Introducing “Ancestor.Photos” – Images of Your Ancestors from the Victorian Era

[UPDATED] – 8,300 “New” Named Victorian era photos have been added to their database]

Recently I became aware of a new website – “Ancestor Photos” Essentially, it provides scanned copies of Victorian-era photographs. The database numbers in the thousands and includes (from the website):

“We provide a unique opportunity to find images of your ancestors from the Victorian era and to purchase scanned copies.  We only stock photographs from English-speaking countries, mostly from the UK, but some from the United States, Canada, and Australia plus a few examples from British India, South Africa, and of British people visiting the continent of Europe.  We do not have any German, French or other nationalities.”

I contacted the owner, Alison Wilsey, and asked her about how this site came into being. Here is her fascinating response:

“As often happens in life two different events coalesced to produce the idea for ‘Ancestor Photos’. In late 2011 a cousin was sent ‘out of the blue’ a parcel of family photos by a remote relative who had been clearing out her attic. They were all from the Victorian era and all had names written neatly on the back. Suddenly the work on my family history was transformed overnight. From only having two or three photos of my great grandparents’ generation I suddenly had an image of almost everyone. Furthermore, the quality was quite remarkable. The pictures were attached to a robust card which had helped reduce wear and tear. After some googling, I learned that these robust photographs were ‘cartes de visite’ (CDVs). They dominated family photography for most of the Victorian era until people began to buy their own cameras.

A few weeks later I was walking through Spittalfields market in London on a Thursday lunchtime. I spotted a cardboard box of CDVs and leafed through them. Out of perhaps 200 cards, I found 7 with names scribbled on the back. So began the idea of eventually trying to reunite these CDVs with family members. In the subsequent decade my husband and I have visited most of the big sales of ephemera in the country; from Edinburgh to Exeter and from Malvern to Newark  It was not until late 2021 that I retired from full-time work and reckoned that I now had enough images to launch the website ‘Ancestor Photos’ just before Christmas. I  only hope that this new venture can create as much pleasure as that parcel of photos caused me back in 2011. “

Depending on the locations of your ancestors, I would highly recommend that you visit this site and check out the database.

It is searchable and has several fields for each captured photo:

  • Photograph Number
  • Surname
  • Given (Christian) Name
  • Photographer
  • Town
  • Further Detail on Photo

Check out Ancestor Photos. You just might get lucky and find your ancestor!


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