A carte de visite from Harry and Minnie Murray – Sepia Saturday 132

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.

Harry & Minnie Murray

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…

About Jo Graham

Scottish genealogist - this blog is for my own family history and photos
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19 Responses to A carte de visite from Harry and Minnie Murray – Sepia Saturday 132

  1. Little Nell says:

    Goodness Jo I can see why you were so excited! So much information, and they are an endearing little pair. Well done.

  2. Wendy says:

    You go, Jo! This is indeed exciting. I hope you can find the descendants.

    • Jo says:

      Fingers crossed, Wendy. I’m only guessing from the Census data but it will be interesting to see if I’ve got the right parents and then take it further 🙂

  3. dakotaboo says:

    Wow! You are quite the detective 🙂

  4. Howard W says:

    Great detective work and a lovely story Jo

  5. Queen Bee says:

    What adorable siblings. I’m impressed with your detective work – best of luck in finding their family.

  6. Joan says:

    Nice work! I got excited right along with you. Funny how we can get into the groove on folks we don’t even know. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sharon says:

    Good luck Jo. I really hope that you can find descendants. It is such a beautiful photo. If they were my ancestors I would be over the moon to receive this photo.
    A very uplifting post. Thank you.

  8. Bob Scotney says:

    Just how long does it take you, Jo to research information like this. Great detection for Harry and Minnie.

  9. I enjoyed your story of tracking folks down. That is so nice of you guys to try and reunite people with their family’s old photos. Last summer I was visiting with a woman who runs a thrift shop, and she said that baby books and photo albums are sometimes dropped off and they try hard to get them back to their rightful owners.

    Kathy M.

  10. Jana Last says:

    Great detective work Jo! I’m sure the family of this adorable pair of siblings will be thrilled to receive this photo. Hopefully they will find this post and contact you soon.

  11. Great detective work! It is so exciting when you identify them..I hope you find relatives!! You have two names to follow..that makes your probability of error much less. Good Luck and have fun! 🙂

  12. jinksy says:

    What an exciting story! Thanks! 🙂

  13. Karen S. says:

    Amazing! Great work and good luck finding more!

  14. Nancy says:

    I hope there are some descendants of these two children who are searching for them! You’ve gone to a lot of work to find information about the pair and if anyone IS searching, all the information you’ve included will certainly help! Great job!

  15. postcardy says:

    Good work! You got your money’s worth of fun and information from that photo.

  16. tyrogers6200 says:

    Jo, great work, isn’t it fun trying to decipher old photos? It has become such an obsession with me I keep telling my husband he needs to make more money so I can quit my day job and devote my time to my blog and learning more about old photos.

    Teresa Wilson Rogers

  17. Val says:

    This is an amazing bit of sleuthery! I collect old black and white and sepia photos, but frequently have to just take wild guesses at what’s there. (I colour old photos, to make them look like they were taken in colour, so mostly I use scans of the photos I have for my own interest).

    Do you use Cyndi’s List, at all? I managed to help a Native American friend of mine find her lost family via that many years ago. It’s a vast genealogy resource that spans the world. http://www.cyndislist.com/ (I’m not affiliated with it in any way).

    Your blog and site are amazing. Thanks for following me, back. I appreciate it.

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