Friday, 5 October 2012

Lost streets

Despite its name, much of family history is actually concerned with geography. Knowing when your ancestors did something is much richer when you know also where the event took place.

Many of the documentary records that we use provide very detailed spatial information. Upon finding an address with house number and street name, the first thing that a modern family historian will do is to enter that information into Google Maps.

If we are fortunate, Street View will allow us to look for the ancestral home without ever setting foot outside our own front door.

Of course, there will be times when no match can be found in the Google Map database. Perhaps through wartime damage or more recent urban renewal, the old street has gone forever.

When confronted with this situation, I was about to close the file and move on when I decided to run the address through Google Search. Perhaps there might be a link to an old document that mentions it and other streets in the same neighbourhood that would allow me to identify a general area even if the precise location is unknown.

What I found was a magnificent service offered by the Glasgow Guide. On their website they have a table that cross-references "lost" or changed street names and their modern replacement or equivalent.

Armed with the knowledge that Ure Street has been renamed to Uist, I could easily go back to Google Maps and view the area. Even after more than a century of changes (and some obvious gentrification), it is possible to get a sense of what life might have been like tucked between the docks, the industrial estates and the main road.

How wonderful it would be if all local authorities were to make public a list of street changes. Thank you Glasgow Guide .

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