded history. However, it could be a huge find for a future genealogist or a firearms historian interested in the subject.
In theory, you do not need a GPS unit in order to record waymarks. Sometimes even a postal code is sufficient to find waymarks near your location. Depending on the waymark submission requirements for a waymark category, you may even be capable of finding the coordinates you need (latitude and longitude) from online tools, such as the various online mapping sites. However, I would strongly encourage you to obtain a GPS unit to mark the most accurate coordinates possible for your waymarks. GPS receivers of high accuracy are available in various sporting goods and department stores for as little as $89.95.
Where do you record your newly-found waymarks? One web site has taken the lead: www.waymarking.com. You can post your findings on that web site for all to see. All newly-posted findings go through a three-day "peer review" process. In an effort to keep out advertising, inappropriate "spamming," or other junk, the peer review consists of a queue available to all of the web site's Premium Members, allowing them to review, vote, and comment on newly-posted categories. Voting lasts for 3 days and is completely anonymous. As a general rule of thumb, a two-thirds majority is necessary to pass a category. If your information is a true recording of a waymark of potential interest to others, the peer review process is a minor formality.
Quoting from the site's FAQs (Frequently-Asked Questions):
What is waymarking?
Waymarking is a way to mark unique locations on the planet and give them a voice. While GPS technology allows us to pinpoint any location on the planet, mark the location, and share it with others, Waymarking is the toolset for categorizing and adding unique information for that location. Groundspeak's slogan is "The Language of Location" and our goal is to give people the tools to help others share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet. We invite you to share your part of the world with us through Waymarking.com.
What is a waymark?
A waymark is a physical location on the planet marked by coordinates (latitude/longitude) and contains unique information defined by its waymark category. An outdoor maze category, for example, could contain information like price of admission and days of operation, while a statue category may describe the artist's medium and date of dedication.
Do I need a GPS unit to use the web site?
You do not need a GPS unit in order to browse the categories and waymarks on the web site. Usually a postal code is sufficient to find waymarks near your location. Depending on the waymark submission requirements for a waymark category you may even be capable of finding the coordinates you need (latitude/longitude) from online tools. However it is strongly encouraged that you have a GPS unit to mark the most accurate coordinates possible for your waymarks. Most waymark categories will require a GPS unit to mark coordinates.
You can read all the FAQs at http://www.waymarking.com/help/faq.aspx.
In order to illustrate the sort of information you can find online, you might look at a few random waymarks that I found on the site:
Jonathan Swift's grave http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMWZM_Jonathan_Swift
in “Grave of a Famous Person”
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member RakeInTheCache
N 53° 20.362 W 006° 16.335
Quick Description: Jonathan Swift is buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.
Greenwood Cemetery Sundial ~ Chattanooga Tennessee http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2CQQ_Greenwood_Cemetery_Sundial_Chattanooga_Tennessee
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BackBrakeBilly
N 35° 03.562 W 085° 14.409
Quick Description: Greenwood Sundial in Chattanooga Tennessee
Location: Tennessee, United States
Dingmans Bridge - Bridging Pennsylvania and New Jersey http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2CNX_Dingmans_Bridge_Bridging_Pennsylvania_and_New_Jersey
in Truss Bridges
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member unimoggers
N 41° 13.203 W 074° 51.485
Quick Description: One of the last remaining privately owned bridges of its kind in America, the Dingmans Bridge spans the Delaware River.
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Waymarking is a great activity for a genealogist/historian/photographer/techie person like me, and perhaps for you as well. On your next vacation or genealogy research trip, you might consider waymarking the locations you visit.
For more information about waymarking, visit the following web sites:
http://waymarking.com - provides the tools to share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waymarking – Wikipedia's brief article about waymarking.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others. Tweet it, share it on Google+, Facebook or on your preferred social network.
Republishing of this article in newsletters, blogs, and elsewhere is allowed and encouraged, with a few minor restrictions. Details may be found at http://goo.gl/hoHH1.
Of course, if you haven’t done so already, you should join my email newsletter mailing list to stay current on my latest articles and announcements. You can also cancel at any time within seconds.
You also might like to leave a comment below.