Showing posts with label Elgie (Yorkshire Gloucestershire Lincolnshire London Worcestershire). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elgie (Yorkshire Gloucestershire Lincolnshire London Worcestershire). Show all posts

Monday, 31 March 2014

Completing the picture

Last month, John Reid mentioned an online tool named retroReveal in his valuable blog Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections.

I couldn't resist having a go, of course, especially since there are a number of mystery photos in my late father-in-law's keep-sake chest.  I think the tool is meant for revealing underlying details, but it also does a boffo job of enhancing photos, even those I've clarified quite a bit using Photo Project or iPhoto.

I thought I might tackle some long-standing photographic mysteries -- most of them from my late father-in-law's keep box. When he died fifteen years ago, we found a treasure trove of keepsakes, certificates and family photos from his life prior to his marriage to his second wife, my husband's mother. The pictures pertaining to his first marriage were, thank goodness, easy to interpret. His first wife had carefully written names, dates and places on the back. (There should be a special place in heaven for people who write dates and names on the backs of photographs, shouldn't there?) There were many, many photos of my husband's half-sister. Tragically, the little girl died at age eleven, one year after her mother. We learned with a pang just how loved the young daughter from this first marriage had been. The careful documentation, with tender notes on the back of each snap, are a testament to parental devotion.

However, our luck ran out with some of the older photos.

I've often wondered about the identity of this bearded gentleman.  My first guess would be Edward Wolff, my husband's great-grandfather.  Edward was born 1824 in Prussia, probably Berlin -- I found a christening record for a Berlin church for his elder sister Theresa.  Edward came to England some time before 1861 which is when he first shows up in the British Census, living with his sister in Cannon Street near St Paul's Cathedral.  He set up a successful leather bag business in nearby Godliman Street and married Georgiana Elgie in 1872.  He was 48; she was 31.  They settled in West Norwood, Surrey and had four children, three of who made it to adulthood.  Edward died in early 1894 at the age of 69.  He had been suffering from Obstruction of Liver and Jaundice for six months, and finally, his heart gave out.

Could this be him?  I've been using a number of sources on photo-dating (all of them American):  Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor (2005); The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone by Colleen Fitzpatrick (2008); and, especially their case studies page.

The first thing these sources usually tell you to check is the kind of photo you have.  Now, the man appears to be quite elderly here so if this is Edward Wolff, the photograph would have to be taken after 1880, when he was 56 - the fellow in the photo certainly looks older than that, but I don't know what Edward's health was like in later life.  The usual types of photos from 1880 to 1894 would be cartes de visite (just passing out of fashion) or cabinet cards (just coming into fashion).  My problem:  the photo doesn't fit in with the dimensions or appearance of either. (Well, it's not that far off from the dimensions of later cartes de visite -- it's about three and a half by two and a half inches.)  It appears to have been cut down, probably to fit within a frame or a wallet. The border you see here is provided by the blog format and does not appear on the original.

The finish is very glossy, and it's quite a clear picture, although the depth of field is shallow and there appears to be a slight blur caused by movement.  This suggests that the gentleman had to hold very still for the exposure, indicating an older camera.  The picture seems to have been taken outdoors, although it could have been a natural light studio.  I don't think studios normally had this sort of backdrop though, which does resemble pictures I've seen of the side of Wolff family residence in Norwood.

Many resources give hints regarding historical clothes, although Colleen Fitzpatrick warns against depending on costume to date a photo, pointing out that the subjects of a picture wouldn't necessarily be  dressed fashionably.  Indeed, an older gentleman might be less likely to part with a favourite suit.  This one looks a bit like a "sack suit" which I believe were more popular in the 1860s and 1870s, although there were versions of the sack suit up into the following century.  Younger men in the 1880s would have been wearing tighter fitted jackets with the top button done up.  The lapels seem to be unfashionably broad for the 1880s. His cravat style also seems to belong to the 1870s, but I'm not pretending to be an expert.

My next question: is this gentleman in the bath-chair the same fellow as the man above?
Original is 3x4 inches with a lot more sky.

Again, trying to determine the style of photograph seems to be little help.  This picture has been rather clumsily pasted to a cardboard rectangle.  Once again, I have used iPhoto and retroReveal to enhance the original which is rather faint and, as you can see, inexpertly repaired with tape.

However, there is a woman in the photo, pushing the chair, and while it is difficult to make out the features of her face, or her age (she may be wearing a veil), she is well turned out and her dress seems to fit in with the early 1890s, just before sleeves blossomed out into the enormous mutton sleeves associated with that decade.  I know that Edward Wolff died in January of 1894, sometime before he turned 70, and that he had been seriously ill for at least six months previous.  The gentleman here is well bundled up, suggesting cooler weather, perhaps autumn of 1893 -- or are they warmly dressed because they are by a body of water?  Do the white gloves suggest summertime? Heck, I don't know….

And where are they?  Is or was there a promenade with iron railings by the Thames?  There appear to be buildings on the other bank (if it is a river) or the other shore if it is a lake.  Or are we looking at another side of a bay at the seaside?  Bath chairs were heavily associated with spa destinations (such as Bath itself).  Are they on a health retreat?  Is it possible they are on some sort of ferry? (Surely the woman's hat would be more firmly secured, wouldn't it?) Are they in Europe?

I've searched sites for more information on styles of wheelchairs and bath-chairs, to little avail.

As for the woman, Edward Wolff's wife (my husband's great-grandmother) Georgiana Elgie would have been in her early fifties in the early 1890s, and her two surviving daughters Cecily ("Cissy") and Bettina would have been about 17 and 15 respectively in 1893.

So I'm still pretty much in the dark (room) with both pictures, and it's possible that neither of these men is Edward Wolff at all, although I've eliminated other ancestors such as Georgiana Elgie's father and my father-in-law's maternal grandfather because I already have photographs of them and know what they looked like. I've got a couple more photo-mysteries, so I'll go into those in another post.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

By George, she's got it!

Back in the day, I used to be thrilled and intrigued when a new item popped up on the "Recent Member  Connect Activity" list on my home page at  I've been a member of Ancestry since 2005 and in the past five years, I've grown increasingly jaded as more and more people who copy documents I've posted do so without a word to me.  A quick check  -- and believe me, if I can do it, it's not difficult -- usually reveals that they have little or (more often) no connection to either my husband or me.

Sadly, these wordless borrowers are usually what "LLG70", author of the tartly satirical genealogy blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, calls "clickophiles"(I call them "relative poachers") -- those who add scores -- hundreds -- even thousands of names, photos, documents, and, gawd give me strength, coats of arms to their on-line trees without actually doing any research.  Their reward?  Huge family trees -- full of other people's relatives, not their own.

Yesterday morning, I saw that someone had copied some of my data concerning Cicely Anne Elgie.  Heart sinking, I clicked on the record to check this other member's tree.  The first thing I noticed was that this person had Cicely listed as "Cicely Anne Elgie (Lady)".

Oh dear… I thought.

Cicely Anne Elgie is the elder and only sister of my husband's great-grandmother Georgiana Elgie, and she has mystified me for years. The eldest of the five children of my husband's great-great-grandfather, solicitor Charles William Elgie, Cicely was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire due to her father's peripatetic career -- the result, I'm beginning to suspect, of being one step ahead of the bill collector.  (CWE spent some time in the Debtors' Prison for London and Middlesex - probably the White Cross-Street Prison in St Luke's, London in the mid 1840s when Cicely was about seven and my husband's great-grandmother Georgiana was about five.)

Cicely's mother (my husband's great-great-grandmother) Harriett Hammond Elgie née Croose died in 1853 when Cicely was fourteen.  The family was living in Camberwell then, south of the Thames - Charles had been out of debtors' prison for at least three years.  Five years later, Cicely, now age nineteen, was the informant for the death of her paternal grandfather (my husband's 3xgreat-grandfather) retired solicitor Matthew Elgie -- she had evidently been helping care for him at his residence in Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire.

Then Cicely disappeared.

No sign of her nor of her sister Georgiana in the 1861 census, although Georgiana was the informant for her father Charles William Elgie's death in 1862 in Newnham, Gloucestershire the following year.

Some time ago, I stumbled across a marriage record for Cicely and the only reason I paid any attention was because her late father's name appears on the parish register.  This was because she was listed as "Cicely Vivian" marrying a Ewart Simon Mounsey, yet another solicitor, in Brighton, Sussex on May 9th, 1876. (By this time, all three of Cicely's brothers were dead, all before the age of 40.)  Cicely had evidently been married before, but when? And to whom?

I spent years doing searches through FreeBMD, FreeReg, FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Find My Past, trying different spellings for "Cicely", "Elgie", and "Vivian".  I combed through censuses and overseas marriage records.  Nothing.

Which brings me back to yesterday morning.  Next to "Cicely Anne Elgie (Lady)" on the stranger's tree was a link to the 1871 census which I followed with faint hopes.

What I found about halfway down, living at 15 Walton Place in Chelsea, is someone the Ancestry transcribers show as "Andy Vivian", a widow and a "lady".

This doesn't mean she was "Lady Vivian". It means that she wasn't working for a living, or was the wife or daughter of someone who didn't have to work for a living. We know her father worked, so that leaves the elusive late Mr Vivian.

A closer look and… Well, maybe that could be "Cecily". The birthplace and age match hers. There was also a surprise for me -- a six-year-old named George Vivian, "Son", born in London. A quick check of FreeBMD brought up a George Vivian whose birth was registered in Marylebone in 1864. I was feeling a little over-excited and was about to order the certificate when it occurred to me I could try checking the London Births and Baptisms database at Ancestry.

Et voilà! I have young George's birthdate (thank-you, parish clerk!), his christening date at St Mary Bryanston Square, Westminster, his birthplace -- just around the corner from where Cicely's maternal grandmother Harriett Pasquier (formerly Croose, née Hammond) died in 1850, and best of all, confirmation of his mother's given name and the identity of his father -- George Vivian - Gentleman.

Again, the designation "Gentleman" doesn't put George in with the nobility; for example, my husband's great-great-grandfather William Goddard was a master hairdresser, but appears in documents after his retirement as "gentleman".  I still don't know where and when George Senior was born, nor do I know what happened to George Junior.  There are two or three George Vivians in subsequent censuses, but none of them quite fit.  I suspect I'm failing to find Cecily's son for much the same reason I'm failing to find her first marriage -- that the records are Scottish, Irish, or overseas.

But hey!  For years, the name of Cicely's first husband has eluded me and now, by George, I've got it!  I'm confident that the other questions will find answers -- and that three more questions will pop up for every question answered.  Because that's how family history rolls.

Oh, and thanks must go to that other Ancestry member who turns out to be connected in some way to Cecily's second husband Ewart Simon Mounsey who became her widower when she died in 1879 when she was probably not quite forty.  She was living in Beulah Hill, Norwood, not far from where her sister Georgiana Wolff née Elgie was living with her young family.  Cicely was buried in Norwood Cemetery where Georgiana eventually joined her in 1903 at the age of 62.  As far as I know, Georgiana is the one Elgie child to eventually have grandchildren.  I don't know why she lived into her sixties, while none of her siblings made it to their forties, but without her, my husband would not be here, nor would my children.

And without Ewart's distant relative, who posted my documents to their tree yesterday, heaven only knows when I would have discovered that entry in the 1871 that helped me fill in a few more of Cicely's lost years.

Now.  If I could only find where Cicely and Georgiana got to in 1861….