I really enjoy using Google Earth, a FREE mapping service that shows you a great deal of information about different locations around the world. I can use it to travel around to see places my ancestors came from. I have ancestors that came from Ireland, then to New Brunswick, Canada before finally settling in the California area. Using Google Maps and Earth, I have traveled to see what those areas might have been like when my ancestors lived there.
I "drove" around Dunseverick, Northern Ireland by using Google Maps and got a better understanding about the the general landscape, housing, farm lands, and even a view of the Giant's Causeway. I saw Dunseverick Castle, which existed in the time of my 3rd Great Grandfather when he lived there. Dunseverick castle is pretty much a pile of rocks now, but I can imagine it to be a place that he and his family visited in the early 1800s. I was able to see the surrounding countryside, all without leaving my house. How great is that?
Why not try viewing some of the places your ancestors lived in? Get a sense of what the terrain, city, and other landmarks may have been like when they lived there. Can you find the street they lived on, and perhaps the same house they lived in? Explore the neighborhood where they lived. Is their house still there?
How Can I Explore an Ancestral Place?
This is very easy to do! Open up Google Earth in your browser. Click HERE. The browser opens up with images. There is a button along the top menu bar shows a "Launch Earth". Click on that button. A screen looking at earth will appear, and after a minute or so of waiting, there will be a menu bar along the left side. Click on the search icon (looks like a magnifying glass). Type in a street address and city, or a name of your ancestor's home village or town. The map will move to your address or place and show a "satellite view" from above. If you want to see a "street view", look for a little man icon down in the right lower corner. Click, hold, and drag him to the street where you want to explore. The map will change so that it will appear that you are looking at the buildings or countryside as if from your vehicle.
It gets a bit tricky to explain how to navigate, but there are arrows that you can click to move up or down the street. If you click and hold anywhere on the image, you can move the visual perspective around so you can look at all view angles of the street.