Genealogy History

Creeping your Ancestors – Using Google Street View

Using Google Street view can be a powerful tool in learning more about your ancestry | Alex Inspired

The power of Google is remarkable. We can gather information instantly, all at our fingertips.

I decided to put Google to good use, and creep the hell out of where my ancestors lived. Sounds weird, I know, but I’m weird, and it’s all good.

First thing’s first! You need a record indicating where your ancestor lived. Sure, maybe your Nonna lived on Secord street and you have fond memories of her home… but, what if she lived in a boarding house in New York City prior to immigrating to Canada? Or maybe she lived in a Tuscan villa before that?

It’s fun to see where our ancestors lived and came from.

The best documents to find address information are:

  • censuses
  • passport applications
  • travel manifestos
  • city directories
  • newspaper clippings (marriage announcements or obituaries)

Some of the above files are available online free of charge, some can be found with an Ancestry, My Heritage or Family Search membership.

I decided to start with Kathern McKinnon, I’m most curious about her – since she has been the biggest ancestry mystery to date. I know for sure she grew up in Minnesota, and eventually moved to New York City, to attend Columbia University. Her beginnings of New York life were more than likely spent in dorms, so I jumped ahead a few years once her career was established.

I found a passenger list from 1950 leaving New York to Luxembourg. It lists Kathern’s address as:
29 w 70th St. New York, NY 

Kathern McKinnon's travel Documents - Creeping your Ancestors | Alex Inspired

Google gave me more than I was expecting.

29 West 70th Street is a Building located in the Lincoln Square neighbourhood in Manhattan, NY. 29 West 70th Street was built in 1910 and has 5 stories and 10 units.

Kathern’s Brownstone rowhouse is located on the upper west side, just 3 mins from Central Park. This is her home using Google Street View.

29 West 70th Street

Since she also taught at Hunter College, she would have only been a 15 minute walk away – and she would have most likely taken a direct path through Central Park.

This brownstone, more than likely has been renovated. It looks like the window above the arched doorway was the original entrance. It is much larger than the windows above, giving a strong indication they tried to keep the facade as original as possible. In 1910 they wouldn’t have had prominent basement entrances, it would have more likely been a staircase, as accessibility was never a consideration during the time period.

It’s pretty cool to see where Kathern lived, simply because I know almost nothing about her – this is just a small slice of the pie for me.

In the words of Agatha Christie:

It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story.

I have a lot more work cut out for me.

Ok! now it’s your turn! Let’s see what you can find, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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