Google Maps–Valuable for Research, Too!

I use Google maps all the time.

Not just for driving instructions–though that’s important–but to understand how places play into history.

Ir proved invaluable while I researched Mrs. Oswald Chambers.

Here are ways Google maps answered questions.

Putting locations into neighborhood context

Several times in writing my book, I tried to figure out why someone lived where they did.Google maps, research, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, Ancestry.com, historical research, maps, reference, directions, street view, google maps uk

When investigating the family home of  Mary Riley, a close friend of Biddy and Oswald Chambers, I looked up the address on Google maps–street view.

The house was one of many in a row on a cramped street.

Even though the Riley family lived there 100 years ago, the townhouse looked old enough–other than the garage and cars!

Sometimes if you investigate through plain Google, you’ll see the house is for sale on Zillow.

When I moved to the English equivalent, I discovered the former Riley home is worth far more than I expected.

Mary’s father was a groomsman. How could he afford to live in such an affluent neighborhood and why?

I switched from “street view,” back to Google maps–traffic view.

When I pulled back the map from the Riley’s dead end street, I discovered the house backed onto a mansion’s acreage.

Returning to Ancestry.com to examine the 1911 census records, I learned the mansion owner sold horses and ran a track in his backyard.

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Biddy compiled My Utmost for His Highest here

That explained why the Rileys lived there.

100 years ago, the rowhouse probably wasn’t an expensive home, and servants could have lived on the street.

(As a side note, it’s also only a few blocks from Abbey Road where the Beatles crossed!)

Showing where someone worked.

The Reverend Phillip Hancock family sent me searching around the world (Egypt, Persia, California, England).

I had their British address on a 1952 death certificate signed by Rev. Hancock.

Using Google maps, I traced the home to twenty miles from Biddy Chambers’s home, but didn’t understand why the family lived there.

Shouldn’t Phillip have been pastoring a church?

Nothing appeared likely on the traffic map–though there was an Anglican Church not far away.

Hancock was a Presbyterian minister.

But one day, I decided to admire the house from street view.

What a surprise!

Google maps, research, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, Ancestry.com, historical research, maps, reference, directions, street view, google maps uk

The Hancock family lived in the manse next door.

The house stands right next to a welcoming sign to the United Reformed Church of Eastcote.

Non-map Google took me to the church website where I learned it was once St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

A history of the church mentioned Rev. Phillip Hancock as the clergyman there 1947-1956.

On a whim, I wrote to the church secretary who not only knew of Hancock, but contacted an old church member who remembered him!

On location

Of course we used Google maps to find Oswald Chambers sites while in London.

It led us right to #45 Clapham Common, confirmed as the Bible Training College by a blue plaque on the wall.

While we did not visit Biddy’s home in Muswell Hill, I did check the map for directions, just in case.

Combined with Zillow, I learned the house was for sale in 2013 and I examined the interior through the listing.

Post-location

I didn’t hunt for Biddy’s Oxford home when I spent a day there in 2013, but I saw a photo.

Once again, armed with a 100 year-old address, I put the number into Google maps–street view–and watched a house appear.

It’s traveler’s apartments now, but the bulky interior can’t have changed all that much.

If I ever return to Oxford, I’ll have to rent a room.

My father was a geographer; I’ve always loved maps.

It’s amazing how helpful a good map can be where you’re trying to understand a way, a place and a sense of a life.

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Found the BTC!

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