I’m going to the UK on Friday, mostly to Belfast, but I’ll be spending a little time in Glasgow and flying home from there. I’ve never been to Glasgow but it’s an important place in my family history. The Ross sisters — my grandmother Agnes and my great aunts Jean, Kate and Lizzie — grew up there, so I grew up hearing about it. My grandfather’s mother was a live-in servant there, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother in Ayrshire, but when he grew up he came here and met and married my grandmother. I’ve always thought of it as our family’s Scottish hometown. The Rosses originally came from Aberdeen and the Rennies came from Ayrshire, but they all ended up in Glasgow and that’s where they all lived before coming to America.
I have been cruising around the streets of Glasgow on Google Streetview, visiting all the addresses I know from census records and marriage certificates. Same streets where my grandparents walked, just 100 or so years later. I find these images haunting in their very ordinariness. I look at them, and half expect them to fade into historic photos, and to catch a glimpse of my ancestors rushing along, late for dinner.
How amazing it is to have Google Streetview and be able to see specific streets and places that might not otherwise be photographed! And how amazing it is to have Flickr, Panoramio and so many other sites with photographs of everyplace you can imagine. For this trip, I have particularly enjoyed browsing around Geograph Britain and Ireland, a project that aims to collect geographically representative photographs for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland.
Off to explore some more…