When you fire up Google Maps, you probably think of it as more of a digital navigator than a tour guide or travel slideshow. Nevertheless, people love to explore the world with Google Street View.
But Google Maps, and by extension Street View, also collects a staggering amount of data about local users. Sometimes, Street View will even let you take a trip back in time to see what a location looked like years ago. Tap or click to learn how to use Street View History.
And now, users across the web are using Street View’s numerous features for a more sensitive purpose. By exploring locations where deceased loved ones once lived, users are able to see pictures of their relatives as they went about living their lives. We’ll show you why, and teach you how to see for yourself.
Forget a medium, try Google Street View
Google Street View users have been utilizing the service for a sensitive subject: reminiscing about the dead. Thanks to Google’s continuous updates to its maps app, it’s possible to find archived photos of a given location as it looked in the past.
Naturally, these photos will sometimes include people in the shots who are no longer alive today.
One Twitter user reported the following experience while flying through an old family farm in Mexico via Google Street View. While exploring the location, she came across the unmistakable sight of her grandfather sitting outside in a chair.
My grandpa passed away a few years ago. We didn’t get to say goodbye to him. Yesterday we found out google maps finally drove through his farm and as we were curious going through it, where the road ends, there is my grandpa, just sitting there. 😭 pic.twitter.com/CbwRTkCKrZ— yajaira (@yajairalyb) January 7, 2020
It’s enough to make anyone emotional — and user yajaira above isn’t alone. After posting her experience, numerous others began to hunt through Google Maps to see what they could find of their loved ones’ pasts.
It just goes to show you how precious photos still are, whether they’re digital or not. Tap or click here to learn the best ways to back up your data, including photos.
How can I find my deceased family members on Google Street View?
Whether you find any images of your loved ones on Google Street View depends on whether their picture was captured by a Google Maps car or a Street View Contributor, which are typically independent photographers.
These photo sweeps happen on a semi-regular basis, which is why you’ll sometimes see people and objects that are no longer there. If your family member lived in the same location for a long period of time and regularly went about their business in the area, your odds of seeing them are higher.
Simply open Google Maps, type the address in and load up the location. Then click on the orange street view icon on the bottom right corner of your screen and drag it to the pinned location. This icon is roughly shaped like a person. You’ll now be able to explore using Street View.
If you’re on mobile, you’ll need to make sure you’ve downloaded Google Earth on the iOS App Store or Google Play. Once you have the app, just search the address of the location you want to explore and use the built-in controls to see what you can find.
If you arrive at the location you’re looking for and see nothing, you can also try exploring archival snapshots via Street View History. If it’s available, you’ll see an icon like a clock in the upper left corner. Click on it and adjust the slider to your preferred date to see the archived images.
At the very least, these important snapshots are saved for posterity by the world’s biggest data company. If only other parts of the platform were this concerned about historical accuracy and truth. Tap or click to learn why so many business listings on Google Maps are fake.