05 May 2015

Envisioning ancestors’ neighborhoods: A study of Lexington, Massachusetts, part 2

If you do not live near your ancestors' neighborhood, you still can use books, photos, and maps to explore what their lives were like. Using our example of Lexington, Massachusetts, in the year 1775, again, lets check out a few online resources.

Picture Books

Books on Lexington and the Revolutionary War are abundant, but let's look for something more local. 

In 1868, Charles Hudson published his History of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts. The Lexington Historical Society revised and expanded the original one-volume book through the year 1912. The now two-volume work includes images of old buildings and maps—helping you visualize not only what your ancestor’s home may have looked like in comparison, but also where these buildings were relative to each other. You can read both volumes online:
You may even find mention of your family. 

Arcadia Publishing, which specializes in local history books filled with old photographs, published two books with Lexington Historical Society archivist Richard Kollen, Images of America: Lexington and Lexington: From Liberty’s Birthplace to Progressive Suburb. (Check out the company’s catalog to see if books were published for other towns or cities you’re interested in.)

Maps and Photos

Google Maps not only gives you directions, it takes you there. Type in the address or site and grab the little yellow figure to browse street-view images. Start at the Minute Man Statue and scan the buildings nearby. Or type in your old homestead address. You can view still images that people submitted. You also can switch to Google Earth to get a bird’s-eye view

Also try the U.S. Geological Survey maps.

Several web sites invite people to add their images, both old and new, to online maps. Check out HistoryPin.com and WhatWasThere.com, though both, at this time, are a little light on Lexington, they could prove useful for other ancestral areas. 

X Marks the Spot

The Historical Marker Database includes photos, links, and information about permanent outdoor markers, plaques, and monuments that provide historical or scientific facts. See the list of Lexington markers.

In a similar vein, Waymarking.com tags locations around the world with data specific to that spot. Categories include buildings, history, monuments, signs, events, and businesses—with photos and descriptions.

Part 1: history, historical sites
Part 3: historical property data
Part 4: national resources

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