Mother or Daughter?

Mother or Daughter?

Winston Cochrane sent in this lovely portrait of a young woman. Her hairstyle and dress date from the mid to late 1880s. He wanted to know if the item on the studio prop to our left is a hat. It is! It's a tiny topper that would rest on the...

cochraneAssumed Mother of Rae James Gedit (2).jpg

Winston Cochrane sent in this lovely portrait of a young woman. Her hairstyle and dress date from the mid to late 1880s. He wanted to know if the item on the studio prop to our left is a hat. It is! It’s a tiny topper that would rest on the top of her head. I love that’s covered with spring flowers.

cochrane hat.jpg

On her left wrist is a ribbon bracelet.

cochrane bracelet.jpg

His big question was about her identity Could this be Elizabeth (Gourlay) Rae (1840-1921) or her daughter Mary Jane (Rae) Bell (1869-1934)? The woman depicted here is probably only in her 20s, so it’s likely the daughter. Mary Jane’s brother James immigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1886.

It’s the back of the image that made me think about who and where.

CochraneBack of Photo edit (2).jpg

This imprint reinforces my belief that being quick to judge can lead to mistakes. When I first glanced at it, the “N.B.” stood out. Could it stand for New Brunswick? Many immigrants to the United States first stopped in Canada, but Dumfries, New Brunswick is a rural community even today and it’s not near the coast. So what does the N.B. represent?

I called Fred Farrell, the photo archivist at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives for a little clarification. He confirmed that it was unlikely taken in Dumfries, New Brunswick. Turns out that Scotland was often referred to as North Britain even into the 20th century.

This photo was definitely taken in Scotland.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
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