Mapping out Memories: Using Google Earth to Find Family

According to a March 2012 report in Time Magazine, an Indian man named Saroo Brierley, who was adopted by Tasmanian parents, and lives in Australia, recently found his birthfamily using Google Earth.

Google Earth is a free application, that can be downloaded at The application allows users to take virtual tours anywhere in the world.  With amazing clarity, Google Earth lets you explore buildings, imagery, landscapes, waterways, etc.

Brierley left India at five-years-old, and had memories of begging on the streets with his brother. He also had some memory of landmarks that played a prominent role in his childhood. It was these tidbits of memory that had him zooming in and out on Google Earth for ten years, looking for a village that matched his age-washed memories.

He was successful. Brierley found the village, and his birthfamily. He was reunited with them in February of 2012. While Brierley says that communication is difficult, his reunion seems to be a happy one. According to the Time article, Brierley is even thinking of making his story into a movie.

While I cannot imagine that there are many instances where Google Earth is the best search tool on the Web. Brierley’s success does make a point about perseverance, and the crucial step of mapping out your memories.

If you have any memory of your birth family, no matter how vague, you need to write it down. Be as precise as possible with your list. List things as silly as “I had a pink teddy bear” and as identifying as “I heard a train go by everyday.”

By writing down your memories, and those of your family members, you may find clues that will help to narrow your search.  Interview your adoptive parents, and siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins. Every memory is another pin on the map that will eventually lead to your birth family.

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