Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Find Ancestral Homes using Google Maps

Today's Tuesday's Tip is to:  Use Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) to find the location, and current buildings, of your ancestral homes.

Google Maps has both street maps and satellite maps, and the user can zoom in to see street and building details.  Street Views can be shown for many locations and the user can "walk" along the street and swivel the view to see street details of homes, cars, people, etc. 

The user needs to know an address, of course, in order to use the Maps to find homes.  Most cities were using street addresses by 1900, so the addresses are in the census records since 1900.  City Directories also have street addresses, when they were used.

For example:  I knew my great-grandfather Charles Auble's addresses in Chicago, Illinois from the 1900 US Census (515 West Adams Street) and the 1910 US Census (611 West 76th Street).  I went looking for these places in Google Maps and found:

*  515 West Adams Street is in downtown Chicago, and 515 is where Union Station is.

*  611 West 7th Street is south and west of downtown Chicago, west of the Dan Ryan Expressway in the Hamilton Park area.  There is no house at this location - there is a railroad track just to the east of this address - the Google Map satellite image shows a train running right beside the address when the satellite took the image.

Here is the Satellite Map view of 611 West 76th Street:

And the Street view:

I guess I don't have to bother to visit this location...

I don't know enough about the Chicago street numbering system to determine if the homes were on the north side of the streets or the south sides of the street, or if the street numbering system in 1900 and 1910 are the same as today.

The address system in some cities may have changed between the time your ancestor lived in the location.  City Directories will usually describe the street numbering system, and the user should check a directory from the time your ancestor lived there and a more recent directory that can be tied to the neighborhood. 

I'll discuss using Google Maps to find a more rural ancestral home location in another Tuesday's Tip.


Linda Gartz said...

Great idea! my grandfather came to Chicago in 1911 -- and I have his address (based on letters my grandmother sent him from Transylvania before joining him here). This is a great idea to find quickly.

Linda Gartz said...

Great idea! my grandfather came to Chicago in 1911 -- and I have his address (based on letters my grandmother sent him from Transylvania before joining him here). This is a great idea to find quickly.

Sharon said...

I use Google maps almost every day. BUT, the map location for a particular address is often OFF by a block or more. I live on a very short street and even my house is off by more than a block.

So beware. Sometimes you can still find the exact place if you have cross streets or if there was something nearby like a cemetery.


RBrass189 said...

Looking up and down the street with streetview at the houses that border 76th street, evens are on the north and odds are on the south.

Forgive me for just dumping some links, but I thought you might want to see these maps of that area in Chicago:

UChicago Maps, Chicago, 1900-1914

Chicago, 1900-1914 | Railroads and industry, 1904, southeast shows this area and block numbers. Looks like those same tracks cross the same area, but the 600 block is to the east of where it is now. That's probably because the blocks counted up from state street, but now that the Dan Ryan takes up a whole block, the block numbering shifts to the west.

Chicago, 1900-1914 | Region, 1903, sheet 6 has that area on it a well. RR tracks have not moved in well over 100 years.

As for rural areas, I recommend USA Photomaps because it allows you to look at terraserver topographical maps. It helps quite a bit when looking for old township and range coordinates.

Geolover said...

Most of our ancestors did not live in cities. Since googlemaps has a really hard time with Townships, New England and Wisconsin Towns, Hundreds, Beats, Magisterial and Judicial Districts, and so forth, it is a rather limited tool.

Jennifer Holik said...

Chicago street numbers did change in 1909 for most of the city but not downtown. Then again in then 1911 for downtown.

There is a book online at Newberry (see http://chicagoancestors.org/#tab-tools) for the street renumbering information.

Happy hunting!

Martin said...



Anonymous said...

Let me echo Jen's suggestion about checking the official city street renumbering guides of 1909 (for most of the city) and 1911 for the central business area (the "Loop"). There are also a lot of street NAME changes over time, too. I have been doing lots of Chicago family research and the street name and number changes are very important to know. The chicagoancestors.org website has free directories for all these changes.

Just for example, I have a GGGrandfather who lived in the same house from 1874 until his death in 1910. That house had one number on Hurlbutt St. followed by two different numbers as Cleveland Ave. All for the same house.

I have also been using the Chicago city directory collection at footnote.com. In the years before house numbering, the directory will often list a street address with cross-street references, such as: "Madison [street] between Jefferson and Desplaines."

The early directories can also be used to relieve confusion about street numbering. If you look in the front pages of many directories they list each street and range of address numbers arranged by cross-street references.

Once I have this info, I like to check streets and cross-streets with contemporary maps, many of which are available free online. This can clear up confusion for many streets with similar names located in different parts of the city.

Happy hunting.


Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

This is a great tip that is also effective world-wide. I was able to see a family home in Ventimiglia, Sicily through Google Maps.