Using Technology to Map the Lives of Our Ancestors

It’s not a genealogy research secret that census records are extremely helpful when learning about our ancestors. They provide names, relations, occupations and where they lived.

If you can find the records, they also provide underlying details of where ancestors may have moved to throughout their lives. How do census records from the past work with resources of today such as Google MapsZillow or and other resources?

I use census records often for my research but I go a bit further and use online maps such as Google Maps to see exactly where they lived, how they may have lived, neighbors, and if their residences still exist.

Google Maps

In the blog “The Homes Our Ancestors Built“, I told the story of how I used Google Maps to research the homes of my ancestors and what I found during this online adventure.

Step 1 – Find the census records
Step 2 – Search Google Maps
Step 3 – Visit these places

However, the research and the stories don’t stop there. Using Google Maps, I can get a satellite and street view of their neighborhoods. I can virtually travel to these places and “walk” in their footsteps.

Where did they hang out, shop, go to church, work, etc.? Where did they live in relation to other relatives and friends?

I’m never disappointed when I take my research to the online maps. /

Do the homes of your ancestors still exist? Got the address? Plug it into Zillow or to see various information about the property.

  • Is it on the market?
  • Estimated value
  • Property history
  • Neighborhood information

Depending on the history of the property, you may be able to get an interior peak of the property.

One of my recent discoveries involves a picture of my grandparents taken shortly after their wedding. I knew the house had to be owned by one of their parents but no one living could remember. Revisiting the records and checking the house out on Zillow, interior pictures were available and after I made this side-by-side comparison, a small brick wall was destroyed.

Nottingham House

Other Resources

Historical Societies

Historical Societies exist to document, preserve and teach people about the past. A local historical society would be a great resource to contact with questions concerning maps and properties of your ancestors. They may be able to provide you with images of old maps and experts of the area may be able to provide additional history.

Check out this extensive list of state genealogical societies provided by

I recently published a blog that highlighted the features and benefits of the website is a collection of historical maps from all over the world. Interested in learning about the past of where an ancestor lived? Give this website a try!

How do you use technology to physically map the lives of your ancestors?