Fun with Old Maps

I follow Historic Map Works on Google Reader and was pleased to see that the site recently added maps of Somerville, Mass., where I used to live. I decided to see if I could find my old address near Inman Square in the new maps available from the 1800s.

The first map (c. 1830) was hardly recognizable to me except for the name Prospect Hill. I lived very near that area.

I needed to see a more recent map to get my bearings. Fortunately, another map, circa 1892, was made available at the same time.

I was still having trouble pinpointing where my house would have been on these maps, which are oriented slightly different from what we see on Google Maps. I lived along one side of a triangle created by Prospect, Webster and Cambridge Streets:

This triangle is visible in both of the 1800s maps, but not in the same orientation. Whereas the triangle above points between 12 and 1 o-clock, on the 1800s maps, it points to 11 o’clock.

If you zoom in on the 1892 map, the triangle is located in the lower right corner, along the Cambridge city line. It’s in the bottom center on the 1830 map.

By the way, Prospect Hill figured prominently in the Revolutionary War. I took this photo several years ago on a walk around town one day:


52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Google Maps

Here’s this week’s challenge from Amy at We Tree:

“Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, a parking lot or a field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses in Google Maps, don’t forget to use the Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you were right there where your ancestors once stood. If you’ve used this tool before, take sometime and play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.”

I decided to look up the address my paternal grandfather listed on his WWI draft registration card. The address is in Northwest Washington, D.C. By looking at the various views on Google Maps, I was able to determine that he lived near the National Zoo:

And that the location is now nestled between a bank and a Verizon Wireless store:

Google Maps states that a management company (with some pretty negative reviews) currently is housed at the address, but there’s a For Rent sign in the window on Street View.

My grandfather was a physician and it’s likely that his practice was housed in this building as well, especially since it appears to be a mixed use area. I know that the family used to live on the premises because I have other documents, including a letter written by my father as a teenager, bearing the address.

What I want to know is if some of the photos I have of my dad were taken at this address, including his ever-popular Rick Astley shot, which would have been taken around the time the family lived at this address. Has the neighborhood changed that much or was this photo taken at a different location?

Folks who like this kind of task may get a kick out of the Historical Aerials web site. It’s not comprehensive, but you may luck out and be able to see what your ancestral locations looked like from the air decades ago. I was able to find a view of the above street corner from 1963.

[This post constitutes Task A in the Expand Your Knowledge Event of the GeneaBloggers 2010 Winter Games and earns me a bronze medal!]