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Researching an ancestor in the decennial census collection will normally provide us with an address at which they lived – unless they were away from home on census night – and we get important information about their occupation as well as the names of their family. Armed with the address it is only normal for us to want to see where our forebears lived by turning to a map. This can enable you to travel in their footsteps by finding out the route they would have taken every day to their work. Being able to write that "Each working day they walked down their garden path and turned left down the road towards the town and finally making their way up Hill road to the factory", you could actually walk the route they travelled. That, of course, assumes that the landscape has remained the same over time. But what happens when the entire street, or indeed the entire area, has disappeared since the 1911 census was taken?
A case in point is a number of roads that once criss-crossed the Mile End East Ward of the Tower Hamlets area of London that are now long gone. I was recently searching for a property that in the 1911 census had been occupied by one Thomas Smith and his family. Number 2 Coutt's Road, Mile End East had been a Licenced Billiards Refreshment House. A search of a modern map comes back with no result and so my solution was to turn to TheGenealogist's Map Explorer which blends layers of historical maps with modern road, hybrid and satellite maps. As the Lloyd George Domesday Survey is one of the map layers that this powerful tool includes it was an obvious choice to take this research further. The government in 1910 had just brought in the People's Budget and to pay for new benefits they proposed to levy a rate on any property transactions that took place. To do this they had to survey and record details of buildings and mark the exact plot on large scale Ordnance Survey maps. TheGenealogist has georeferenced this resource and is gradually adding the maps linked to their data books to the Map Explorer. The Valuation Office carried out the survey between 1910 and 1915 and so it lends itself well as an aid for researching an address from the 1911 census.
From the search page on TheGenealogist I chose Landowner records and selected the Lloyd George Domesday 1910 from the dropdown menu. Entering "2 Coutts Road" into the Street box on the search returns one result: 2/4 Coutts Road & 245 Bow Common Lane. Only the owner, Charles A Johnson, is recorded, however by opening the original image of the field book we can see that this was a house and a shop that made a corner.
By clicking the arrow at the bottom right we are taken to the next page of the data book with a full description of the property that confirms that it was a Temperance Billiard Saloon and Restaurant. The surveyor's words were harsh about the building and its occupier. "The premises were in sound structural condition but are too large to be suitable for obtaining a good tenant who would be able to pay a fair rental..."
So as we know more about Thomas Smith's Billiard house, we now need to locate it. To do this we click the View Linked Map icon and this opens the Map Explorer, placing a pin on the actual property. We can then zoom in closer to see the premises on the corner of Coutts Road and Bow Common Lane. Using the opacity slider we can see where it would have stood in relation to the modern townscape on a modern map. This reveals that these and the surrounding roads ran across what is today Mile End Park. By selecting the Hybrid satellite map, this shows us just how green the landscape is today compared to the streets that once ran across this part of London.
TheGenealogist's powerful new mapping tool, that includes the Lloyd George Domesday Survey maps and links to data, enables family historians to discover more about where their ancestors lived and so build their family story. They have created an easy to use and handy interface for researchers to use with the facility to change the base map displayed in order to more clearly understand what the area looks like today. The choice of old and modern maps enables the user to discover how the area may have changed over time, while other settings allow the user to display county or parish boundaries and to search for a place. This unique Map Explorer is perfect for the insight that it can give into where our ancestors once lived.
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