It’s a classic lament of family historians. You want to see where your ancestor lived, you check Google Maps and discover that the address doesn’t exist anymore. Time to give up?
Not so fast. In Connecticut, roads were initially built using right of ways through private land. When the land changed hands, the road’s course might have changed, and the buildings on it fell into disrepair. But often their foundations remain.
In the above photo, you’ll spot two stone walls side by side. It may take some looking. These are the remains of a carriage road that would align with the end of the modern Randolph Road in Middletown. Technically, this is the “White Birch Ridge Trail” in Wadsworth Falls State Park. When the land surrounding the road was purchased by one owner in the early 1900s and eventually gifted to the state of Connecticut, the road “disappeared.” But the foundations of the roads – and likely of the buildings bordering it – are still there. You just need to know where to look.
Use an older map to locate where your ancestor’s property once stood. Compare it to a modern one of the same area. If you’re lucky, the property will stand on land that is either unoccupied completely or contains buildings that don’t cover the entire lot. The reality is that you won’t always be lucky. In urban areas, it was – and is- common to tear down older homes to build new ones. If your ancestor lived or worked on an area that hasn’t been built over, you have a good chance of finding at least the home’s foundations. You’ll never know unless you try.