Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Google Maps Street View a Boon to Genealogists

Google Maps Street View gives genealogists an on-the-spot look at historic and other sites of interest. Apparently Google has people all over the world driving around taking pictures of thousands of towns and cities, first in the United States, and now all over the world. I began to really take notice of the power of this program when Google got street view in the small eastern Arizona town where many of my ancestors lived. I could virtually drive through the streets and look at the ancestral homes and neighborhoods.

You might want to start looking at Street View in a larger city, where you know the service is available. I suggest downtown Boston, New York or San Francisco for a start.

Street View is a integral part of Google Maps. If you open the Google Website in your browser, you should see a list of Google options along the top of the window, including Web, Images, Maps, News, Video, Gmail and more. By choosing Maps you enter the Google maps program. When you make a map search, there will be a slider bar on the left side of the map screen. At the top of the bar, sort of like a paddle or marker, is a small icon of a person. If you drag that person over your map, you may see a lot of blue lines appear. These are the lines marking the areas that have been photographed by Google Maps for Street View.

You can sweep the little person over the map and if you hold it steady for a few seconds, there will be a little picture of that portion of the map. It you drop the person onto a street by clicking, the map will change to a photo screen showing the view at that location. Most of the photos are movable and you can drag the photo around to show 360 degrees of view.

When you click in a screen, a line appears showing you the road with arrows in both directions. By clicking on an arrow you can virtually drive down the road. When you come to an intersection, if the road has been photographed, you will see another line going off down the street, which can then be followed to turn onto that street.

To exit Street View, all you have to do is click on the minus sign on the zoom bar.

One of the difficulties of doing on site research is finding out-of-the-way places. With Google Maps Street View, you can virtually investigate and familiarize yourself with an area before you actually drive there. I have used this feature a number of times to "see" places before I drove there. It sames time and aggravation. It is also convenient to see the places where relatives lived the way they are today.

The more you use this program, the more useful it seems to become.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Google Street maps feature too! I just took a virtual drive down the road my grandfather and father grew up on. It was amazing!