Posted by: Christine | March 8, 2012

Who is this Woman?

For International Womens Day I thought I would blog about identifying  one of my female ancestors from a photograph.

Unknown woman and child, passed down the Burrell family

This photograph had been owned by my great uncle, Bernard Burrell (Uncle Barney). He lived in Scole in Norfolk and died in 1990 at the age of 93. No one is left who knows who the woman and child were, so I have tried to work out who they might be; by researching when and where it was taken and comparing that information with a tree of the family.

When was it taken?
The picture is approx 4½ in x 3½ in, on glass and in a sealed frame. There are touches of added colour. It is an Ambrotype. This type of picture was made between 1855 and 1875.
There is a painted background of column & balustrade which was popular in the mid 1860s, and thge full-length figure is common in late 1850s and 1860s (Feet of single seated figures not usually seen from 1870s onwards)
The woman’s hair has a central parting and covers the ears, popular between 1855 and 1865. A bonnet was only worn before the early 1860s. The clothes – a full skirt with no bustle (1850-65), sloping shoulders and full sleeves (1860-65) indicate a date around 1860.
It is difficult to tell if the child is a boy or girl as, at this time, they were dressed alike until a boy was “breeched” or started wearing trousers.  He or she is probably around 18 months old. Short crinolines, showing pantaloons were worn from late 1840s to late 1860s.
Conclusion: the picture probably dates to early 1860s.

The next problem is: Where was it taken?
Pasted to the back of the frame is a photographer’s advert.

Advert for C Banyard, photographer

The photographer is C Banyard. No address is given, but could I discover where was he working?
Judging by the census entries for Charles Banyard, he was a travelling photographer. In 1871 he was staying in an Inn in North Norfolk with two other photographers. In 1881 and 1891 he was in a Caravan – in 1881 in Diss, very close to Scole – is this a clue?  By 1901 he was living near Ipswich in Suffolk. He must have become a photographer in the 1860s because in 1861 he was a seventeen-year-old apprentice grocer & draper in East Dereham, where he was born.
Turning to directories we find Charles Banyard was a  photographer in Downham (also known as Downham Market) Norfolk in 1868 and 1869. Looking again at the 1871 census there is an S R Banyard (married female) living in Downham with the occupation of photographer, perhaps this was Charles wife.
Conclusion: The picture could have been taken anywhere in Norfolk (or even Suffolk) but most likely in the Downham area.

So, can we find the people from the picture on the Family Tree?
These trees show the direct ancestors of Bernard Burrell.

Family Tree of Frederick Burrell, father of Uncle Barney

Family Tree of Emma Sparrow, mother of Uncle Barney

There are two possible candidates for the woman in the picture:

1. Elizabeth SPARROW (nee ATKINS) who was his maternal grandmother. She was born around 1832 (aged 29 in 1861 and 39 in 1871). She married Ferrand Sparrow in 1853 and they had two daughters Mary Ann (1852-1867) and Barney’s mother Emma (1858-1933). There may have been other children but there is no mention in the parish register. Ferrand died in 1868 and Elizabeth remarried in 1873. She lived all her life in Scole.

2. Ellen BURRELL (nee LINDOE), his paternal grandmother. She was born in 1830 (30 in 1861, 40 in 1871) in Barton Bendish and married Thomas Burrell in 1849. They had three children Hannah (1851-1852), George (1853-1876) and Frederick (1864-1940) who was Barney’s father.

I think that the woman is Ellen (nee Lindoe) because:

1. She is the only one with a child born in the early 1860s – if we assume that the child is a boy not a girl.
2. Frederick Burrell had left his home village of Barton Bendish and settled over thirty miles away in Scole. Perhaps he was more likely to have a picture of his mother than his wife was, who was still living in the same village as hers.
3. Ellen lived in Barton Bendish, and the closest market town is Downham, the town from which the photographer seems to have traded.

I don’t suppose I shall ever know if my theory is correct, but it’s nice to have a picture that I can put a possible name to instead of just “unknown”.

Dating Nineteenth Century Photographs by Robert Pols (FFHS)  for censuses for directories

This article originally appeared in Kith & Kin, the magazine of Rugby Family History Group


  1. Hello, stopping by via Geneabloggers! – A great article. Am your latest follower a fellow Goon!

  2. Welcome to Geneabloggers.

    Regards, Jim
    Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

  3. I love using directories whenever possible in my research. Sometimes I come across some very unsual finds or details that one might not find anywhere else – a specific breed of hogs raised or what vehicle they owned.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

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