The death of a loved one is always hard to deal with but grieving family members have discovered a new way to remember those they have lost – Google Street View.
Shocked Brits have discovered that by changing the date on the tool they are able to see old versions of the streets where their loved ones lived.
One user found his grandfather ‘forever waiting’ for the bus on his daily library trip, while another found his father tending the garden.
Susie Yeo, from Manchester, discovered an image of her late father on an old version of Street View when she searched for her parents’ house, and said the ‘quirky’ feature is a way of keeping his memory alive.
A post by one person on X about his grandfather ‘forever waiting’ for the bus sparked a thread of heartwarming replies of late relatives immortalised by Street View on Google Maps
Ms Yeo said she had no idea Google Maps could do this and was overjoyed at the ‘unexpected’ discovery.
She said: ‘I never thought about doing this and didn’t know it shows older images. I googled my parents’ house and my late dad is standing on his drive.
‘I’ve got hundreds of photos of dad, this was just a lovely discovery.’
How to turn the clock back on Google Maps
To view older versions on Google Street View, firstly type in the road name you want to see and search.
A black box will appear in the top-left corner, telling you what house number you are currently viewing.
At the bottom of that box will be a ‘see latest date’ button.
That will bring up a tab at the bottom of the map showing previews of what the street looked like in the past years that have been recorded.
Clicking on one of those previews will load the Street View from that year so you can explore what it looked like.
She said she only found out about the feature after seeing the thread on X, and said it helped a little to deal with her ‘life-altering grief’.
Ms Yeo said her father Tony was originally from Singapore, but moved to Northern England in the 50s, where he met his future wife Florence.
She said: ‘I’d googled my parents house before, but never noticed the “see more dates” feature.
‘Most of us have lots of photos of family, but it was a particularly joyous discovery and unexpected.
‘I’m a ‘grief novice’ – I had no concept of how it could possibly feel. Dad was 89 and I was 56 when we lost him, and I realised very quickly that his age/my age/the commonality of parent loss made no difference to the life-altering grief.
‘So to have quirky little events like this, are just poignant ways of “keeping” dad with me.’
A post by @Tadhg, from Scotland, on X prompted hundreds of responses after people realised they could ‘go back in time’ using Google Street View.
The post read: ‘A lifelong advocate for taking the bus, I find it strangely touching that my granddad is captured on Google Maps forever waiting on his daily trip to the library.’
The thread soared in popularity, with people posting pictures of loved ones taken from Google Street View.
Comments on the posts said ‘what a lovely thing to be able to see’ and called it a ‘lovely moment in history’.
Another user commented: ‘I knew another gardening man immortalised by Google Street View. Sometimes I check up on him and it warms my heart.’
Street View captured images of many parents and grandparents tending to their gardens
Google Street View began in the United States in 2007 and was rolled out to other countries in the following years.
Since 2014, users can enter Street View mode in Maps and click ‘see more dates’ under the address on the top-left panel.
Users can click the different dates on the timeline to see the past versions of that location. More urban areas are likely to have more versions saved, with the Google Maps van taking fresh images every two years or so.
Poet Sherri Turner also had no idea about the feature until she posted on X, saying she often looks at her childhood home.
But those living in more rural areas could have much larger gaps of several years between the pictures.
She said: ‘I look at my mum’s old house on Google Maps Street View, the house where I grew up. It says “Image captured May 2009”.
‘There is a light on in her bedroom. It is still her house, she is still alive, I am still visiting every few months on the train to Bodmin Parkway.
‘I take a Screen Print of the house, with the light on, because it won’t last forever, and one day the Google van will go back down that street and replace her house with someone else’s and though there may be a light on in the window it won’t be her.’
But her post received 205,000 likes and 21,000 comments – many of which were social media users telling her she can always go back and see the image.
X user Patrick Kennedy found a Google Street View from 2012 of his late grandfather at his house in Huddersfield, West Yorks, who died in 2017.
He posted the screenshot to social media, calling it a ‘perfect image’.
Social media user Elisabeth Anderson also posted: ‘Now and again I look at Google Street View at my mum’s house and the photos were taken while she was still alive.
Lots of grieving users believed they could no longer do this since the Street View had been updated – but a feature rolled out in 2014 allows you to turn back the clock
Pictured: A Google street-mapping car in Bristol in 2009
‘It’s comforting to imagine her in her house, busying around. The recent one is 2020 so I go back to when she was still there.’
Comedian Howard Walker shared his experience but said it was bittersweet: ‘For some reason, the other day, I looked at my mum’s house on Google street view. She only passed away in January, I suppose she was on my mind.
‘I drive past it most days as I live so close – I know what her house looks like, but for some reason I then clicked on street view.
‘She is sat outside on her bench. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach whilst being cuddled. It’s so sad, yet so wonderful. I’m glad they drove past that day.’
Claire Roberts said: ‘In the picture of my family home on google street view, my Dad is sat on the porch, reading his paper, like he did every day on a sunny day.
‘He passed away nine years ago, I miss him everyday but the picture makes me think he’s still there.’
Social media users posted on X about finding their loved ones on Street View
Software engineer Paige said: ‘Google got my grandma coming down the driveway to get the mail in her nightgown. She’s been gone almost four years.’
Many grieving family members weren’t aware of the feature to view older versions, with Jacqueline Trice saying: ‘My mum was on there crossing the road.
‘She passed away, and I looked at it regularly. They updated and it’s like I’ve lost her all over again.’
Another user replied: ‘Same thing happened to my granddad, sadly Google Maps has updated it and we can’t see him anymore.’
Other people who saw the post took to the internet to try and find their own loved ones.
One user said: ‘This is lovely. My mam is on Google Maps walking home from the church.
‘She was already lost to this world with Alzheimer’s, but Google Maps captured a moment in time. It was lovely to see her.’
Another added: ‘My grandmother passed three years ago. She is still in her favourite spot, sitting on the porch on Google Maps Street View. It’s surreal to see.’