A new project online let's you see what the vast farmland of West Michigan looked like long before the subdivisions appeared.

A project called Vintage Aerial has posted some photos of rural Kent County from as far back as 1970.

The project is a labor of love for the founders who describe their mission this way:

Our collection of over 18 million photographs spans the second half of the 20th century, documenting a time in American history when life revolved around rural communities and small farms. Our common American heritage happened in that time, in those rural communities. We want to share the period preserved in these photos, and the memories they represent, with the generations who came too late to experience it firsthand.

You can find old farm homes in Caledonia, Byron Center, Cedar Springs and other Kent County communities, before modern suburban sprawl appeared. Some of these shots may be of your childhood home, or the home of your parents or grandparents.

If you do find your family's home you can order a print from the service.

This page features farm homesteads near Caledonia and Alto. The flight plan map is included with the aerial photos to give you a precise location of the farm.

In addition to Kent County, the service offers a searchable map for many Lower Michigan Counties.

if you want an aerial shot of your house and you're more of an urban person like myself, this Kent County GIS map from circa 2003 let's you zoom in on any parcel in Kent County for an overhead photo.