09 May 2012
Every issue family history photo-dating expert Jayne Shrimpton casts her knowledgeable eye over pictures that Family Tree readers
Q I have sent three pictures which I was led to believe represent my father's grandparents: James Millar (born 1872) & Elizabeth McMillan Millar (born 1869). But, following your articles in Family Tree, I am now not sure they are of the same people...? The two portrait shots are possibly of them, although I think the photograph of the couple would not be. Could you possibly be of some help, as regards the dating, please?
A Unfortunately family tradition often identifies the wrong ancestors in old photographs that have been passed down without any dates or names. Having them accurately dated using recognised photo-dating techniques usually helps to sort out identities, or at least rules possible candidates in or out!
Your photograph of the couple is datable from the style of the card mount and, especially, from the lady's appearance to very close to the year 1900 - c.1898-1901. Perhaps these could be your ancestors the Millars.
The photograph of a young man standing alone is not very closely datable as male dress was essentially rather uniform and shifted very subtly. However the date will probably be a year between the early-1890s and early-1900s. I am certain that he is not the same man as we see in the photo of the couple.
The head and shoulders female portrait is significantly earlier than the other two: the image dates to the 1870s, although the mount appears to be later, which would make this a memorial portrait - a copy of an earlier photograph. I'm afraid that the lady can't be Elizabeth, who was only born a few years earlier. I hope these dates will give you some clues.