Monday, October 20, 2014

Google Maps Street View And A Genealogy Research Project (October 20, 2104)

Recently I had occasion to play around in Google Maps using "Street View."  I was looking to see if I could locate the high school track in Highland Park, NJ where I ran in the 1970 State Track Meet.  I was able to do so and was, of course, struck by how much the track and school had changed in some 40+ years.  This led me to see if I could locate the house I lived in five or six years later when I was in graduate school at Rutgers.  The house, very coincidentally, was right around the corner from the high school track and I and my housemates used to run at the track quite often while we lived in Highland Park during graduate school.  

The photo above is from Google Maps "Street View" showing 509 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park, NJ as of October 2013.  The two shops are in front of a residential home that is accessed by walking down the alleyway to the left of the shop called "Sonic."  When I lived there during graduate school, Sonic was a barber shop.  You can see the peak of the home's roof just above the roof to Sonic and the adjacent Gideon Jewelry store.  I do not know what use the home is put to these days, but it was occupied by students who attended Rutgers University throughout the 1970s.

This little diversion and excursion through Google Maps "Street View" made me think about other uses for "Street View."  For example, could I use it from my desk to explore and find the homes (as they look today) that my wife and I have lived in since we were married -- and could I find them and preserve photos of them before (perhaps) some of them are demolished or changed beyond recognition? Could Google Maps "Street View" be used to research and preserve the history of our various abodes over the last several decades?

As the photos below will demonstrate, the answer to both of the above questions is "YES" and this post now preserves our residential history for us, our sons and future descendants.  Perhaps this is a simple project that can again serve as a way to "pay it forward" by creating and preserving family history now for our children and later descendants!

I was surprised to see that the so-called "garden apartment" Molly and I had when we were first married is still in existence several decades later. It is looking more than a little worse for the wear, but it is still quite recognizable as the apartment building we lived in while I was still in graduate school at Rutgers. Our little one-bedroom apartment was the garden level white windows seen to the right of the entrance to the building, which was on Hampton Rd. in New Brunswick, NJ.  

For my final year of graduate school, Molly and I moved northwest of New Brunswick to split our commutes and to get a larger and nicer apartment.  We moved to Manville, NJ -- named for Johns Manville Corp., which had a large manufacturing operation in Manville for many years. For that final year, I commuted east back to New Brunswick while she commuted west to Flemington in Hunterdon County, NJ where she worked as a Special Education (SPED) teacher. As shown above, the two houses in the photo are identical and at the time both were owned by a Polish-American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Krol. The two apartments in the light green home to the left were rented by the Krols and they lived on the bottom floor of the light yellow home to the right. Our two-bedroom apartment had the entire second floor of the yellow home and the side door to the right led up a staircase to our apartment door. The home is located on N. 7th Street in Manville, NJ.     

In July 1978, Molly and I moved to Washington, DC when I entered law school. We were very lucky to fall into an "English basement" apartment on Capitol Hill as the result of a good friend of Molly's sister moving out to a larger place. We simply met with the landlady and moved in when my sister-in-law's friend moved out. The apartment was a small one-beroom again, but it was conveniently located just off Stanton Park within minutes walking distance of the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, Congress and Union Station. It was located on Maryland Ave. NE in what was a four-story brownstone at the time, though it apparently is now painted the light green as shown above. Our landlady occupied the top three floors where she lived and had a practice as a psychiatric nurse. Our apartment was on the ground floor slightly below ground level again.  The entrance to our apartment was behind the wrought-iron stairs.

For the second half of my time in law school we decided again that we needed more room. Molly was working as a SPED teacher in Langley, VA and so we moved across the Potomac River to a duplex townhouse in Arlington, VA on S. Highland Street. We occupied the left half of the duplex shown above. It was a two-bedroom home with a basement, a driveway, and a yard where we could have a garden. The wooden fencing did not exist when we lived there and I wonder if the raised-bed gardens I built still exist behind the fence and gate.

After law school and a few years of working in two different law firms, a law school classmate of mine and a partner from the last firm we worked for all decided to open our own firm. Crazily, Molly and I decided to also buy our first home and we moved about 30 miles west of Arlington to Sterling in Loudoun County, VA. Our first home is the Cape Cod shown above. It was on a long, narrow lot about 1/3 acre in size located on N. Amelia Street. It had four bedrooms, two full baths and a long garage that could have fit both our cars end-to-end had we ever actually used it as a garage. This was the first home for both of our sons.  During our time there, we built a deck with screened in porch and put in raised bed gardens and a swing set; about four years later -- we moved even further west (roughly 50 miles from DC) to western Loudoun County and our present home on just over seven acres of wooded property. 

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All photos captured via screenshot using Google Maps "Street View."
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. Cool photos, John. I love looking on Google - I've found my mother's parents' home here in Vancouver BC, as well as other relatives' homes/apartment buildings in New York. Great idea! I think I'll get distracted and go do some checking online. Google is definitely my friend these days!