09 May 2012
Every issue family history photo-dating expert Jayne Shrimpton casts her knowledgeable eye over pictures that Family Tr
Q I am hoping that you can help to identify the date and also perhaps the occasion pictured in this photograph. I have never seen anything like it before. I doubt if it is associated with a funeral, as the bouquets of flowers in different vases (for bride and bridesmaids?) seem to suggest a wedding. I can't tell whether the centrepiece is a wedding cake tier or some glass ornament on a circular base. Might this have been taken before or after the marriage ceremony? Why is there no groom?
Mr D Morgan
A Every so often a family photograph presents something completely different and I'm afraid that I haven't seen a photograph like this before, either! However I agree with your interpretation of this unusual display of flowers, a photograph, and perhaps a wedding cake tier as a likely wedding celebration. If the white centrepiece is indeed part of the wedding cake, then perhaps this arrangement was organised after the wedding. The photograph of a possible bride looks to date from around 1909-1914, as far as I can tell. Hopefully those years will tie in with a recorded family wedding.
Q I wonder if you could help me with these photographs please. I only have a copy of the first photo, so there is no other information besides the image, but I would like to be sure that the lady is my 2 x great-grandmother, Hannah Colbeck (1811-1873). Her youngest child, Sarah, was born in 1854 and I wondered if the girl pictured with the lady here could be Sarah. The second photograph I believe represents my paternal grandmother (born 1858-1938) who was the wife of Alfred Baker, corn merchant of Hull, but who used to spend her summers in Bridlington. She died when I was 10 years old so I only knew her as an old lady and she looked nothing like this. Can you please confirm when this is likely to have been taken and whether it could be her when younger?
Elizabeth Lancaster, by post
A Your first photograph is a little hard to date very closely as here we have a conservatively dressed elderly lady and a child in a smock-style frock: neither wears the regular adult fashions that would usually provide a reliable time frame! However, the style of both of their outfits is broadly datable to around the turn of the 20th century: I would suggest c1895-1905 or a similar date range. Therefore I'm afraid that we are looking at much later family members than Hannah and Sarah.
Your second photograph is closely datable to c1900-1905, based partly on the design on the reverse of the mount, but particularly on the lady's rather fine clothing. She looks a well-dressed and elegant woman and appears to be aged in her 40s or thereabouts, so I would agree that she fits in very well with your grandmother, born in 1858.
Q Please could you date this photograph of my grandmother, Martha Tither, late of Burtonwood, Warrington, and who passed away in 1932?
A This photograph is definitely early 20th century and was either taken at the very end of the Victorian era or during the Edwardian period. Your grandmother's blouse with a high collar is typical of these years, as is her hat, which is datable to c1900-1910. This style of hat with a wide brim and a wide crown, too, was fashionable c1900/1901, which I think is the most likely sort of date range here; however a similar shape was in vogue again between about 1907 and 1910, so perhaps we should not rule out the possibility of a late-Edwardian date. I am not aware of your grandmother's birth date, but perhaps you can judge the most probable year from her youthful appearance here.
Q The enclosed photograph is thought to represent my great-grandparents, William Ditchburn (1839-1913) and his wife Dorothy Nixon (1842-1921). They lived in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Please can you date the photograph and offer any comments.
A Here we see a professional studio photograph of a couple who look to be aged perhaps in their 50s or 60s. They are both wearing conservative styles of dress in keeping with their years, which makes very close dating difficult from the image alone. Without any other dating clues such as photographic format, or mount design, but judging from the lady's slightly puffed sleeves and bodice style, I would suggest a date of between around 1897 and 1905. This seems to support the possibility that the couple is William and Dorothy, who may perhaps have been celebrating a landmark wedding anniversary when they visited the photographer.