52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge 6

I just had to get in on this week’s “Better Genealogy” challenge: Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. This post is also written to fulfill Item 4A  and item 5F in the GeneaBlogger’s Winter Games.

After her father, David H. Herrington died in 1931, my Mom lived with a variety of adult caretakers. One was Mable Dickenson, and Mom told me a few stories of life in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Mom was very clear on the address: 256 Decatur. Brooklyn. Kings County. Here is one of only two photos I have of my mother as a child, it shows her with a young man I know nothing about, but who also lived with Miss Dickenson.

Marge Herrington

I took the challenge and did a search on Google Maps for 256 Decatur, Brooklyn, NY. Lucky me, I got a result.
View Larger Map

There is not a lot about that map that helps me, so I switched to Satellite view, and moved way in close. Hmm. Those houses do look like the brownstones Mom described, stuck together in a row.

sat view

I noticed that there was a street view of this particular area, so I switched to that. To use the street view, you grab the little orange man from the directional and distance tool on the left side of the screen. Pick him up by holding your mouse down and drag him to the location you wish to see and drop him down.

street view

After I dropped him, I saw this (click to enlarge any of  my thumbnails):


The box in the upper left says, “256 Decatur Street, New York, NY, United States,” and “address is approximate”.  Interesting information, approximate. The directional arrows allowed me to scroll the street view, so I “walked up and down the street a few houses each way.

Two houses to the left of the large light colored one, I saw something of interest on the whit house.  You can see it in the far left of the photo above, and more clearly below, a house with the right trim.

next door

The darker colored house between the two light colored  houses may be 256, and the white one at the left is the house with the trim which matches my photo the house next door.


In the photo above, you see the brown colored house has a wall similar to that which my subjects are standing near. It is four courses of blocks and a cap. I could not make out the trim on the cap no matter how much manipulation I did. I also saw no number painted or marked on the glass like that on my picture.  Also, the trees and cars are in the way, and the angles are not quite the same.  In spite of that, I believe this is the house that my Mother’s photo was taken in front of ca 1935-40.  I wish I had found this before Mom passed away, I know she could have identified the house.


I have used Google Maps to look at aerial views of rural property, and even of my own house, but in those cases, I know what I am looking for, and can identify the property myself.

This experiment in looking for a house pictured in an old photo was very interesting, showing the power of scrolling up and down the street, searching for a certain feature.


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  1. Great detective work. I like how you looked at different views and compared the photo with the current buildings.
    .-= Janet Iles´s last blog ..Winter 2010 Geneabloggers Games =-.

  2. Happy blogiversary! I love the way you inserted the old photo in the map views. Very smart!

  3. Thanks, Tonia. And thank you.

  4. Great job! I hope I have as good a time when I attempt to work with Google Maps. 🙂
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..GB Games 2010 – Recap of Days 1 & 2 =-.

    • Linda on February 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Amazing! This is definitely the best use of Google Maps I’ve seen in the games. And I’m jealous. 🙂 Everything I look for has either been torn down or there’s no street view for the area.

  5. Oh, I am sorry that you can’t find what you want to see. Perhaps someday you will get some historic photos of the places you want to see. I hope so.

    • John on February 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Wow, Pam, this is very cool. It must feel great to make this find! I had a similar experience with my mother’s childhood home using Google Street View.
    .-= John´s last blog ..The Soviet Takeover of Hungary: a Tale of Tragedy =-.

  6. Yes, I sure am pleased with myself. Thanks for the comment.

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