Many of those with British ancestry may be interested to know that Google recently released its Street View map of the United Kingdom in full. Such an undertaking does raise questions surrounding privacy, but there’s no doubt that this could be useful to family historians. Of course, those of us in the U.S. have had Street View for quite a while in some places, but up until recently, only parts of the major U.K cities had been snapped. Now, approximately 95% of roads in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been covered.
So, how might this help genealogists with British roots? First off, this will help us plan our trips across the pond better. We may be able to scout out the locations we wish to visit beforehand and therefore plan trips, whether research based or not, more efficiently. It is also provides a way for us to spatially analyze areas in which our ancestors lived. For those with roots in England that date to the second half of the Victorian period, it is quite possible that we may be able to locate the specific house where our ancestors lived. Or, indeed, see what is there now. I had heard from relatives that one of my ancestors lived on Lovely Lane in Warrington, Lancashire and that their house was demolished to make way for a gas station. Google Street View confirms the story!
But, perhaps best of all, is the fact that we can “walk” down the roads that our ancestors did, and see the same sights. Yes, I know, a great deal has changed over the years, but there are many thousands of country roads and parts of historic towns that look much as they did 100 and even 200 years ago. It’s not going to solve the next research brick wall you come up against, at least not directly, but it’s a fun tool for us to experience the hometowns of our ancestors vicariously.