Monday, September 01, 2008


As some of you know I'm very interested in tracing my family tree and it's definitely something I'm hoping to do in the future. I'd like to share with you a rare and treasured photograph of my great-grandparents. It's hard to believe but this particular photo is over a hundred years old! It's actually a tin photo and extremely rare. I’ve used my scanner and some photo software to bring it up a little bit. The photo was given to me by my mother and shows her maternal grandparents, Mary (who liked to be known as Polly to her friends and family) and John. I was always told that Mary was a stunning and beautiful woman and she and John certainly make quite a striking couple. As you can see from this photo, John cuts quite a dash in his smart suit and bowler hat, whilst Mary is the epitome of style, beauty and elegance in her lovely dress and hat. This photo was actually taken at a wedding. However in those days, unlike today it was quite fashionable for both men and women to wear hats whether it was a special occasion or not. In years gone by hats were a lot more popular than they are today. Women of my great-grandmother’s generation would always wear a hat to church or synagogue, as well as wearing one on many other occasions too. Whilst men would regularly be seen wearing their bowler hats.

The bowler hat is a traditional symbol of Britishness. In years gone by, in the old movies, British men were always seen wearing bowler hats. They gained their name because of their shape (like a bowl) and also because they were made by a hatmaker called William Bowler. Not a lot of people know that. Many famous Britons wore them, including Patrick McNee (better known as the archetypical English spy John Steed from the New Avengers), Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (the Brit born half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo). Even today bowler hats are frequently seen being worn on the streets of London, part of the city gent’s unofficial uniform, often teamed with a black rolled umbrella.

My great-grandparents Polly and John had 12 children. Big families were the norm in those days. Polly whose maiden name was Mulvee, lived to the ripe old age of 94. Her father was Irish and brought his family over to England during the potato famine. This is where I trace my Irish ancestry from.

I'm submitting this post to the 5th edition of Smile for the Camera – A Carnival of Images being hosted by my cyberfriend FootnoteMaven over at her blog Shades of the Departed

For this particular carnival our hostess has requested that you should submit a photo, perhaps of a relative, ancestor or even yourself that epitomises the words, “Crowning Glory”. I personally believe that this photo of my great-grandparents in their smart hats perfectly sums up that expression. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting some members of my family.

You can find out more details of this carnival by following the link shown below:-

Smile for the Camera – A Carnival of Images

I look forward to seeing you there!


Palm Springs Savant said...

Marvelous photograph naomi, such a thrill that you have that connection to the past~

SandyCarlson said...

Great photo and story, Naomi. That's quite a good capture of a tin type. My grandmother had such photos, and they always took me to a different time and place.

mrsnesbitt said...

Hi, came here via Sandy's blog.
I too would love to research my family history. I do know my nana was a schumacher so you never know...I may be related to Michael! LOL!

Cindy Swanson said...

They do make an incredibly striking couple--I love your great-grandmother's dress! How wonderful that you have that picture. I am also very interested in my family tree, which is why I know that I have a lot of Scottish and Irish in me. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on my blog, Naomi!

Marion said...

Wow, Naomi, what a gift you have in this photo! They look like very fashionable and memorable people...I can certainly understand your interest in your ancestors.

A lot of my ancestors were lost, to me, at least, when my family emigrated to Canada. I missed hearing stories of the past and the people who were my antecedents...I envy you!

Dirty Butter said...

What a striking couple they are!! We have old photographs, but nothing where the wife is dressed up to this extent. I can imagine how much a treasure this is to you.

I have never been interested in geneology, but there are others in my family on my Daddy's side who have been. So there is a whole website dedicated to that line of Scotch Irish folk.

My mother was the only one of her English family born in the US, and I don't think there is any record at all of her family. That is a shame. I'm not sure I would be able to put much together now. I do have a cousin on her side, but we have not spoken in years. When Mama died I tried to get hold of him, but never heard back. Sad.

Nikki-ann said...

They do look very stylish, don't they? A wonderful picture! Thanks for sharing it with us :)

Brett Payne said...

Thanks, Naomi, for your great photo and interesting post. It's a nice example of a late tintype - I assume from the clothing styles that it is from the late 1880s or early 1890s. Does that fit with your dates?

Regards, Brett

Miriam said...

It's good to see that you have joined us in the "I Smile for the Camera" Carnival! I've added your blog to my Reader.

Carol said...

You did a wonderful job of getting the tintype to copied to the point where it is this visible. Good for you! Thanks for sharing this wonderful photo and explanation with all of us.

Naomi said...

I've so pleased to have this connection Rick. This photo is amongst my most treasured possessions.

Tin photos are such a rarity nowadays Sandy. It's like taking a step back in time seeing something like this.

Hi Mrs Nesbitt, you may well be related to Michael Schumacher, you never know! It's definitely worth researching your family history if you get the chance. Thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you again.

It's a wonderful possession to have Sandy. Didn't realise you had Scottish and Irish ancestry. It's a small world!

Naomi said...

My great-grandparents seemed like a very stylish couple in their day Marion, if this photo is anything to go by. It's a shame you lost touch with some members of your family. It would be great if you could trace some of your ancestors, particularly on the German side.

Yes this photo is a treasure Rosemary and also quite a rarity nowadays as it is a tin type. It's a shame your cousin didn't keep in touch. Unfortunately that happens sometimes.

They certainly were a very stylish couple if this photo is anything to go by Nikki-Ann. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed your visit here.

Naomi said...

My greatgrandmother was born in 1879 so assuming she was about 20 when this photo was taken, I would say this photo was probably taken around mid to late 1890's. Thanks for stopping by Brett. Hope you enjoyed your visit here.

Thanks for your kind words Miriam. I hope you enjoy your visits to Diary From England.

Glad you enjoyed this post Carol. I actually had some help from Linda (aka Footnote Mavern) to get this photo a little clearer. I e-mailed it to her, she used some photo software on it to bring it up a little bit and e-mailed it back to me to re-post. It's so difficult with tin types as they scan a bit darker and not very clear to see.