Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sepia Saturday 206: A kind of an apron and a photo mystery!

I searched and searched for pictures of aprons for this weeks Sepia Saturday and I could only find two pictures!  I decided to go with the apron that is not really an apron.  You will understand when you see the picture.

The photo is of a mother and child, who may or may not be my relations, taken maybe around 1870s to 1880s.  The child has a kind of apron style dress on.  I have no idea who they are and it is frustrating.  Our beautiful Victorian photo album has no names in it, only those that could be identified by my great grandma and written on the backs of the photos by my Mum and myself.  About 60% of the people in the album have been identified now and they are all relations.  So are the remaining unidentified pictures just of friends?

Possibly Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)2
This mother and child may have been identified in later photos but as we all know, people's looks change with age, added weight and hairstyles, which make it hard to identify them when they were younger.

If anyone can date it more accurately from just "1870s to 1880s" I'd love to hear your comments.

Anyway I posted a photo last week of Jabez Lord and his family with lovely moustaches on display.  Jabez died in 1924 and his wife Mary Ann Lord nee Spencer in 1896.  I thought it odd that we didn't have any photos of Mary Ann as she died quite late.  Then one day I was looking at a photo which had "Uncle Ellenberger" written on it.  I suddently realised that the face was not that of Uncle Ellenberger.  It just looked wrong or different.  This is the photo:
60_Possibly Jabez Lord & Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)

 The man in this photo doesn't have a hat on, but if you imagine him with the same hat as my confirmed photo of Jabez, I'm sure it is the same man.  What do you think?

Jabez Lord close up 19_Jabez Lord Unconfirmed picture of Jabez Lord and a confirmed picture of Jabez in a hat.  Then a picture of Uncle Ellenberger with his wider face. What do you think?
 Jakob Nathanael Ellenberger
I am 99% sure the two photo are of the same man, Jabez Lord, with the man below being Uncle Ellenberger (the incorrect label on the photo).  Uncle Ellenberger's wife looks nothing like the woman in the photo.  The beard is longer in one photo than the other (easy to happen) and of course in one photo he has a hat on and the other he doesn't.  You have to remember that my great grandma was in her 80s when she identified the photos and it was 70 odd years since she had seen these men.
What other clues could I find.  Well the photo of the man and woman is more faded than most of the photos in the album, which suggests it has been in a frame on a mantelpiece at some stage, meaning probably close family members rather than extended family or friends.  

Now if this man is Jabez Lord then the woman sitting next to him must be his wife Mary Ann Lord nee Spencer.  This would be the only photo we have of her!

Then I looked at the picture of the younger lady thinking maybe it was Mary Ann when younger.  But if you compare the two closely, their features are different.  The woman I now think is Mary Ann has what looks like blue eyes (or the photo is actually faded) and the younger lady has darker coloured eyes.  The ears are different also.  The younger lady has a kink in her earlobe.  The hairline is also different and the hair.  The younger lady has flatter hair and a wider hairline, the older lady has curly hair and her hairline is narrower at her forehead.  So despite the similarities in the face shape, they are not the same.

I confirmed for myself that they are different ladies! 

Possibly Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer) cropped Mary Ann Lord (nee Spencer)

This is the process that I go through with all my unidentified photos.  "Maybe that photo could be of this person when younger."  I then compare the two photos in minute detail to determine whether I am correct or incorrect.

An example of a photo that I identified by this process was of my ancestor Elise Meng.  My Mum wrote to relatives in  Germany in the early 1990s and received a photo back of Elise, taken in the 1870s.  I looked at her unique face and knew her instantly.  She was in our photo album standing next to her new husband in about 1866.  It was such a wonderful discovery and so exciting!  We had received the photo before family members in Germany died and the information was passed down before being lost forever.  Elise never looks happy and she has a particular look around her mouth with tiny chin that can't be mistaken.  I hate to admit that I used to think, "Oh my goodness she is not very attractive," when looking at the photo album. I had other very beautiful relations.  If she had smiled it would have probably lifted her face and shown her beauty, but her photo had been taken at a time where sitter had to sit very very still and not smile.

We only have two photos of Elise and are so lucky!  I have mentioned before that she died in 1879 after having a stillborn child and bleeding to death, so to have two photos of her is absolutely amazing for someone who died so long ago.

Elise Katherina Meng (nee Ellenberger) with Elizabeth & Mary Meng 1873 Karl Phillipe Meng & Elise Katherina (nee Ellenberger)

Most photos in our collection will probably never be identified, but I'm chipping away at them slowly!  I'll probably never identify the baby in the apron.


  1. i've lost count of the amount of time that I have spent comparing photos the same way that you do. It can be quite rewarding. You have shown us some interesting faces and I agree with your conclusions. Thanks for sharing.

  2. A very interesting post on photographic detection. I agree with you on Jabez - what an unusual name - is it biblical? . I thought there were some similarities in the two images that could be Mary Ann, but you have examined them in such impressive. detail. Wonderful to have the two photographs of Elise - but such a sad story. . Good luck as you work your way through your album. .

  3. Jabez is biblical ScotSue. It means sorrowmaker or bringer of sorrow. What kind of parents would name their child that? Jabez had an uncle Hiram as well. Anthor strange biblical name.

  4. My eyes are not good enough to spot the similarities/differences - it must be painstaking work with the originals.

  5. I may be dreaming this, but I think there's a software program (through Picasa, maybe?) that will scan faces for similarities...great help in this process!

  6. I just had a read about face recognition programs like Picasa, Deb, and they are not that great yet apparently. If the face is in profile at all, then it doesn't work at all, the person has to be facing the front and the program has to be trained to recognise each person. So not quite up to scratch yet for our old photo identification problems!

    1. Well, given the speed with which technology keeps up, it should be fairly functional in a couple of years! But, deep down, a LOVE the challenge of doing it myself!

  7. I agree, the hatless man looks like Jabez. The women don't look like the same person.

  8. It's fun to read how you study your photos. Must be Jabez indeed; guess I have come across the name somewhere in the Bible...(?) That's sad about Elise. Taking photos in the past must have been quite a process- you're not supposed to move... things like that.


  9. Fascinating post - satisfying, like a good meal. And you are right about the lack of aprons, I too thought I would have lots in my collection but also only managed to find a couple - both of which I had used before.

  10. Yes, another vote for Jabez - those eyes, those ears (one flat, one sticking out slightly). Gotta be. Like you, I study features too in comparing faces.

  11. I'm not sure. The nose seems different to me.

  12. What fun trying to identify them in this way. I must have a go too. The facial recognition programs aren't very good although they do pick out some interesting options to play with. Good luck

  13. You have a huge task ahead of you still, but well done with what you've achieved so far; it makes an interesting read.