Ancestry.com is useful for more than just genealogical records. It’s also a good source for photos, postcards, and maps.
The Francis Frith Collection contains photographs of almost every city, town and village in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), with more limited coverage of Ireland. The photos include thousands of individual streets, churches, castles, landscapes, businesses, bridges, municipal buildings and other locations that were of vital importance for their inhabitants—many of whom would later settle in the United States, or who had relatives already settled in the States.
Founded by Francis Frith in 1860, the company that bears his name published over 300,000 photographs that were sold to tourists first as carte de visite and later as postcards (there are nearly 222,000 photos in this collection in Ancestry.com). Frith is recognized as one of the great pioneers of photography, having undertaken three expeditions up the Nile to record the pyramids and antiquities of the Middle East between 1857 and 1859. He is best known today, however, for this outstanding photo archive of British and Irish towns and villages created by himself and various Frith Company photographers over a 110 year period.
I searched for the town of Dudley, England. Located in Staffordshire County in the West Midlands region, it is the place where my Pearson ancestors lived until the 1880s. It is a coal mining area, known locally as “The Black Country” for that reason. As it turns out, this collection includes 52 photos of Dudley. I found them with this search:
These photos look fantastic! They are mostly black and white, as you probably assumed, but look great nonetheless. The batch I looked at included photos of the town center/business district (with its inevitable roundabout); an industrial area; some picturesque/stately homes; parks and statuary; the Dudley Zoo; the Church of St. John the Evangelist; and the ruins of Dudley Castle.
Ancestry.com provides a fairly cumbersome process for saving photos; I just used Ctrl—Alt—PrtScn to copy and paste photos of interest into Paint. These photos are generally copyrighted material, yet will certainly prove very useful for personal reference.