Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Continue Shopping
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Canada version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree January 2018 > ADVICE…


With our experts Jayne Shrimpton, Celia Heritage, Adèle Emm, Tim Lovering, and Mary Evans


Photo-dating costume clues

Q I wonder if it would be possible to date these pictures, please. Note the reverse of one of the photos (facing page), which says that the picture can be enlarged to ‘life size’!

An accurate date would help me to place these ancestors on the family tree. My forebears lived in the Great Driffield area of Yorkshire, including Foxholes and Beverley, some being members of the Scruton family, agricultural implement makers of Foxholes. My grandmother used to spend her holidays there, as her mother (Hannah Rebecca Scruton) had been widowed when young. Hannah Rebecca was the daughter of Thomas Scruton, 1841-1918 and Jane (née Holiday), 1839- 1922), my 2x great-grandparents. Elizabeth Wiggins

A These two card-mounted studio portraits (photos 1 and 2) are cartes de visite (cdvs), representing the most popular photographic format of the 19th century. As we see from the printed details, they were taken by professional photographer Matthew Boak. His main studio was in Driffield, although he also ran other branches at various times, including Pickering, Bridlington and Malton.

Well-known in the region and prolific in his work, there is even an illustration of his residence and studio at George Street House, Driffield on the useful website ‘Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1840-1940’:


Not often do we get to see an image of the building where our ancestors had their photographs taken! The group photograph is rather unusual as it appears to be a mid- Victorian marriage scene comprising several people gathered together inside the studio. During the 1860s and 1870s if newlyweds wanted a wedding photograph, usually the couple visited their local studio following the church ceremony and posed together in a double portrait wearing their ‘Sunday best’ clothes: indoor group scenes including bride, groom and relatives only became common from the 1890s; otherwise pictures of the whole bridal party were taken outdoors.

However, here is a bride, seated, holding a posy, and the groom with his hand on her shoulder, posing alongside an older lady and man, who may be parents, and three younger folk, including a young boy, who could be siblings of either bride or groom.

Photo 1 The bride wears a pale-coloured or white gown and a white headdress in honour of the occasion. Indoor group scenes including bride, groom and relatives only became common from the 1890s – yes, this photo dates from two decades earlie

The style of the bride’s frontbuttoning costume with ornate skirt dates this scene to about 1871-1877. A datespan such as this can be very helpful in matching a photo to a wedding that occurred at that time in the family, and thus identifying those depicted

Your questions answered

Photo 2 The dull material of this ancestor’s gown – probably black – along with her black day cap may well indicate that she is in mourning, so when considering her likely identity expert Jayne Shrimpton suggests a search for an elderly ancestor who lost her husband or another close relative in the late 1860s or early to mid-1870s, to help pinpoint which ancestor is photographed here
Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Family Tree - Family Tree January 2018
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - Family Tree January 2018
Or 699 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 3.85 per issue
Or 4999 points
6 Month Digital Subscription
Only $ 4.92 per issue
Or 3199 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only $ 5.07 per issue
Or 549 points

View Issues

About Family Tree

Make the most of hibernation indoors this winter with our January 2018 issue. It’s full of family history tips and stories, plus a masterclass guide to essential church records. In addition, there are this issue’s Family Tree Academy challenges for our genealogy learn-along. If you have a new smart phone or device, you’ll love our new series with technology tips for family historians (don’t miss a trick that the web or your mobile can help you out with!). There is so much to enjoy, there’s no time to waste! Wishing you a very Happy New Year of family history to come.