When my maternal grandmother’s house was cleared after she died this photograph was found among her papers. There are no names, date or other details recorded on it, not even the name of the photographer. My mum could not remember having seen the photo before but thought that the baby bore some resemblance to my aunt at a similar age and was probably my grandmother.
Due to family circumstances my grandmother, ‘Nannie’ to me and my sister, had few possessions dating from her childhood or even from the early years of her own children, but somehow this photograph had survived the ups and downs of her eighty-two years.
When I began researching her family, building on records collected by my mum some years earlier, one of the tasks I set myself was to identify the people in this photo and the approximate date it was taken.
Having traced records of my great-grandparents and their family I now believe this photograph was taken before Nannie was born and is of her parents Hector McNeil (1886-1954) and Agnes Gray McNeil née Frickleton (1892-1923) with their three oldest surviving children: Andrew Frickleton McNeil born 1911, James ‘Jimmy’ McNeil born 1913 and Agnes Gray Frickleton McNeil born 1915.
I suspect the photograph may date from the family’s move from the mining village of Standburn near Falkirk in Stirlingshire, where these children were born, to the City of Glasgow where their next child, Hector, was born in 1917, and so was probably taken about 1916.
What I don’t know is the identity of the girl standing at the back of the photo. She was obviously considered important enough to be included in a family portrait but somehow she seems a little apart from the rest of the group, not quite one of the family. Although the photo is a little unclear it appears that Hector has his arm slightly in front of her, rather than around her protectively as with his son.
It’s rather difficult to judge how old she might be, but certainly quite a few years older than the other children and, I think, probably too old to be Agnes’ daughter.
Agnes was the eldest of ten children, eight of whom were girls, and so my guess is that this girl is one of Agnes’ little sisters. Agnes might have been glad to have an extra pair of hands to help take care of her growing family and the girls’ parents might well have been grateful to have one less mouth to feed.
I’ve been lucky enough to find out quite a lot about the Frickleton sisters. Firstly through the detailed information on various Freckleton/Frackleton/Frickleton families at www.geocities.com/pookyface that alerted me to the fact that Agnes was the only one of the sisters to remain in Scotland, the rest (and one brother) all emigrated. Then through records of their emigration and later lives available online at www.findmypast.com and www.ancestry.com. And finally through the great kindness of a former client who asked ‘if there’s ever anything I can look up for you in Canada’ (probably not imagining that there was!) and found me several newspaper notices and an extract from a book relating to the two sisters who emigrated to Canada and their families.
I realise I will probably never know for certain who the girl in this photograph is, and, that as far as researching my family history goes, this isn’t one of the greatest unanswered questions. But for some reason I’d really like to put a name to this face, so if anyone out there thinks she looks familiar I would love to hear from you!