09 June 2017

How to Visit Your Ancestral Hometown at Your Desk

Have you ever seen a Google car driving around? I saw one, and it was goofy as can be.

I'm grateful for those cars! They've driven up and down the windy, narrow streets of my ancestral hometowns in Italy.

My ancestors, and maybe yours, left their homeland because of poverty and a lack of prospects. But today their sleepy little hill towns beckon to me with their beauty and serenity.

I use a combination of Bing maps and Google maps. In Bing I save collections of places. I have one collection of all the landmarks I can see from my mountaintop home in New York. In another collection, I have some of the current and past homes of my relatives in Italy.
The view from my grandfather Leone's first home in Basélice.

Bing offers a birdseye view, and sometimes a street-level view. But Google has sent that crazy car exactly where I want be, like the house where my grandfather was born in 1891.

I can sit here at my desk and "stand" in Italy. I'm right outside the rebuilt house in Basélice, Italy, of my grandfather Adamo Leone. I can see the amazing hilltop views I'll bet his family loved.

I can "stand" near my cousin Esterina's pink house in Colle Sannita, Italy, and see the giant windmills that lead to Basélice. On Esterina's property, partially buried in the ground, is an old doorstep. That's where my other grandfather Pietro Iamarino's house once stood.
The view from my grandfather Iamarino's one-time land in Colle Sannita.

If you're lucky enough to have a birth record for your ancestor, check it again for a street name, and maybe a house number.

Then give it a shot—put that address into Google maps and see if you can walk the streets where your roots still live.

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