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Berkshire Family Historian
March 2000

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Q & A WITH JEAN - about 2 photographs

Alma Crump, Wilmington, Delaware, USA

These two copy photographs come from my grandmother's family album. I am uncertain about the identity of the lady with the sad expression who could be either my great-grandmother or my grandmother. The photograph was taken in England, but we have no idea who took the picture.

Elizabeth Rogers (née Smith, 1822-1884), my greatgrandmother, had a particularly sad life. Her 6-year old son, William George, died of hydrocephaly in 1856 and her husband, Giles Richman Rogers, junior, of Addison's disease in 186o aged 35. During a visit to Reading, I found a report in the Reading Mercury, Saturday March 16, 1861, about the death of her eldest child, Emily Thereza aged 14. She was a servant at Mrs Coleman's in Queens Road, Reading, and was fatally burnt when her dress caught fire.

My grandmother, Sarah Rogers Longhurst (1852-1941) also had her share of adversities. She was only 39 when she had to suddenly up sticks and cross the Atlantic with seven of her children to join her husband, Ebenezer (1849-1929), who had emigrated a few months earlier. The second photograph was taken of them by "C. F. Havercamp" in Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. A small circular brooch appears in both pictures.

Unlabelled photographs are the bane of every family historian. However, with most of them it is usually possible, by examining the fashions and studio setting, estimating the sitters' ages and noting the size and type of photograph, to date them within a few years. This information can then be applied to identify a possible candidate on the family tree.

Photo of the "sad lady"

The "sad lady"

The photograph of the "sad lady" was taken outside the front door of a house - note the boot scraper - and, because there are only a few leaves on the plant behind her, possibly sometime in the autumn or winter. Her two-piece woollen tartan frock is trimmed on the bodice with dark velvet and dates from about 1890. The rounded corners, plain back and size of the copy photograph suggest that it is a cabinet picture from the same period.

Your great-grandmother would have been 62 when she died in 1884 and this woman appears to be in her late thirties or early forties. So the subject of this picture is most likely to be your grandmother who would have been 39 in 1891. It was probably taken just before her departure to America. It is interesting to speculate that copies may exist with other relatives in England.

Ebenezer and Sarah Longhurst

Your grandmother obviously treasured her small circular brooch and wore it for their photograph in the 1920s. Do you know what its significance might be? The occasion for this picture may be their golden wedding anniversary but you didn't say when they were married. In any case it cannot be later than 1928, the year your grandfather died.

I will write about your other two photographs in the next Berkshire Family Historian.


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updated 20th August 2001