Once you have begun to research your ancestors, you will find that one family line lived in one place for over 20 or more years. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find a photograph of that home? Of course, it would be even better if your ancestors were fairly wealthy and had large well-built homes that are still standing today! Some of us had quite poor folk in our family lines, and there may be no “home” to find by now.
However, it is worth the effort to see if you can find out where your ancestors lived, and search on a map (such as Google Maps) for more details. On Census record sheets, you will often see an address written along the left side of the sheet, with the house number written at the left side in one of the columns. Go up to the top of the sheet to determine which column is for the house number. The census enumerator had to track the number of families/households he or she was enumerating, so there are several columns on the left of the family surname.
If your family lived in one place for several decades it may be that they owned property in the town, or owned a farm. In that case, if you see “farmer” as occupation on the Census, you have one more source of where to find an address or location. Land records are held in various places depending on which country you are searching.
To search for your ancestor’s land records, start with an internet search on the term “land records” plus the country or state or province. For example, “land records Canada” immediately brought up several very helpful web sites which would help me find my ancestors in Ontario, Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and others. Doing a similar search for “land records Maine” showed me that their records are held in the State Archives, but also suggests a brochure to help searching. Several clicks on either search page (Canada, Maine) gave me the information very quickly to help me move forward.
After finding your family residence address or land area, search on an online map for the exact location, and see if it is possible to see it at the present time. Or, look in history books of the area to see if there are any photographs of the region at specific times. If you come up with no helpful information, you could also write or email to the local genealogical society or historical society for information on old photographs of the towns, the streets, or your ancestors’ residences. An amazing amount of information is now available online from Archives for countries, states, provinces, museums, universities, and more. Do take the time to search first in the local archives which may hold the information you desire.
In one instance, I was able to find a photograph of the street around the time my great-grandmother lived in one home. Although I never saw the actual family home, I now have a photograph of the neighborhood in which she grew up. I’m keen now to look for more photos of the region, and the places she mentions in letters, such as schools, churches, theatres, and the like.
One set of great-grandparents lived in a very poor area in northern England. At a time of bustling industry in ship-building, many families moved into the area and lived in small relatively-temporary housing. My grandfather (aged 3) and his younger brother, his parents, his two uncles and his aunt, and his grandparents – all lived in “#262 Brick Cottages” – no street name, no district, just that address. Which obviously meant I had some very interesting research to do about the times and the place!
Remember that if your family line ancestors lived in a place overseas, there may be genealogy/historical society people living in the region who would be happy to take photographs of the actual home or region of your ancestors. People are amazingly helpful if you ask – and of course, do ask what it would cost as well. A friend of mine from Scotland has several wonderful photographs of his great-grandparents’ cottage, and the surrounding landscape, plus a photo of the engraving over the fireplace mantel inside. What a find!
Your family tree is greatly enriched with details like maps and photographs of the residences and regions in which your ancestors lived. See what you can find with a few searches online, and then expand into finding helpful information through other people. Genealogy friends are everywhere, waiting to be found. Happy searching.