Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Find Everything and Anything on YouTube

YouTube is an often overlooked genealogical goldmine. You really can find everything and anything on YouTube!  I am not exaggerating. I already knew that you can type in any song title from any decade and watch at least a few videos about it, sometimes precisely the one that you had as a child. I recently searched for an Archies song that I had cut out of a cereal box and low and behold!  There was a video of that exact cut-out disc spinning on an old 45 turntable, playing the song!


One branch of my family comes from the Prussian province of Schlesien. My great grandfather's hometown was Reichenbach, which became what is now Dzierżoniów, Poland following the end of WWII. My great grandmother was from the big city of Breslau (present day Wrocław).

Looking at map of what is now Poland, I see that their two hometowns are close enough together for them to have met. In fact, as Breslau was the capital city of Schlesien province it's quite likely that they ran into each other there -- luckily for me.   In trying to get an idea of the distance, especially since this was in the 1880s and before cars, my first step was to look at a map to find that they are 60km apart.

Reichenbach to Breslau
A map is nice, but that really doesn't quite tell the story. How hard would it be to get from one place to another, especially leading up to their 1887 marriage.

So, I went to YouTube to search for videos of the surrounding area to get a better sense of what it all looked like.  What I found was an amazing 51-minute dashcam video of something driving from Dzierżoniów to Wrocław!

Like I said, you can find anything! And, it appears very very flat -- perfect for a horse and buggy. I can watch the entire 51 minute video and imagine riding besides my great grandfather as he went into the big city to court his true love.

Oh, and if that one isn't good enough or too rainy, or too dark -- well, there is a 49-minute video driving back to Dzierżoniów from Wrocław that was taken at a different time of day. You want to see what the drive looks like at night? Here you go!


Feeling lucky, I decided to search for another branch of the family that had left Berleburg in the 1860s. Again, looking at a map I traced their route to the port city of Bremenhaven, and found that there was an old train route that they probably rode on. When I searched for Berleburg on YouTube, here is one of the videos that appeared: an old steam locomotive running on the very same tracks!

How to use YouTube for Genealogy:
  1. Find the name of your ancestor's hometown
  2. Figure out any name variations, including different languages
  3. Look at Google Maps and find surrounding cities
  4. Go to and search using all those keyword variations
  5. Find all sorts of videos that you never expected to find


  1. Just this week, I found a video showing the new church building that replaced the one my husband's ancestors attended, but it also showed the cemetery and surroundings of the church.

  2. Hi,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  3. I anm the Grandson of William Frederick Zimmer, who was born in Breslau or in the area on March 4.1847. I am looking for his parents names. They emigrated to the USA in 1854.