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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2017 > ADVICE…


With our experts Jayne Shrimpton, Emma Jolly, Tim Lovering, Shauna Hicks, David Annal, Mary Evans and Geoff Simpson


Vignettes of the past

Q I discovered these two old photos when clearing out my aunt’s possessions. As far as I am aware they are not from my aunt’s side of the family, but they may be from my uncle’s side. I am trying to get some idea of a date. They could be of George Scott, born c1875 and his wife Sarah, born c1874 – or Henry Long, born c1823 and his wife Sarah, born c1825. Also I wondered about the photographic studio: as far as I know, the people mentioned all lived in Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham or Coatham, North Yorkshire. I would be grateful for any help.

Jan Graham

A These two professional studio photographs have the appearance of being regular card-mounted prints.

One is labelled a cabinet portrait – a standard photographic format measuring around 16.5 x 11.5cms, first launched in 1866 but initially unpopular and mainly fashionable during the 1890s and early 1900s. The other could also be a cabinet card, or may be a smaller carte de visite measuring around 10 x 6.5cms – most common 1860s-1880s, but still widely produced until the First World War.

While the printed mount details demonstrate that the female portrait originated in the Stockton area, where you mention some of your ancestors resided, we do not know where the studio responsible for the male photograph was located: it may have been somewhere completely different. In fact, the only obvious features linking the two pictures at first glance is the label attached to the back of both mounts bearing the printed details of The Fine Art Association, Sussex Street, Nottingham, along with handwritten initials and numbers.

In order to understand these photographs, we must firstly date the appearance of these ancestors.

The lady’s likeness can be pinpointed fairly precisely from the style of her formal dress bodice. In particular, the narrow sleeves featuring horizontal tucks were mainly in vogue 1900/1901, but being elderly, she is likely to be a few years behind the latest trends, so I would date her appearance to c1900-1906. Going also by the style of the man’s jacket lapels, I would date his likeness to about 1897-1908. Therefore the two photographs were originally taken within a few years (no more than a decade) of one another. To sum up, these two portraits may have been taken in different years and possibly in different locations, yet date to within a similar time frame and I assume have been handed down the generations as a pair.

The label numbers on the back of each photo are not consecutive, but nonetheless perhaps The Fine Art Association, Nottingham, was instructed by a family member living in Nottingham to make copies of these two photographs, most likely after the deaths of their subjects. If so, unusually they have copied the whole card mounts – all a little baffling and hard to interpret without seeing whether the actual pictures are originals or copy prints.

What we do know is that these ancestors were middleaged or elderly when originally photographed around the turn of the century.

Therefore, of the candidates you suggested, they cannot possibly represent George and Sarah Scott, born in the 1870s, but are more likely to represent Henry and Sarah Long, born in the 1820s.

I would also suggest that you consider other ancestors too – possibly family members born in the 1830s/1840s and with some kind of connection – perhaps posthumous – to Nottingham. JS



We welcome your family history queries, and try to answer as many as we can, but we do have a considerable backlog at the moment, so, if possible, we recommend in the first instance posting your query on or tweet us @familytreemaguk and we’ll aim to help you there


If those options don’t suit, please email and we’ll be as quick as possible

Male images are harder to date closely and this man is dressed in an unusual patterned necktie and a distinctive peaked cap that resembles one of several types of headwear worn by Jewish men

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Come on, it's time to roll up your sleeves, leave the pleasant pastures of the 19th century, the birth, marriage and death records, and the census - and trace your family lines further back in into the past. This is your chance to explore new records, stretch your research and revel in the lives and times of your Georgian, Stuart and even Tudor ancestors.