I often used to wonder about the places where my ancestors lived. What was their address? What kind of building did they live in? What did it look like? Is it still there? Like me, you may not have photographs of your ancestors’ residence, or the photos you do have only show a small portion of the building.
Some years ago, I began seeking out photographic images of family residences. When I locate a US federal census record, a city directory, or another document that includes a street address, I turn my attention to the maps at Google.com and its Street View function. If Google has photographed the street, chances are strong that you may see a recent image of the building.
Let’s start with an example. My great grandfather, Green Berry Holder, and his family lived in 1910 at 808 South Broad Street in Rome, Floyd County, Georgia. I learned this by examining the 1910 US federal census. (See Figure 1 which shows three residences. The Holder family is the second.)
The left-hand column was intended to record the street or road name. Once you find your ancestors on the census, you may have to flip backward or forward to other pages to find the name. The next column records the street number. The following column shows the number of addresses enumerated by the census taker in this enumeration district (noted on top of the form). The next column indicates the number of families listed by the enumerator in this district. You will, of course, want to analyze all the columns for each person living at that residence.
Next, go to Google Maps and type in the street name, city, and state. An recent map of the place will be displayed showing an overhead view of the area. You can zoom in or out. If you zoom in, you’ll see an overhead outline of the building on the property, assuming it still exists. (See Figure 2.)
Click and drag the little yellow man icon from the lower right corner of the screen and drop him on the street in front of the building. A photograph like the one shown in Figure 3 will be displayed. You can click and drag the image for a 360° view and to move the view up and down. Rotate the view until you see the roadway and see an arrow. You can click this to move in that direction to see other views of the area.
You may want to record the URL to the exact image for your records, or you may use an image capture facility.
On a PC, you can use the Snipping Tool. Click Start, then All Programs, then Accessories, and then Snipping Tool. Click the down arrow next to the New button to select your snipping type. Click and drag your mouse to select the area of your screen or window you want to capture.
On a Mac, open the app and window you want to screenshot. Press Command + Shift + 4 all at the same time. Place the camera cursor on top of the window you want to screenshot. Click on the upper leftmost corner of the area you want to capture and drag to the lower rightmost corner. Release the mouse and the image will be captured to your computer clipboard. Mac also allows you to automatically save the image to your Dropbox account, if you have one.
If you want to know if the residence still stands and what it looks like today, Google may give you a glimpse of the place. I can’t afford to travel to all these places, but I can get a feeling from these Google Maps images.