Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year and a family detective story!

This photograph has remained a mystery to us for years. I knew it was someone to do with my side of the family as it came to us with other photographs, from my maternal grandparents after they died.

We had thought it was probably one of their parents or grandparents but there was no way of knowing. My niece before Christmas informed me they were going to see my uncle (mums brother) whom I had no idea was still alive. I asked her if she would get him to view some photographs and see if he knew who they were (a long shot as most had died before he was born).

Anyhow, he said they were the parents and grandparents of my grandfather, which made sense and was what we hoped was the case. Now the conundrum begins, what is the occasion for the photograph.

The couple on the right are my great grandparents, who married in Hereford, close to the Welsh border in July 1884, when he would have been 30/31 and she 24/25. Her left hand is prominent in the picture indicating either a marriage or engagement, or possibly, a wedding anniversary. I feel it more likely a marriage due to the buttonhole of the man behind her.

The foliage suggests summer, would you agree? I can't quite identify the foliage/flowers in the container at her feet.

The lapels of his matching 3 piece suit, are narrow and short. Under a magnifier, there is the hint of a pocket watch fastening at his waist. His hair is short and swept back and he also sports a walrus moustache and bankers collar. He has a rose in his lapel and appears to be wearing a narrow, light coloured tie (not a bow tie).

All the above are indicative of the late 1800's but mens fashions changed more slowly than women’s and as I am no expert, who knows. At the time of his marriage he was a labourer but had on the 1881 census previously been and probably still was, a groom/gardener for a big, local farmer.

Now to her. In the upper echelons of society, the bustle was still around at this time, as was a relatively tightly clinched waist. However, in the countryside, where they lived and worked, fashions were more practical but she is still wearing a corset of some type. Her blouse collar is quite small and she is wearing a cameo brooch. Hair is swept back in neat fashion, probably into a bun. She was a servant to another local farmer (with the same name as his boss!).

The couple on the left are supposedly his parents. They are both Welsh and at the time of their son's marriage, he was a Bailiff. This older man sports a fringe beard most popular in the 1850's and 1860's but presumably liked it, so kept it even though it was out of fashion. He is wearing a smart, 3 piece, pin striped suit with quite nice buttons and shiny shoes. His suit seems older with regards to fashion than that worn by his son.

There is no evidence of a fob watch but he is holding a well made walking stick with what appears to be a metal top to it. His bowler hat, according to the invention of the bowler hat site, is not only a status symbol but was used as a form of protection in the countryside (which probably fits in with him being a bailiff). If this is a marriage photograph, then he would be around 53/54 years old (looks a lot older but was out in the countryside all his working life). He is seated on a highly polished chair with a material covered seat.

His wife who stands behind him is about 50. She is wearing a brooch at the base of her over-blouse? and is holding the edge of the back of the chair, also displaying her wedding ring (whether this display is intentional or not, is hard to gauge). She also wears a very long chain of some sort, which disappears out of sight.

Anyone any idea when this type of chain was fashionable?

The man seated on the left died in 1895. If this is a photograph of his son's wedding, then he died 11 years after it was taken.

The back of the photograph shows a split postcard style which only came into use after 1902. The stamp box however, is an upside down horse shoe with T. I. C. inside it. Research shows this was only in use in the 1920's.

So, my conundrum. I do feel this is my great grandfather and his parents. To be printed on a postcard it has to be a reprint for some reason as the chap on the left is already dead.

The women's clothes to me seem more likely very late Victorian, early Edwardian. If so, then it can't be who we think it is, although it could be an anniversary of some kind very close to 1895?

Who knows, such is the difficulty of dating ancestral photographs.


  1. I think this photo is much later than you think - if the couple married in 1884 and were in their 20's they look like they are in their 40's/50's so that would bring the photo into the 1900's.... also the lady on the left top is quite late....
    have you looked up to see when their relatives got married as it looks like they were at an occasion.
    Good luck.
    Lovely photo by the way

    1. Thank you Gigibird. As you can see by the clothing historians post, it is around 1910 - 1917. No idea now who it could be but will carry on when I feel like doing so.

  2. I have a lovely photo of a large family standing on the steps of a house circa 1880-1890. The people are obviously of my mother's maternal family-there are many resemblances. Unfortunately I only found it in my mother's things after she died 15 years ago. My father had no idea who they were and all other family members are gone now except one aunt who didn't know who they were either. I've thought of posting it on the internet as I can't help but feel there must be someone who knows who they are. Good luck on your search!

    1. Thank you Jan. It is so frustration sometimes isn't it?

  3. really interesting, I hope you find some more info on them.


    1. So do I but don't know how at the moment.

  4. That is so interesting. What a beautiful photo. One to treasure!

    Sft x

    1. Yes, it is a lovely photograph isn't it. Still feel it is to do with my grandparents somehow.

  5. I dont have any photos of my ancestors from the 1890's, possibly only some from the 1920's. I wish I did. I hope you can get to the bottom of it.

    1. I was wondering if it could any later than that but don't think so from everything I have read.


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