Inspired by a lovely blog that I follow, Forgotten Old Photos, I did something I haven’t done before. The lady who writes the blog buys up old photos and posts them in the hope that they might be reunited with descendants some day. There are helpful folk who do some research if the photos have names on the back, and there is a general “PARTY!” feel when a photo is reunited with its family.
I rummaged around on Ebay and found a cute Carte de Visite. The seller was in the US (I’m in Scotland) but the CDV luckily had names penned on the front so I snapped it up. Meet little Harry and Minnie Murray who had their photo taken by Patersons of Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. I wondered if I could find some relatives for these two.
I was so excited when it arrived! Harry and Minnie were very likely born in the Glasgow area, and although I research the Scottish records on a daily basis, I knew I would have trouble finding them in the Census Returns – there was no date given on the photo, which meant I couldn’t estimate their years of birth and would have to trawl through Census documents hoping to find a Harry Murray who happened to have a sister (assuming she was his sister) called Minnie. Harry can be short for “Henry” and Minnie can be short for all sorts (my great granny was a Minnie – short for Andrewina, strangely enough). Oh dear.
I guessed that Minnie looks about 7 and Harry looks about 4, but I’m not good at guessing ages. Most of the time I can’t even remember my own age. Please chip in with your guesses at their ages!
I Googled for Paterson’s Photographic Co and discovered that they operated from Sauchiehall Street between 1882 and 1897. The style of the card and the printing of the company name suggest a time period of the late 1880′s to early 1890′s.
I also sent a copy of the photo to Forgotten Old Photos, asking for advice about dating the photo from the clothing and she kindly responded “First of all the card stock..light pink..I assume it is the same color on the back. Pastel colors like pink were used after 1880. The card has rounded corners so that dates it sometime after 1870. Button trims and the high neck and tight sleeves on the girls clothing look like the 1880′s to me. That little boy is really cute in his trimmed suit. Childrens clothing is much harder to date..because they handed it down.”
Although all my Scottish research is carried out using the original records which are held nearby in Edinburgh, as it was Saturday, and raining (excuse for not cutting the grass – YAY!) I logged on to my Ancestry.com account to see what I could find out about the two little ones. Ancestry doesn’t have access to Scottish records, apart from transcribed Census returns so I tend not to use the site much, except for passenger lists and non-Scottish Census data. Well, what an eye-opener (if the shaky leaves were telling the truth, but I’m still not totally convinced :-)) but I think I found them in the 1881 Census. They were the 8th and 9th surviving children of Archibald Murray and Marion McColl and were living at 438 Crown Street, Glasgow. Minnie was aged 6 (“Marion” on the Census, born c 1875) and Harry was aged 3, which fits with the dates of the photography business, and would date this photo around 1882. That makes this card about 130 years old – I wish I had family photos (even one!) that old. By the time of the 1891 Census, the family had moved to 285 Crown Street.
Look at Minnie’s FOUR strings of beads, and the embroidered detail on Harry’s jacket. Considering that Archie had 9 kids by then, he was doing well – or perhaps Harry’s suit and Minnie’s beads were borrowed from the neighbours, which was accepted practice when a family had saved enough for a studio photo.
From Ancestry, it seems that Harry and Minnie probably had an older sister, Maggie May. Yes, we know a song about her, thank you, Rod Maggie married George Noble and emigrated from Scotland in 1906, landing up in Winnipeg and later moving to LA, where she died. I wish I had asked the Ebay seller (Robert at hc-quality) where he had acquired the card from. I guess we will never know for sure if the carte de visite was a treasured memento of her kid sister and brother that Maggie May took with her when she left Scotland.
As a follow up to this post, I will use the Scottish birth, marriage and death records to see if I come to a different conclusion rather than relying on census data, Ancestry member family trees and passenger lists, which can easily lead you to barking up the wrong tree
Head over to Sepia Saturday and see what other interesting old photos are being discussed with this week…