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 –
I give you exhibit 2 –
Love these family stories
Me too – we had great fun tracking this down. We failed to find her grave in the cemetery, then found last night we went to the wrong one, so we’ll have to try again 😉
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… 🙂
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.
What a great piece of detective work. Not all of us can what you did with our old photographs. Congratulations.
Thanks! We were lucky we could figure it out.
[…] we finished at the bays, we headed back through the township and stopped at Dalcroy House to solve The Mystery of the Unknown Great-Grandmother. Once we had completed that mission, we headed up to the cemetery up on the hill. Our aim was […]