How to Time Travel Using Google Maps

How to Time Travel Using Google Maps

Take a step back in time! Learn how with this example using the free Google Maps for genealogy.

Google has several powerful tools that you should add to your genealogy toolbelt. Search, of course, helps you find valuable genealogy resources, and you can organize your data using Google Sheets and Google Drive. But you can also use Google Maps for genealogy by viewing locations as they were in years past.

Let’s look at an example. Samuel Jones’ widow, Ann, left Wales for Pennsylvania in about 1819 with her children and grandchildren. City directories show that she sold dry goods from her home at 112 West High Street, also known as Market Street, where she died in 1852. I searched Google Maps for 112 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA to find that location.

Begin using Google Maps for genealogy by searching for an ancestral location, then clicking the image to go to Street View.

1. A red pin marks the location on the map.

2. Click on either picture of the street on the left to go to Street View.

View an address at present or at an earlier date using Google Maps.

3. The building at this address is undergoing construction and looks fairly new.

4. This photo was taken in July 2017. Click the down arrow by the clock icon to see other dates available for this address.

5. Click on the earliest date, 2007, to see that image. Click the image to make it the main view. This photo shows an earlier building at 112 Market Street, and it might be the one where Ann Jones lived in the 1840s.

Google Maps will only show you how locations have changed since Google began mapping streets in the mid-2000s. But having another view of the locations important to your ancestors can still provide useful information, particularly if (as with this example) recent renovations have changed the site.

You can also use Google Earth to map out your ancestor’s town and location. We’ve got some tips for using Google Earth from expert Lisa Louise Cooke.

A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Family Tree Magazine, which also contains a roundup of other great Google tools for genealogy.

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