Monday, 20 October 2008

Furs from Canada?

Image © and courtesy of Lynne Tedder

A couple of months ago, I featured this portrait of my gg-grandmother Eliza Sheales Miller née Newman (1844-1919) in an article about the Millers of Weston Underwood. She is adorned with furs which, according to my cousin Lynne Tedder from St John, Alberta, Canada, were sent back from Saskatchewan by her emigrant sons, Frederick Newman Miller (1885-1958) and Bertram Archibald Miller (1886-1979).

Image © and collection of Charles Bernard Payne

The other day, while browsing some scans of unidentified photographs from my own family collection, I came across the image shown above, was reminded of the Miller-Canadian furs connection, and wondered whether the furs being worn by this younger woman might also have emanated from the Miller branch in Canada.

When I scanned it, about ten years ago, I wasn't genealogically or historically savvy enough to either scan the full extent of the card mount or to make notes as to the photographer and/or location. Nor do I currently have access to the original photograph from which this image was scanned, so I can't even be sure of the size, although I believe from the dimensions that it was probably a carte de visite. As a very rough estimate, height/width ratios of the photographic prints on cabinets cards (not the card mounts themselves!) are around 1.38-1.45, while those for cartes de visite are usually a little higher at 1.52-1.64.

Image © and collection of Charles Bernard Payne

The woman has posed in a studio setting, with a backdrop depicting a rural scene, two pillars, presumably made of plaster (and, I might add, rather battered in appearance and not very well placed), and a rather poorly disguised carpet edge. From her clothes I estimate that it was probably taken in the early 1900s, and she appears to be in her mid- to late thirties or early forties.

I haven't been able to identify this woman in any other family photographs, so it is something of a mystery as to who she might be. If I am correct in my estimation of the date of the photograph and her age, then she was possibly born in the 1860s or early 1870s. John and ELiza Miller's children were born between 1870 and 1888, the oldest four being the daughters Minnie Daykin (1870-1956), Edith Brown (1872-1956) (my great-grandmother), Florrie Buxton (1874-?) and Gertie Shimmin (1876-1941). I have photographs of both Edith Brown and Gertie Shimmin, and don't believe this woman could be either of them. It is also possible that it may be one of John & Eliza's daughters-in-law, although I think this less likely. Wilfred Miller was born in 1878 and married in 1904; presumably his wife Eliza was of a similar age. The other sons were even younger.

Fortunately, I am in touch with grand-daughters of both Minnie Daykin and Florrie Buxton, and so my next step will be to send copies of the photograph to them, and see if they are able to help with the identification.

Image © and collection of Charles Bernard Payne

One other potential clue is the jewellery worn by the woman. Although it is not very clear in the original scan, I have tried to enhance the relevant portion in the scan above, revealing what appear to be a star-shaped brooch at her neck, and possibly a pendant locket, hanging on a fairly thick chain. It is possible that this jewellery has survives, and may be recognised by some family member.

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