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How to find my home’s history? A quick how-to guide to travel back in time with Google Street View

Time traveling with Google Maps is simple, here's how to do it.

By: David Decker
June 30, 2023

Forepaugh's restaurant in St. Paul in 2009 and 2021

Forepaugh's Restaurant in St. Paul, 2009 and 2021.

Home History 101: How do I view old Google Street View maps?

At HouseNovel we are always trying to highlight ways to help with your home history search, and a little tweak to the Google Maps app last year has made it easier to go back in time, well to least 2007. That might not seem like that long ago, but it's already 16 years old! Just think how cool it will be to look back in another 20, 30, or 40 years from now they will have captured so much city history around the world.

So today, we embark on a thrilling digital adventure that will transport us back in time and unveil the secrets of the past. Join us as we dive into the capabilities of Google Street View maps and learn how this innovative tool can be your time machine for your home history and property research journey.

Whether you seek to rediscover the history of your childhood home or simply appreciate the marvels of human progress, Google Street View offers an opportunity to unlock the portals of time. Join us as we unravel the mysteries, connect with the past, and celebrate the power of technology to bridge the gap between generations.

How to use Google Map Street View to see back in time

Since 2007, Google has been capturing images for Street View, a feature integrated with Google Maps that allows users to explore various parts of the world in 360 degrees. Initially available on desktop computers, the time travel functionality allowed users to view previous captures from different years.

As part of Google's 15th-anniversary celebration in May 2022, they introduced the time travel feature to the Google Maps app on iOS and Android. Now, users can browse Street View areas dating back to the very first captures in 2007 directly on their mobile phones.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use Google Maps Street View to find your home's past

1) Open the Google Maps app and either search for a specific location or browse the area you're interested in exploring.

2) Tap and hold on to the screen close to the location you want to view.

3) At the bottom left of the screen, tap the square icon to access Street View mode.

4) Once in Street View, select "See more dates" at the bottom of the screen.

You can then browse through the captured images from each year by tapping on the tiles displaying their respective month and year of capture. While some locations may have missing years, most have images available from 2007.

The time travel feature in Street View is primarily a fun tool. It allows users to explore the past in over 80 countries where Street View is available, and it can also help them find buildings or landmarks that no longer exist. For instance, if you want to reminisce, you can use this feature to recall shops or businesses that were around your area years ago, even if there's no trace of them online today.

To discover interesting landmarks or places to explore using the time travel feature, simply search for "landmarks" in Google Maps. One example is the growth of the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis shown in the picture which has seen a tremendous amount of development over the past 15 years.

Also, it's become a bit of a Tiktok and Youtube trend to be able to show how cities have evolved over time. One user, in particular, created this interesting video showing Detriot over the years.

Google's time travel feature in Street View provides a delightful and engaging way to breathe life into different parts of the world, especially those that have undergone significant changes since 2007. It's one of the many exciting features available in Google Maps, which offers plenty of other tools to enhance your navigation and exploration experiences within the app.

Why use Google Maps Street in your home history research?

Google Street View is a valuable resource for looking at old photos of your house for several reasons.

Extensive Coverage: Google Street View has amassed an extensive collection of imagery, covering numerous cities, towns, and rural areas across the globe. This vast coverage increases the likelihood of finding images of your house, especially if you live in a populated area or a well-traveled location.

Easy Accessibility: Accessing Street View is incredibly convenient. With just a few clicks, you can virtually transport yourself to your house's location and explore the area from different perspectives. This accessibility makes it an ideal tool for anyone interested in researching or reliving memories related to their home.

Time Travel Feature: The introduction of the time travel feature in Google Street View allows users to view images captured in previous years. By utilizing the timeline or date slider, you can navigate through different periods and witness the evolution of your house and its surroundings. It's a unique and engaging way to explore the past and visually document the changes over time.

Historical Context: Looking at old photos of your house on Google Street View can provide historical context. You can observe architectural changes, landscaping modifications, or even alterations to the neighborhood. It allows you to compare and contrast the past with the present, offering insights into the heritage and development of your property and the community.

Preservation of Memories: Google Street View serves as a digital archive, preserving visual records of various locations. It can be particularly useful if you want to revisit memories associated with your house or share its history with others. Whether you want to reminisce about your childhood home or show friends and family the place where important events occurred, Street View offers a convenient platform for preserving and sharing those memories.

Research and Documentation: For researchers, historians, or those interested in genealogy, Google Street View can be a valuable tool for documenting and researching the history of a specific location. It provides a visual record that can complement other forms of research and help build a comprehensive understanding of a particular house, street, or neighborhood.

Overall, Google Street View's collection of images and the time travel feature make it an excellent resource for exploring and discovering old photos of your house. It facilitates a virtual journey through time, allowing you to appreciate the historical significance, changes, and memories associated with your home.

Utilizing Google Street View to uncover the history of your homes

Here are a few examples of how people have used Street View for this purpose:

Home Renovation and Restoration: When undertaking home renovation projects, homeowners have turned to Street View to gain insights into the original architectural features or design elements of their properties. By exploring old Street View imagery, they can examine previous iterations of their homes and ensure that their renovations align with the original style or character.

Genealogy and Family History: Street View has been instrumental in helping individuals trace their family history and heritage. By locating their ancestral homes through addresses or geographical information, people have used Street View to see where their ancestors once lived. This visual connection can deepen their understanding of their roots and create a sense of connection to the past.

Neighborhood History and Development: Street View offers a window into the evolution of neighborhoods over time. People have used this tool to explore how their neighborhoods have transformed, documenting the changes in architecture, businesses, or community landmarks. By comparing old Street View imagery with the present, they can gain a deeper appreciation for the history and development of their surroundings.

Local Historical Research: Researchers, historians, and local history enthusiasts have employed Street View to support their investigations. By virtually exploring streets and locations relevant to their research, they can visually document changes and collect visual evidence to supplement their studies. Street View provides a valuable resource for documenting and preserving the historical context of specific areas.

Community Engagement and Sharing Memories: Street View has become a platform for sharing and reminiscing about local history. People have shared images and stories on social media or community forums, sparking conversations and collective memories about their homes and neighborhoods. This engagement fosters a sense of community pride and a shared understanding of the past.

These examples illustrate how Google Street View has empowered individuals to uncover the history of their homes, connect with their roots, and contribute to the preservation of local history. By utilizing the imagery and time travel features, users have been able to embark on virtual journeys through time, adding depth and context to their personal stories and the collective history of their communities.

Happy home history hunting!

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