Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
Going Back Home with Google Earth
"You Can't Go Home Again," according to the novel by Thomas Wolfe. Once you leave, home will never be the same. Physically, home may not have changed, but you grow and change with life experiences. It's really the home of your memories, the atmosphere of your childhood you're looking for, the shelter of family–and that can never be the same.
With Google Earth, you can make a nostalgic visit to all the homes you've lived in without leaving your computer. To maximize using the features of Google Earth take advantage of the free download, and begin your trip.
All that's needed is the street address and city or town in which a house is located. The image will provide the date photographed, longitude and latitude as well as altitude of the property photographed. Our former home in Tucson was photographed in March, 2008 and our home in Green Valley in April, 2008. It helps to know what the house looks like, i.e., my Green Valley address is displayed in front of my neighbor's house.
I have lived in nine homes in my life. The first I have no memory of, but the second was my home from age two until marriage. A large double house in Lakewood, Ohio, an image of it popped up quickly when I entered the address. After 50 years, it looks the same except someone painted it pink! The home of my childhood, it brought back many memories. My grandmother lived downstairs, a sanctuary where cinnamon toast, chocolate cake, or a quiet place to read was always available. Those were the days . . . !
The next two homes were tied to my first marriage. They had not changed either, but I wasted little time looking at them and moved on.
My favorite home is the next one. Joe and I had it built after our marriage in 197l. A big four bedroom colonial in Mentor, Ohio, here we raised our blended family of four through high school and beyond. Many happy memories and some challenges, too come to mind. We planted our first Christmas tree in the front yard. A five foot high blue spruce, it still stands magnificently, now over 30 feet tall.
It's also fun to look for relatives' homes and those lived in by ancestors, if they still exist. Again, all you need is the address. The census, a city directory, a birth or death record should provide an accurate address.
I looked for my maternal grandmother's childhood home from the 1900 Scranton, Penn. census and found the house has been torn down, nothing remains but a set of concrete steps. The house she lived in after her marriage is now the parking lot beside a delicatessen.
My paternal great grandfather lived in Washington, DC in 1900 on H Street. It appears his house is gone, replaced by an office structure down the street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel. A baker, by 1910 he moved his bakery to Sassafras Street in Erie, Penn. This too, has changed, to a neighborhood of apartment buildings.
In a short time, you can waste a rainy afternoon visiting numerous addresses without ever leaving home or getting wet. Going back 50 years I was fairly successful, but 100 years appears to be pushing the window of urban renewal.
Google Earth can help rekindle old memories, but Wolfe is right, you can't go back home again.
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23 July 2012