My family doesn't have many old photographs. I can't look at images of my ancestors in front of their homes or in their neighborhoods. Census records and city directories tell me that Henry Jay, the brother of my great-grandfather, lived in and owned a grocery store at 2910 East Carson Street on the South Side of Pittsburgh from 1893 to the 1920s, but what did it look like?
Well, there are places online you can search to try to get a glimpse of the past. One resource, of course, is Google Maps. This great shot of my great-uncle's home/store is courtesy of Google. The building still has its historic charm, so I can imagine that it looked very similar when his family lived there and neighbors stopped in to buy their weekly groceries.
There also are some local government websites that may have photographs, basic floor plans, and the age of homes where your ancestors lived. In the Pittsburgh area, the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments has images of every home and is searchable by address. Wapello County, Iowa, and Cook County, Illinois, are just two others that have similar property search sites with photographs.
If you live far from your ancestral roots, try digging for similar websites. No travel required.