Every few years—if you lived on a farm or in a rural area—you might have had a sales person drive into your yard with a beautiful framed photo that featured an aerial view of your place. As family historians, these are useful in understanding the changes that occurred on the property. Looking across the years you might see that the old barn built in the 1880s had served its purpose and was replaced with a new machine shed.
They still do these aerial photos which is great to see. I’ve recently found a site that takes this process to the digital world. Let’s look.
Vintage Aerial states their mission as “collecting and presenting aerial photos of rural America in a way that evokes personal, family, and community memories and encourages the sharing of our common history.” This ties into our goal of collecting family history and sharing it with our family.
After spending some time searching and exploring Vintage Aerial, here are my thoughts.
The sheer number of photos is amazing. This is an ongoing process and not all states have been photographed yet but what has been done is great. The partners of this site have been thoughtful about how you can search for photos. There is a search bar which allows you to enter any term: church, family name, town or whatever you choose. I had limited success with this because this is site is a living site and relies on input from “us” to label and share memories about a given place. The vision is great and as it evolves and grows, I think we’ll see more and more photos labeled. Imagine finding your great-grandparent’s farm photo in Wisconsin or California?
There is a great feature that helps cover this gap in labeled photos. You can filter down by state and county to see how many rolls of film cover your county. As you look at each “roll” of photos a small map with the airplane route appears so that you can see that these photos were taken west of town x. By using this model, I was able to pinpoint the area where my relatives lived—even though the photos were not yet labeled and a quick search by town name had not produced results.
And if you enjoy hearing the stories of others, people have shared great memories about rural farms and homes that they grew up on—sledding in the winter, exploring the countryside in the summer or working in the fields.
In addition to reviewing photos, you also have the option to purchase a photo as a digital copy, photo print, canvas or framed. If you’re lucky enough to find your family’s farm, what a treasure. (Disclaimer that I have not ordered from this site, but they do appear to have great reviews.)
There are other sites that have aerial views of your state so take some time to look and learn more about this perspective. Vintage Aerial appears to meld the things we enjoy about family history with the aerial views of rural living. Enjoy checking out this extensive site. Perhaps you’ll find family-related photos and can identify them or share additional memories with others.
“Take the journey to enjoy the view.”
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.