Friday, 24 August 2012

Sepia Saturday 140: Two weddings and a funeral

Sepia Saturday 140

For my contribution to the Sepia Saturday scrapbook this week, I have delved into my collection of specimens from Derbyshire's longest lived studio, that of W.W. Winter. This group of wedding photos - slavishly following Alan's matrimonial photo prompt - was a recent purchase on eBay and is probably the most recent example that I have from this studio.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified wedding group, c.1950s
Paper print (156 x 114mm) by W.W. Winter, Derby

The listing naturally caught my eye, or rather eBay's search tool, because of the studio's location, but it also turned out to be an interesting research problem. On the face of it, the wedding portraits offered relatively few clues as to the identities of the subjects. The bride could be in her mid- to late thirties, the groom - with an incipient receding hairline - perhaps a little older, and he is wearing a cassock and dog collar, so presumably an Anglican priest.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Photographic "Wedding" card folder
W.W. Winter Ltd. Midland Road Derby

The series of three 6⅛" x 4½" prints, one showing the wedding party standing outside the church in landscape format, the other two of the bride in portrait format, have their corners inserted in diagonal slits in pre-printed and embossed pale blue card folders (177 x 133mm or 7" x 5¼") with white decorated edging.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of paper print
Negative number "59165 A," surname "Edwards"

The prints have the standard W.W. Winter signature logo blind stamped in the bottom right, while a negative number and the surname "Edwards" are written in pencil on the reverse.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of card folder
Inscribed with negative number "59165 A" & surname "Edwards"

The same negative number and surname are inscribed in pencil, albeit apparently a different hand, on the back of the blue card folder.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified bride, c.1950s
Paper print (114 x 156mm) by W.W. Winter, Derby

The portraits of the bride show her holding the bouquet in a similar position outside the church.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Photographic "Wedding" card folder
Inscribed with surname "Edwards" & Negative number "59167B"
W.W. Winter Ltd. Derby

One of the folders has the pre-printed studio name in a different font, although it is otherwise identical.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified bride, c.1950s
Paper print (114 x 156mm) by W.W. Winter, Derby

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified bride, possibly "Dordy," c. 2 February 1959
Paper print in embossed card folder
W.W. Winter, Derby

But it is an inscription on the inside cover of the folder housing the third portrait which provided the only clue left by the presumed original owners.
To Lily
with Love
Dordy +
Peter
2.2.1959
I can't be absolutely sure about the name "Dordy," but that's my best guess, based on a comparison with the remainder of the text, e.g. see how the "o" is written in the word "Love."

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

If I were to have any chance of identifying the subjects, it was clear that I would have to make some deductions, assume they were correct, and test the theory by seeing where that led. So perhaps ...

- the wedding took place on 2 February 1959,
- since it was captured by W.W. Winter, it was most likely taken somewhere near Derby
- "Dordy" was the bride, Peter the groom,
- their married name was Edwards,
- "Dordy" was a pet name, perhaps short for Dorothy or Doreen, and
- she gave the wedding photos to a close friend or relation named Lily.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified wedding group, c.1950s
Paper print (167 x 119mm) by unknown photographer

The last of these seemed plausible since accompanying the W.W. Winter wedding portraits in the same eBay lot were three further wedding portraits, similar in size and shape, but in plain card folders (with no photographer shown) and obviously a different wedding. However, the bride in these three portraits (above and below) is clearly the same woman who appeared as a bridesmaid in Dordy's group wedding photo.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified wedding group, c.1950s
Paper print (167 x 119mm) by unknown photographer

FreeBMD

In order to find a suitable marriage record for Dordy I turned to FreeBMD, which has to be one of the most useful, and used, free UK genealogical research tools currently available on the net. Although this unofficial database of the GRO Birth, Marriage and Death Index, compiled by voluntary indexers, is not yet complete, the coverage for the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century is very good, and growing. A quick check of the graphs (or charts if you prefer) for marriages shows that both transcription and validation for 1959 are estimated as complete, which will give us a good degree of confidence that we are likely to be searching a full set of records.

FreeBMD

The basic FreeBMD search page has a very simple, and versatile, interface where I inserted the following details of the presumed wedding:

Type: Marriage
(Groom's) Surname: Edwards
(Groom's) First name: Peter
Spouse's First name: Do
Date range: Mar (Qtr) 1959 - Mar (Qtr) 1959
Counties: Derbyshire

N.B. Since I wasn't sure about the bride's first name, I decided to specify only the first two letters. This search engine matches all first names in the database with start with these letters and fit the other specified criteria, i.e. a wildcard after the specified letters is assumed. All other details were left blank.

FreeBMD

Searching using these parameters produced a single hit, a marriage entry for one Peter A. Edwards, spouse's surname Sewell, in the Shardlow Registration District (near Derby).

FreeBMD

Clicking the GRO Reference Page number gave a list of all the names listed on that page of the register, including that of Peter's bride Doreen N. Sewell.

FreeBMD

I then used the FeeBMD Index of birth registrations to look for a Doreen N. Sewell born somewhere in Derbyshire between 1910 and 1930 (assuming that she was in her 30s or early 40s at the time of her marriage. Finding one whose birth was registered in the Belper R.D. in the September Quarter of 1919 (Dordy would have been thirty-nine years old when whe was married), and whose mother's maiden name was NEALE, I was able to search for potential siblings. Indeed there were at least five Sewell sisters (shown above) including, conveniently, the youngest named Lily V.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Unfortunately, searching the FreeBMD marriage index for marriages for a Lily V. Sewell, even without any constraining dates or location, produced not a single hit. However, bearing in mind that her wedding would probably also have taken place in the 1950s (or thereabouts), we already known the coverage for that decade is patchy (we hit lucky with 1959).

Ancestry.co.uk

I therefore turned to the comprehensive subscriber-only Ancestry database, which was far more successful, turning up a marriage for Lily V. Sewell and Albert H. Young in the Woolwich R.D. (Kent) from the September Quarter of 1952. Lily was apparently married six or seven years earlier than her older sister, when she was thirty-two years old.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The photograph of the happy couple signing the register was of fairly decent quality, so I tried some digital manipulation of a detailed scan (click image above for a more detailed version), in an attempt to decipher the handwriting in the register. Unfortunately, while I think I can make out the name, Lily Victoria Sewell, that's about the extent of it. I sadly haven't been able to determine the name of the parish church, but it is likely to be in one of the parishes of Charlton, Kidbrooke, Plumstead or Woolwich.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

So, you might well ask, we've had the two weddings, but where is the funeral? When I was trying to identify as many people as possible who appeared in both wedding parties - can you see Dordy and her husband to be, Peter, in Lily's wedding photo? - there was one man who, although he appears to have taken the place often reserved for the father of the bride, looks too young for that role. Perhaps he's an uncle, or other member of the family? There is an older woman, also present on both occasions, who looks old enough to be Dordy and Lily's mother.

National Probate Calendar from Ancestry.co.uk
As shown by the above entry in the National Probate Calendar, Walter Edward Sewell of 298 Boulton Lane, Alvaston, Derbyshire (a pig iron carrier by trade) died on 12 July 1948, and was sadly not able to attend either of these two daughters' weddings.

For more weddings, and possibly a funeral or two, try Sepia Saturday's other offerings this week - I can guarantee you'll not be disappointed.

20 comments:

  1. Excellent detective work!

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  2. Brett, I really appreciate how you walked us through how you search and the tools that you used. This is another excellent post, with wonderful wedding photos. Thank you!

    Kathy M.

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  3. A thoroughly enjoyable post. Because I am basically nosy I too wanted to know more about the wedding couples and their guests, and you did a wonderful job of feeding my curiosity. These are wonderful prints for showing wedding fashions at the time.

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  4. Great work! I thought the name looked like "Daedy," but you were correct about the "Do."

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  5. Thanks Lisa, Kathy, Nell and PC.

    PC - Yes, I thought so too, until I compared the second letter with the second letter in "Love."

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  6. It must be both fun and satisfying to solve these mysteries. Being able to identify the people in the photos given the few clues you had is impressive!

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  7. Absolutely amazing, excellent detective work! I really loved reading your post, thanks.

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  8. I have always likened family history to detective work, picking up clues and working backwards. You have given a classic example of how satisfying the chase can be. A great posting.

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  9. Super research and nice to attach names to the weddings. When zooming in on objects like the register in photos I often wish I had the equipment they always seem to have in police dramas that magically seems to sharpen things up so you can read them perfectly!

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  10. Even if we don't know their names, we sure do share in seeing their most happy moments! I love a good search into the past, it's just so darn interesting, especially when you discover what you were looking for, but also when you stumble on other points of interest!

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  11. I just want to hand over all my family genealogy question marks for you to solve. You're the master! I enjoyed this wedding mystery.

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  12. A tremendous post and great detctive work. Tracing fanmily histories can be very time consuming and take you down many blind alleys. I find that as we get older and, unfortunately, attend more funerals than weddings you meet long forgetten relations or ones you didn't know about.

    (This is my fourth/fifth attempt at the crazy word verification)

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  13. Thanks so much for giving us tips on how do photo detective work. You're the man!
    Nancy

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  14. It's interesting to see this story unfold. When I bought the Old West image a woman walked by and said to her husband that she thought buying photos like these was creepy. I thought her comment odd, but understand a lot of people feel this way about those of us who collect. You've given these folks a second day of joy by posting their story.

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  15. Great research work and an interesting journey through the records! Jo :-)

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  16. As usual : an object lesson in photographic research. As Carly Simon said (sung) "Nobody Does It Better"

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  17. This was a fascinating change from your usual 19th century Derbyshire photo mystery. Outlining your steps makes the process seem not unlike solving a Soduku puzzle.

    My wife and I were married in a simple civil ceremony at the Richmond, Surrey registry office. I remember that when my father tried snap a photo of the signing of the book, the registrar wouldn't allow it and insisted that we pose instead for a faux-signing on a blank page. I never understood the reason.

    Thanks, Brett, for your generous comments on my blog too. I'm still unsure of this weekend's tintype but as you know some photos will never be a closed case.


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  18. Your research and attention to detail is impressive - thanks for sharing!

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  19. Albert H Young / Lily V Sewell
    Regd Jul-Aug-Sep 1952
    Volume Number: 5d
    Page Number: 2173

    Where?: Woolwich

    Ray

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  20. ( oops sorry posted before finished )

    Doedy/Dody/Dodey very common abbrev for Dorothy.

    Ray

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