Posted by Juliana Szucs on August 14, 2015 in Website

Have you ever wondered about the places where your ancestor lived? What did their street look like? The church they attended? What was the view as your ancestor went into town or to the market? Thanks to Francis Frith, many of us can now get a glimpse of ancestral towns and cities as they looked back in the day.

Francis Frith began his career in photography taking pictures during his travels in the Middle East, and in 1860, he began selling prints of his photographs. With concern for posterity, he created the Francis Frith Archive and although the original company went out of business in 1970, the archive was sold and Ancestry has partnered with the new owners to make the UK, City, Town and Village Photos, 1857-2005 available on Ancestry.

More than 120,000 images are available, featuring 7,000 villages, towns and cities. The collection is particularly strong for the UK and Ireland, but there are images from other locations around the world as well. Because the collection spans into the 21st century, the images are browsable and searchable using contemporary place names. For example, Liverpool is found in the browse under the contemporary county of Merseyside. That said, a search for it using Liverpool, Lancashire, England (choosing that option from the drop-down options) will recognize the location bring up the images catalogued in Merseyside.

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You’ll also run into places where the name has changed. For example, a search for Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland, returns images for Kingstown, Ireland. Confusing at first until you look at the history and find that Dun Laoghaire was named Kingstown between 1821 and 1920.

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The collection includes many street views and churches and terms like ‘street’ or ‘church’ can be used in the keyword to bring up the types of results you’re looking for. But to get a real feel for the places your ancestor lived, browse the locations included. There is much to explore in this rich, new collection.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.

11 Comments

  1. I have never look at a microfilm , I have been running into a big confusion because my DNA stated I was about 42 % Irish , which would be true with my dads family but not finding a lot of people in my tree from Ireland. Can you tell me why ? Thank you

    • Juliana Szucs

      Your DNA percentages won’t match up with your percentages of a particular ethnicity on a pedigree chart. You inherit half your DNA from your mom and half from your dad, and they inherited the same way from their parents. However, the bits you get in each 50% is random, so you may have just got more of the DNA from his Irish ancestors, than others. Test a sibling and you’ll likely find that they have different percentages. I am 23% Irish according to my DNA, whereas my sister is 34%.

  2. Ernest G. Barr

    The earliest of my family I know anything about (and precious little at that) are my maternal grandparents, who lived in Mountville, PA. My paternal grandparents lived in Mechanics Grove, PA. I would like to know more.

    • Juliana Szucs

      You can learn more by starting an online tree with what you know. Census records are a good starting point, beginning with someone who was alive before 1940. They can help you fill out family structure. We’ve got some guidance to get you started if you’re interested in our Online Support Center. http://ancstry.me/13DZjld Best of luck!

  3. Grace Nugent

    When I do a search in Reference, Dictionary and Almanacs, it lets me browse in the document but then it won’t let me go back to search. My only options are Share, Print or Save. To get back to my tree, I have to click on my trees and find the person I was researching. Any suggestions?

  4. Maisie Egger

    Hello, Juliana,
    For over 50 years we have been trying to confirm the birthplace, parentage or siblings for my husband’s great-grandfather. Patrick Skiffington presumably born in Donaghmore, Co. Tyrone, around 1812. We think he may be the passenger Pat Skiffington on the Jane Walker, 1837. It is confirmed that he became a U.S. citizen 1840 and was married the same year to Bridget Kelly in The Basilica of the Blessed Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland. We have his Civil War army record when his widow applied for a pension after he died 1863 at home, Pratt St. Baltimore, after an accident in which he fell on his bayonet. We also visited his gravesite in New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore. We have bits and pieces of his life when he arrived in Baltimore, but no confirmation of his birth, etc., in what we presume to be Donaghmore. We believe he might have been illiterate, so likely no paper trail there. We visited with the canon of the R.C. church in Donaghmore. The records did not go back far enough. A quick survey at the PRONI, Belfast, did not show a Patrick Skiffington. All documents who only that he was born in Ireland, but nothing more specific. An insurmountable brick wall, it would seem. Any suggestions about how we can find out more about Patrick Skiffington, given the scant information we have that he might have been born in Donaghmore?

  5. Martin

    Some interesting pictures.
    One weakness is that there is no identification on the pictures, OK when you search and go to an image but then if you click to go to the next image you don’t know what it is.

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