Monday, 24 February 2014

The mystery of 138 photographs

Meet Nellie, photo dated 9th June 1918. Unfortunately I have no idea who Nellie is. I found her photograph, along with another 137 others, crammed inside a small leatherette pouch (see below), which my sister had once passed on to me along with some family history notes she'd made. Neither of us were really sure from which side of the family they'd come.

The photographs were a motley collection, from tiny proofs to studio portraits like the one of Nellie above. Many were faded to the point of obscurity, several light damaged or torn, or of people so far in the distance it was impossible to discern their features.

On the reverse of some were places, dates (ranging from 1916 to 1918) and sometimes names. Most, however, merely had comments such as "What do you think of this one? Afraid the scenery is not very picturesque."  and "I look as though I've seen a ghost. Taken in the dining room. The book I have in my hand is the album I have got your snaps in."

On the back of one (again, of Nellie) is written "To dear old Frankie with heaps of love from Nellie, June 15th 1916" and another, "My cousin Ted. No doubt you remember him". If only! 

Some of the places were familiar to me from holidays or family connections. Colwyn Bay, Crewe and The Great Orme in Llandudno. Then on the back of one, "Rapparee beach" in a handwriting I'd seen before. I realised it had been written by my great aunt, Hilda Victoria Griffiths. The beach she referred to is a cove on the north Devon coast, not far from where I live today and a little further along from Minehead, where I knew Hilda had spent many holidays. When I studied the photograph more closely, I could see the picture was of her.

So where did all the other people fit in? Were they friends or family? With a bit of detective work, there must be some way of establishing whether there was a family connection .

I assumed the photograph of four women taken "outside the office" would be work colleagues, listed left to right as: Erica Thomas, Dorothy Baid, Gladys Peacock and Rita Thomas.

But what about the people mentioned on the back of other photos, Chris, Mabel, Dolly ("and her small brother"), Rose, Gracie, Rita, Olga, Vera.  

Some names recorded included surnames, Gladys Osborn, Else Steadman, Dorothy "Jane" Breide, Colonel Thistlewaite, Mrs J & Col J, Mabel Talbot.

The last name triggered something. Didn't we have a Talbot in the family tree a generation or two back? Before I could check, I discovered a significant piece of the jigsaw. A tatty piece of paper, tucked in between the photographs mentioning a wedding, between Mabel Talbot and J Herminan Mowels.

 Was it the wedding depicted on this faded and tatty photograph?

A search through the marriage indexes on gave me the official details. John Herniman Ben Mowels married Mabel Maud Talbot in Sussex on May 27th 1918.

A systematic search of on my maternal family found that my Great-grandmother's sister  Polly Benbow Baugh had married a George Talbot. Their eldest daughter was Mabel Maud. At last, a connection. Mabel and my great aunt Hilda had been first cousins.

Of course, I'm still none the wiser as to the identity of Nellie. My search will continue...

Some of the other photos in the collection:


If you have any information to add, do please get in touch.

No comments:

Post a Comment