For those of us who are not able to visit our ancestral towns in person, virtual touring can be the next best thing. Using Wikipedia and Google Earth, you can often get much information about a town and probably its history, too.
Just as in the
a village or city name may not be unique. When I first searched for my
Grandmother’s birthplace, Grabowo, in Poland,
I found twelve villages or towns with that name. Over time I was able to pinpoint Grabow nad
Prosna as the right one. So if you know
the correct village or town, you are ready for a virtual visit.
When you do a normal Wikipedia search you end up at en.wikipedia.org.
Searching for your town will get you to an English language entry giving basic information including location on a map, map coordinates, county, population, etc. But every country has its own Wikipedia entries aimed at its own citizens in its own language and much more information.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkowo shows this for one of my towns. This is a village of 1,040 people – pretty small. If it had a website, the link would be shown, too. But look at the Polish entry for Parkowo.
Simply putting the two letter internet code for the country in the URL gets you to that country’s Wilipedia. Here’s a link to a listing of all Internet country codes http://goes.gsfc.nasa.gov/text/web_country_codes.html
Entering pl.wikipedia.org brings up
The bad news is that it will be in Polish, but the good news is that Google
Translate does a pretty good job of translation – usable if imperfect. If you use Google Chrome, you will
automatically have the option to translate.
If you use a different browser, you can go to https://translate.google.com/ for
http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkowo_(powiat_obornicki) has a lot of great information about the area including history and some photos.
Even better is the information from Grabow nad Prosna. http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grab%C3%B3w_nad_Prosn%C4%85
This town of more than 8,000 people does have its own website
There are current photos and even some old photos. I felt that I hit the jackpot when I got to this site.
If you don’t now have Google Earth, get it. It is FREE and it is wonderful.
Finding your ancestral town on Google Earth gives you first a bird’s eye view. You see the town and its setting, its geography. You can zoom in and out and look around for an idea of your ancestors’ environment. Was it urban or just a crossroads?
You can look at photos of the area that others have posted. If there’s a church or river or lake or a palace, someone will probably have put a photo on Google Earth.
Here’s a screenshot of another of my ancestral towns, Iwno.
But best of all is Street View.
Google Street View cameras have been almost everywhere. If a numbered highway goes through your town, Street View cars probably will have driven it. Except in larger cities, they won’t have traveled the neighborhoods, but you can at least get a glimpse of what the town looks like today.
Here’s a screenshot from Grabow nad Prosna
There’s nothing like a personal visit to see and feel for yourself what it is like, But even virtual visits are fun,