Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Unravelling who's who - the groom

OK, blog readers. You're going to work for your supper this time. I need some help here!
This year I set myself the challenge of working out who's who in this wonderful wedding photograph. The likelihood of identifying everyone pictured is extremely remote, of course, but it would be lovely to put some names to faces, at least. I have a few notes, albeit rather vague ones, plus a few other photographs, to get me started.
So... first off - the groom.

Underneath a photocopy of the picture, my late aunt had written,

"Groom and Bride 
Arthur & Lillian
or John & Lizzie. (It looks very much like John)"

The 'John' to whom she refers is her grandfather, my great-grandfather, John Griffiths, or Jack as he was more often known, born in 1861. Arthur, born 1872, was her great uncle, John's youngest
brother - sons of Jabez and Mary Ann Griffiths (nee Dukes).

Clue One: Comparing faces.

Here are Jack and Arthur photographed together (date unknown). Jack is seated.

Brothers John and Arthur Griffiths

The close-ups:

John (Jack), from photo above                                     - the groom -                                           Arthur, from photo above

 Mmmm. Looking at this evidence, the groom looks much more like John than Arthur.

Clue Two: The wedding date.
John married Sarah Eliza "Lizzie" Baugh in 1894. Arthur married Lillian Clay in 1903.
According to Jayne Shrimpton's excellent book How to Get the Most from Family Pictures, a white tie or bow tie became the norm for men at weddings and other formal occasions during the 1890s, as can be seen in this photograph.
For women, elaborate lace and frills on bodices were becoming popular, as were increasingly decorative hats with flowers, ribbons and feathers, along with ever wider brims.
On the other hand, the trend for vast hats continued into the next decade and, to quote Jayne, "Bridal styles in fact varied widely during the early 1900s", and having studied the examples in her book and on the internet, it's clear that wedding fashions merge during this period, making it harder to differentiate. Even the clothes of the elder ladies give no real clue as they would be more suited to wearing styles from their own era and men's conventions continue much the same as before.
So if the fashions of the wedding guests can't help, I would have to return to the photographs and conclude that the marriage is of John Griffiths and Sarah Eliza Baugh.
However, there's one small fly in the ointment. Why did my aunt limit her suppositions to only two possibilities? All in all, Jabez and Mary Ann Griffiths had seven sons. For all I know, it could be any of them!
So, dear readers, what do you make of it? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
Meanwhile, I'd better get back on the case. Perhaps the other brothers never married...


  1. I wouldn't know where to start! But I can see how you have come to your conclusion. Having looked at the three images again, I do not think the groom is John (Jack) more likely it is a close relation, as you say perhaps a brother?

    Intriguing...and difficult to solve. Good luck.

  2. I know what you mean, Maria. Out of the two, it definitely looks more like John than Arthur but the groom's nose looks a bit longer than John's, so it could be a different brother completely! A bit more digging required, methinks! Thanks for dropping by and adding your thoughts. :-)

  3. How intriguing! I agree that the groom looks very like John, but I think the groom's nose is longer and thinner and his eyelids are more hooded. I think one of the problems here is that John and the groom are both looking into the camera while Arthur is looking slightly sideways. This makes the John/groom similarities obvious, but it also makes it trickier to see similarities between Arthur and the groom.

    May I make a suggestion about the dress worn by the girl standing to the side of the groom? History of clothes is one of my interests and I've been looking at pictures of girls' clothes for the relevant years. After 1900, an older girl such as this one might have worn something that went in at the waist - a skirt and blouse or a dress with a sash-belt. But, of course, this doesn't mean that the older style vanished completely.

    The ladies' hats do suggest the 1900s to me rather than the 1890s.

    Here's a thought. That glorious wedding bouquet is pretty big. In the 1950s, my late mother-in-law had the most gigantic bouquet you've ever seen so that she could hide her bump behind it. Do you perhaps have a wedding date that is followed by an "early" birth? (With apologies to the bride is she wasn't pregnant, of course!!)
    Good luck solving your mystery. I have a family mystery I've been trying to solve for the past few years, so I do sympathise!

    1. Thanks for your suggestions, Susanna. I thought at first glance that the girl you mention felt more Edwardian than Victorian but, as you say, the clothes thing can be a tricky one, as wedding outfits don't always reflect current trends. Jayne Shrimpton picked up on the photo on Twitter and has kindly agreed to study it in the pages of Family Tree Magazine sometime in the near future. I shall be interested to see what she makes of it.
      Meanwhile, I had a quick check in the records which might suggest bump-disguising bouquets! John and Lizzie had their first child exactly a year after the wedding but I haven't checked out Arthur and Lillian yet. I've also confirmed, just to add to the information overload, that another brother married in 1904! So I've emailed my cousin to see if he has any other photographs which might help in the identification process.
      Good luck with your family mystery! I just love them and it's so exciting when you finally crack it!