Saturday, 11 July 2015

Sepia Saturday 287: Picturing the Shape of an Immigrant Family

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

Last week I introduced the Henschel and Gifford families, likely original owners of an old photo album that came into my possession a few years ago. This week's Sepia Saturday theme image suggests group portraits, and is convenient because I will follow on with the cabinet portrait of an unidentified group of young women that I used last week.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Cabinet portrait of unidentified group of women, c.1889-1893
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

As explained in more detail in the previous article, these young women are as yet unidentified and we can't even be sure who the woman at the centre of the group, marked with an arrow pencilled in the lower margin, might be. What we can say with a fair degree of certainty, due to a pencilled notation on the back of the card mount, is that either Herbert Henry Henschel (1888-1982) or his wife Agnes Hammersley née Gifford (1888-1967) of Cleveland, Ohio ordered an vignetted enlargement of this woman's portrait, probably between 1907 and 1913. It seems likely that the subject of the vignette was Agnes's mother Ellen (Nellie) Gifford née Slater, who emigrated from England to the United States with her husband Frederick (Fred) Thomas Gifford (1862-1932) and infant daughter in February 1893.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified girl, taken c. 1900-1903
Carte de visite by R. Clarenbernie, 46 Liverpool Rd, Stoke-on-Trent
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The preponderance of portraits in the album taken by studio photographers in Staffordshire (9) and Derbyshire (10) (see geographical distribution here), even taken after the Gifford family's emigration to Cleveland in 1893, points to the existence of a wider family network, some of whom may have remained in England. There are two further carte de visite portraits in the album which have inscriptions on the reverse, the first of which is clearly handwritten in black ink, "Fred & Nellie." Jones (1994) handily lists the photographer R. Clarenbernie working at this address in Stoke-on-Trent only from 1900 to 1903, providing us with a good date estimate for the portrait of a young girl.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Three unidentified children, taken c. 1898-1901
Carte de visite by Thomas Frost, Victoria Studio, 26½ St Peter's St, Derby
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The second portrait of three pre-teen children (probably a girl and two younger brothers, judging by their facial similarities) was taken by Derby photographer Thomas Frost, whom I know from my own research was active at that address from c.1896 to 1903. The card format (in particular the words, "late with Gibson & Son") indicate that it was probably used prior to c. 1901, while the clothing (specifically the girl's sleeves and the boys' lace collars) suggest a date of very late 1890s or early 1900s. In this case, the inscription reads, "for Nellie with best wishes."

Although pretty meaningless until the recent discovery of the Henschel-Gifford family connection with the album, these two inscriptions now tell us a great deal, because we can be certain that they were taken in England several years after Fred and Nellie had departed for North America. In other words, they must have been sent to them by family back in the old country, and it appears likely that the subjects were nieces and nephews, in other words children of siblings of either Fred or Nellie Gifford. The existence of both photographs in this album also strongly suggests that the album may at one time have been owned by Fred and Nellie Gifford.

Image © and courtesy of Frank Bates Image © and courtesy of Frank Bates
James Gifford (1829-1902) and Ann née Hammersley (1832-1926)
From the Ancestry.com family tree & collection of Frank Bates

So off I went to Ancestry.com to look for Fred and Nellie's respective families, tracing them through census, GRO, parish and other records to build up a detailed picture of their immediate families, and in particular to determine what happen to their parents and siblings. I found several family trees uploaded and made publicly available by others, some of whom are clearly related, which made my job a lot quicker and easier. I am particularly indebted to the research done by Frank Bates of Eastlake, Ohio, who is descended from Fred's sister Elizabeth Matilda Gifford (1869-1952). Of special interest are the photographs of Fred Gifford's parents, James Gifford (1829-1902) and Ann née Hammersley (1832-1926), which I have displayed above.

Image © and courtesy of Frank Bates
Ann Gifford née Hammersley, Frank Bates and "Butch," taken c. 1909
Cabinet card by Chesnutt Bros (Lewis H & Andrew J), 318 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio
From the Ancestry.com family tree & collection of Frank Bates

James Gifford married Ann Hammersley at Stoke-on-Trent in 1853, where they lived and had eight children, four boys and four girls. Their last child Agnes Hammersley Gifford was born in late 1879 and died before her third birthday. All seven of their remaining children married, and six of those couples in due course had children of their own. In the mid-1880s, after most of their children had left home, the Giffords moved to Denbigh, a small town in North Wales. James Gifford died in Denbigh in June 1902, and in 1905 his widow crossed the Atlantic to live with her daughter and son-in-law, which is presumably where the portrait with her grandson and his dog (above) was taken.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified middle-aged couple, c. 1879-1882
Cabinet card by W.H. Smith of Crickhowell, Breconshire, Wales
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

It didn't take much time to find a portrait in the album depicting a middle-aged couple who look very much like younger versions of James and Ann Gifford. Judging by the tight sleeves of the woman's dress, with a large full puff at the top sitting high on the shoulders, I estimate this portrait to have been taken in the very late 1870s or early 1880s (Blum, 1974). They would have been in their early forties at the time, a few years before they moved permanently to live in Denbigh.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified middle-aged man, c. 1889-1891
Cabinet card by James Murray, Commerce Street, Longton
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This portrait, taken roughly a decade later in Longton (Staffordshire), also appears to be of James Gifford, although his hair is by now completely white.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Three unidentified women, c. 1885-1888
Carte de visite by C.F. Wiggins, Imperial Studio, 27 Talbot Rd, Blackpool
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

There is also a carte de visite portrait of one older and two younger women, taken in Blackpool in the mid- to late 1880s. The older woman looks very similar, in both facial features and hairstyle, to the black-and-white portrait of Ann Gifford above. The two younger women in the portrait are most likely her daughters, but which ones? For an answer to this question, it is necessary to widen our view across the whole Gifford family, and this is where it starts to get difficult because of the number of children they had.
- James Gifford (1853-) married Mary Worrall in 1875
- William Edgerton Gifford (1856-1940) married Mary Ann Haywood in 1877
- Frederick Thomas Gifford (1862-1932) married Ellen Slater in 1887
- Mary Ann Gifford (1864-) married Alfred Maiden in 1887
- Charles Gifford (1867-1922) married Jane Grocott in 1892
- Elizabeth Matilda Gifford (1869-1952) married George Bates in 1892
- Cecilia Gifford (1875-1974) married Fred George Ham in 1899

Image © 2015 Brett Payne
Gifford Geographical Family Tree, Click to enlarge
Image © 2015 Brett Payne

The need to be able to visualize the locations of the various branches of the Gifford family through time has led me to design a novel type of family tree, which attempts provide a graphical solution to a problem that I have experienced many times when attempting to research family photo albums. This is its first airing, and since it is really just a prototype, I'll hope you'll bear with me if there are a few hiccups and inconsistencies. To be able to see the full version image at the same time as reading my explanation, I suggest that readers right click with their mouse button on the image above, choose to "open in a new window," and then adjust the size of the browser windows accordingly so you can see both at the same time, assuming your screen is big enough.

Each column on the chart represents a different Gifford family group, with the "first" generation of James and Ann Gifford on the far left, then the seven children of the second generation, and finally Agnes Gifford & Herbert Henschel, who were in the third generation. The vertical axis represents time, and extends from 1850 to 1960, with the decades marked by horizontal rules.

Individuals are marked on the chart by a series of coloured dots (blue for males, red for females, naturally) connected with lines from their birth date, through marriage (where a male and female line will merge), having children (slightly smaller dots) until their death (marked by a small cross). Underlying the family lines are colour fills representing the locations where they were living at the time, for example pale green for Staffordshire (England), pale purple for Ohio (United States), etc. The key to these colours is at the base of the chart.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Portraits taken in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, c. 1900-1903 (left)
and Derby, Derbyshire, c. 1898-1901 (right)
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

The intention, therefore, is that if the location and approximate date of a photographic portrait are known, and the age(s) of the subject(s) can be roughly estimated, then the chart can be used to determine which members of the family were living in the right place at the right time, and were the right age, to be candidates for the portrait.

Perhaps readers would like to try their hand at doing this for themselves with the two cartes de visites shown above, to see if (a) the chart works as intended, and (b) whether you come up with the same candidates as I have? In other words, if we assume that these children are daughters and sons of one of Fred Gifford's siblings, which second generation family do they belong to? I'd be very grateful if you'd leave your deductions in the comment box below. If you find the chart too difficult to understand, have some questions or suggestions for improvements, or indeed any other comments, I'd likewise be pleased to hear from you.

Post Script 14 July 2015

These are my interpretations of who the subjects of the two carte de visite portraits might be:

(1) Clarnbernie portrait of girl with a wall-eye
The girls looks to be aged around 8-10 years, which implies a birth date of c. 1890-1895 if my date estimate for the portrait is correct. Three of the second generation Gifford families were living in Staffordshire during this period: James & Mary Gifford, William & Mary Ann Gifford and Charles & Jane Gifford. All three had daughters, but only Charles & Jane had a daughter of the right age. She was Agnes Annie Gifford born in 1892 at Stoke-on-Trent.

(2) Frost portrait of three children
The only family living in Derby around the turn of the century was Alfred and Mary Ann Maiden, who had three children: Florence Amelia Maiden, born in 1890 and therefore aged c. 8-11, Alfred James Maiden, born in 1891 and hence aged c. 7-10, and Harry Maiden, born in 1896 and aged 2-5.

References

Alderman, Mari (2006) Victorian Professional Photographers in Wales, 1850-1925, publ. online by GENUKI.

Blum, Stella (1974) Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1898, New York: Dover Publications, 294p.

Harbach, Mike (2014) Staffordshire Photographers Index, publ. online by GENUKI>

Jones, Gillian A. (1994) Professional Photographers in North Staffordshire, 1850-1940, The PhotoHistorian, No. 103 (Winter 1994), Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.

Jones, Gillian A. (nd) Professional Photographers in South Staffordshire, 1850-1940, The PhotoHistorian, No. 105, Royal Photographic Society Historical Group.

Jones, Gillian (2004) Lancashire Professional Photographers, 1840-1940, Watford: PhotoResearch, 203p.

19 comments:

  1. I'll assume your identifications are correct. This "reader" just likes to read and look at photos!

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    1. Postcardy - Hope you enjoyed them.

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  2. It's commendable there are folks like you who enjoy delving into the past by all means available to identity those in the old photographs. And because you publicize how you do it, you must certainly encourage others to follow suit which is equally commendable. Unfortunately for those in the old photographs, I'm with Postcardy. I enjoy looking at the old photos & buy them in antique shops once in a while. And I identify them - but in a manner somewhat different from yours. They're generally nameless, of course, so I simply give them names & place them in an album in appropriate imaginary families together. That way they don't look so lonely, & they'll never know the difference anyway. It might confuse future generations, however. I suppose I should explain . . .

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    1. Gail - You'll have to paste a note into the beginning of the album explaining it, I think.

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  3. I don't have time right now to do the chart and photos justice. I will say that the middle aged man and the white haired man both have the same wild eyes and that the little girl alone in the picture, looks like something is wrong with her eye on my left.

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    1. Kristin - Yes, I think she has what used to be known as a wall-eye.

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  4. Putting the tree and 1901 Census information together, I'd say the first photo is of Agnes, daughter, of William Gifford and wife Mary, and the other is of Amelia H, Alfred J and Harry, children of Alfred and Mary Maiden nee Gifford. Amazing sleuth work by yourself, yet again!

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    1. Jo - Thanks, and I'll wait until a few more sepians have had a go before posting my thoughts on the matter. I presume you didn't have too much difficulty following the logic of the chart.

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  5. Aren’t the geanealogy sites great. I’m only now getting into one or two and I wonder where the time goes when I get stuck in. I’ll have to look into Ancestry.com.

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    1. Marilyn - The trouble with Ancestry.com is it's very addictive. Once you start using it - at least if you're like me - you can't do without it. Try it on one of the "free access" weekends that they occasionally have.

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  6. I imagine that the photosleuth's lair, just like a TV detective, has walls festooned with hundreds of photos, notes, and diagrams linked together with colored string! :-)

    If I understand the flow correctly, the wall-eyed girl is likely the daughter of James & Mary Worrall-Gifford. While the parents of the three elegantly dressed children are Mary and Alfred Gifford-Maiden.

    Your chart is a very clever and practical visualization of a typical extended family. I played with the arrangement of information and wonder if reversing the X and Y might make the generational connection easier to see. The decades would run on the X, left to right, while the family generations follow on the Y, oldest on top descending to youngest on bottom. That way James and Ann are at the top, their children are staggered below with the next third generation of each in between. It looks a bit like a Lego block staircase with different colors for the geography.

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    1. Mike - Oh, I wish that were the case, and it would be if I had my own office/study, but sadly I just occupy the dining room table at present. All in good time.

      Thanks for the suggestion about a reversal of the X/Y scales. I contemplated a similar arrangement early on in the gestation of this diagram (it's been on the go for a long time), and I agree that it might be easier to follow the generational connections. However, it doesn't fit quite as well with the shape of a computer screen. I would like to show the actual connections between generations somehow, too, but that's quite tricky, and may end up just confusing the visual effect.

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  7. Oh my, I didn't look up the right persons, because I was thrilled with your chart. I use Ancestry a lot, and unfortunately there are mixed trees with links and people posted publicly which differ. But when I finally figure out who was really married and born when and where...I would love to use a chart like this. I've put my ancestors on an Excel sheet before...mmm...

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    1. Barbara - Well perhaps you should give it a try. It's quite a task to make, but I think can be very useful.

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  8. Thanks everybody, for your comments and guesses as to the identities of the children in the two photos. I'll add my interpretation shortly as a post-script.

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  9. I love little Agnes Annie Gifford's pose. Was there any correction available for her eye trouble?

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    1. Wendy - I suspect not in those days.

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