Old Family Photos: Mystery Child From Across the Pond

By Maureen A. Taylor

This week’s mystery comes from a woman in the UK. I love the way the web connects us all.

Jacqueline Curry found this photo in her grandmother’s photo album:

Look at the curls on that child! The woman is trying to get the child’s attention and elicit a smile by tugging on the skirt.

You guessed it—no one knows who’s in this picture. Jacqueline thinks the child bears a resemblance to her grandmother. However, her grandmother thinks it could be a sister of her grandmother, Jacqueline’s great-great-grandmother.

Here’s the problem. Jacqueline’s great-great-grandmother Harriet was born in 1862 in Sussex, England. Her only sisters were Ann (b. 1864) and Rhoda Matilda (b. 1871). That’s not even close to a birth date for the child. This is a 20th-century photo.

It’s possible that the older woman with the child could be one of those women born in the 19th century. Based on the clothing clues in the woman’s dress, I’d place this picture to circa 1910.

When working with a photo from an album ask these questions:

  • Where is this photo in the album? Since there’s usually an order to the photos in a album (such as chronological or by family), placement could help solve the mystery.
  • Who else is in the album? Is it Jacqueline’s grandmother’s family or another branch of the clan?
  • Who owned the album before her grandmother?

There’s a photographer’s imprint on the image in the lower right hand corner.

It looks like Bates and Son, 187 Maple Rd, Penge. Penge is a suburb in South East London in the borough of Bromley. Bates and Son operated a studio there from about 1902 to at least 1913. I’m still tracking down information on them. Stay tuned!

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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album