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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree February 2018 > YOUR Q&A ADVICE…


With our experts David Annal, Emma Jolly, Jayne Shrimpton, Mary Evans, Shauna Hicks and David Frost

Is this my grandfather?

Q This photo will either be my great-grandfather Albert Alfred Annis (born 1840) or his son, my grandfather, Harold William Annis (born 1900).

He looks to be in his early twenties, so this would make the photograph either c1860s or c1920s. Are you able to date it for me please?

C Annis

Photo 1

A Old photographs portraying male family members can often be hard to date very precisely, chiefly because men’s 19thand early-20th century fashions were more standardised and uniform than ladies’ modes and evolved slowly, mainly in subtle ways. However, there was a large age gap of 60 years between your grandfather and his father, with some significant stylistic changes occurring during that time, so we can be absolutely certain of which man we are viewing here: Harold William Annis, born in 1900.

Immediately we are struck by the relatively modern appearance of this young man.

Unlike during the Victorian age, he is clean-shaven with no facial hair at all, following the trends of the inter-war era. His hair is cut in a short-back-and-sides style, with slightly longer top hair, as was fashionable during the 1920s and 1930s.

He wears the smart three-piece tailored suit still expected for work and ‘Sunday best’, his lounge jacket lapels styled long, in the manner characteristic of the 1910s/1920s. Another key dating clue is his neck wear, for with his modern knotted necktie he wears a softcollared shirt, as demonstrated by the pronounced creases in the collar points. Becoming acceptable during the First World War, this type of informal collar became widely worn during the 1920s as the use of starch gradually declined, especially among younger men.

In conclusion, all of the dress-related evidence here points to a date in the early to mid-1920s, so this image fits in perfectly with your grandfather. I suspect this may have been Harold’s 21st birthday photograph, taken in 1921. JS

What clues does this picture hold?

Q I have a photocopy of a picture of a lady (see right) whom I believe may be a distant relative of mine. I somehow feel there is something Germanic about her, which would fit in with my ancestry, and I would like to know the timeframe in which the photo might have been taken. Bill Klesel

5 Hampton Park Road, Hounslow, Middlesex TW3 4HS

Photo 2

A I can’t quite tell the format of this photograph from the copy provided. The original could, for example, be a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or even an early tintype; it does not look like a cardmounted print but has the appearance of one of the early photographic formats.



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

During the 1840s, 1850s and sometimes in the early 1860s the subject was seated in a close-up composition, usually long half-length or three-quarter length and facing forward towards the camera, exactly as we see here. The three possible types of photograph suggested above were all unique, solid pictures struck onto metal or glass plates and rarely had any information attached to them; so judging from what I have seen, we have no idea where this photograph was taken and must date it from the visual image alone. Studying the lady’s appearance, she is modestly but neatly dressed in good, respectable daywear typical of the mid-1800s. Her frilled white day cap is a matronly accessory: a bonnet would be worn on top when going outdoors. The style of her gown is rather unclear, except for the bodice area which displays the V-shaped arrangement characteristic of the mid-late 1850s and still worn by some conservative ladies in the early 1860s. Therefore, based on her appearance, I suggest a date range of mid-1850s to early 1860s for this photograph.

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