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Grandad's WWII Diary, New Zealand

The Mystery of the Unknown Great-Grandmother

Mary Catherine Sillars (nee Lynch) at Dalcroy House Garden

Mary Catherine Sillars (nee Lynch) at Dalcroy House Garden

Mary Catherine Sillars (nee Lynch) & Mima Daphne Sillars at Dalcroy House

Mary Catherine Sillars (nee Lynch) & Mima Daphne Sillars at Dalcroy House

Old photos can be a bit of a pain, unless you know the people in them, they can be meaningless.  Even more frustrating is when you know darn well they are relatives but you just don’t know who!

Thus brings us to The Mystery of the Unknown Great-Grandmother…

As part of the box of photos I received along with my Grandad’s War Diary, were some “Memories of Home Photos” as I like to call them.

Photos of his girlfriend Marg, who he married after the war (and was my Grandmother), an unknown small child and some photos of this older woman.

Who was this older woman with the saggy boobs?

In some of the photos she’s on her own, some in a different outfit, one with my Grandmother and another with my Grandfather.  But who was she?

I assumed she was one of my great-Grandmother’s, my Dad’s grandmother? So, I asked him… he said it was his mother’s mother.  Ok, fine.  But like a good detective, I didn’t trust the statement given by the witness…  I was sure she was his father’s mother!  

Why?” I hear you ask.  Well for a start, why would he take a number of photos of his soon-to-be mother-in-law off to war with him?

I also deduced that the younger woman in the 2nd photo was likely my Grandfather’s sister Mima.  I knew anecdotally that she was very tall and slim whereas if it was my Gran’s sister, she wasn’t tall… or slim.  Mima died when I was 2 so I have no memory of her, if indeed I ever met her, but it seemed more likely this slim, young woman was Mima.

In addition, none of the photos of my Grandfather, or my Grandmother, with the mystery Great-Grandmother appeared with an older man (her husband and my Grandfather’s father), this made sense as he died in the late 1920s.

And the final piece of suspicion was the scenery.  In the background of the photos, notice the hills?  When we wandered along to where my Grandmother lived during this era a few weeks ago, we couldn’t see the Port Hills that looked like this.  To see that post, click here.

I knew my Grandfather was born and lived in the port town of Lyttelton.  This could mean that the hills in the photos were on the far side of the harbour and part of the Banks Peninsula range.

Another piece of knowledge we had was that when he lived in Lyttelton, he lived in what is now considered a historic home, Dalcroy House.

So what was the next step to collect evidence?   Go to the suspected scene of the event and see what we can see…

So on Thursday last week, we did just that, we took the 30 minute car journey to Lyttelton.

And obtained the final evidence that I was right… that she really was my Great-Grandmother, my Grandfather’s mother Mary Catherine Sillars (nee Lynch).

I give you exhibit 1 –

IMG_2401

Note in this photo that I took from the street outside Dalcroy House (with my back to the house), towards the middle of the photo at the hills on the far side of harbour – note the dip and then nipply bit?

Now compare to this photo of my Great-Grandmother and Mima - the lamp post is in the middle of the  dip and the nipply bit is to the right.

Now compare to this photo of my Great-Grandmother and Mima – the lamp post is in the middle of the  dip and the nipply bit is to the right.

 

I give you exhibit 2 –

Looking from the street outside the house towards the brick building (the garage) and take note of the railings.

Looking from the street outside the house towards the brick building (the garage) and take note of the railings.

Note the same brick building and the railings at the front of the property, they are the same ones, but now are black instead of white

Note the same brick building and the railings at the front of the property, they are the same ones, but now are black instead of white

 

 

Dalcroy House - now a Bed & Breakfast

Dalcroy House – now a Bed & Breakfast

Case Closed!

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About The Sock Mistress

Slight fixation with socks. At last count, I had enough pairs of socks to last 14 weeks without having repeat a pair. IT geek by profession. Disney nut. 3rd world loan shark (http://Kiva.org ). Finds humour in the inappropriate. Holiday planner extraordinaire. Mum to doglets. Crazy Dachshund lady.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Unknown Great-Grandmother

  1. Love these family stories

    Posted by lbeth1950 | May 17, 2015, 2:32 pm
  2. It’s wonderful how family research can just ‘click’ sometimes! It’s incredibly difficult to do, often – the closer focus you need on historical events, the less likely that any specific item of info will be to hand. My own family has a huge discontinuity, in that my grandfather emigrated to New Zealand in the early 1920s. We had some connection with the London branch, but not a lot of info about his own deeper family. I eventually tracked some of the data down, but there are still gaps. (Because I ‘do’ history professionally, I’m looked on as the ‘family historian’, but honestly, the ‘family history’ stuff demands a whole different raft of specialist knowledge and skill set from the sort of stuff that allows me to write NZ histories, war histories etc… 🙂

    Posted by Matthew Wright | May 17, 2015, 3:04 pm
    • This was so much fun for us to find out, we were super lucky that my Dad’s family all lived locally.

      I definitely feel more “Kiwi” since getting to “know” these relatives.

      My Mum is English and we moved here when I was a child so I always associated more with my UK side, but to know that I’m half multi-generation Cantabrian is a really nice feeling.

      Last night I found my Grandmother’s uncle died in battle in World War 1 – he lived just a few blocks away! Talk about having roots to this place.

      Posted by The Sock Mistress | May 17, 2015, 3:20 pm
  3. What a great piece of detective work. Not all of us can what you did with our old photographs. Congratulations.

    Posted by a gray | May 17, 2015, 3:56 pm

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  1. Pingback: Visiting the port town of Lyttelton, New Zealand | 14 Weeks Worth of Socks - May 20, 2015

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