Pit Brow Lass

Pit Brow Lass

Continuing the theme of occupations, this carte-de-visite puzzled me at first. It’s dog-eared appearance did not offer many clues, but persistence paid off; it is the image of a pit brow lass or pit brow girl.

During the second half of the 19th century, and as recently as 1960, female workers were employed by collieries to work at the surface of the coal pit. Their job was to sort through the coal, pulling out stones and separating the coal from dirt. The women generally stayed in the job from the age of fifteen into their early twenties, and while it is easy to imagine the task as heavy and dirty, an account by Frank Hird in 1910 records that the women themselves would dispute that it was ‘hard work’. They must have been made of strong stuff!

The following video shows the women at work in Wigan around 1911:


Blacksmiths At Work


blacksmiths 2 cropped

It seems somehow appropriate that these two photographs are as scratched and faded as they are, given the nature of the work being portrayed. It must have been quite an event, to pose for the photographer while daily life as a blacksmith was being recorded for posterity.

Both images were loose in the Welsh album. The man in the doorway of the second photograph reminds me of the portrait below, from the same album. Another connection, perhaps. What do you think?

Foley Studio Fenton CDV
CDV by Foley Studio, Goldenhill Road, Fenton

blacksmiths blacksmiths 2

Willie Owens’ Baby

Baby by Glines of Boston

This cabinet card depicting the sweet portrait of a baby was produced by Arthur A Glines of Boston, Massachusetts, and is dated 1891 on the reverse:

Baby by Glines of Boston - reverse

The card was sent, perhaps to the owner of the Welsh Album, by Willie Owens, Waquoit, Mass, USA. Unfortunately I have been unable to add any further information since my searches have all reached dead ends, so for now Willie Owens will remain a mystery!

Maria by Dore & Co.

Maria CDV by Dore & Co

I have mentioned before that the Welsh Album and it’s photographs are ‘grubby’; I like to think they have been well loved and that is the reason why. This carte-de-visite is no exception. It was taken by Dore & Co. (formerly Austen & Co., according to the information on the reverse), and the woman is identified on the album page as Maria.

Although I have not found any details of the photographic studio, various entries from the British Newspaper Archive provide a brief history of 232 Mare Street, Hackney. In 1869 it was listed in the rental columns, at a rate of £42 for 10 rooms. In 1880, there was a fire at the address, which fortunately was described as ‘very small’ but no other details were given. And in 1892 it was being used as a polling station for the County Council Elections. Sometimes it is worth searching for addresses as well as names, although none of this tells me who Maria is!

Uncle William and Jim McRae

Uncle Wm tintype

The above photograph is a tintype, about the size of a carte-de-visite. Scanning it has brought out a lot of detail that cannot be seen on the original, and I particularly like the Bowler hats and casual pose. The man on the left is labelled (in the album) as ‘Uncle Wm’, but try as I might I haven’t been able to find a likely connection to any of the other clues contained in the Welsh Album.

I keep thinking that the tintype might have been taken at the moment when Uncle William arrived on the shores of a new Country.

A carte-de-visite on the same album page depicts a man who looks to be related. It is labelled ‘Jim McRae’ and was taken in Sydney, Australia:

Jim McRae CDV

According to information on the internet, the Adelaide Photo. Co. existed from 1892 to 1912, and there are various entries on the Australian passenger lists for a seaman/men named J McRae. I have yet to establish a firm link though.

A Likeness or Two

Anty Jane husband pwllheli cdv close up

One of the wonderful but nevertheless frustrating things about the photographs in the Welsh Album, are the number of likenesses between people. Sometimes it might actually be the same person, or sometimes just a close relative, but unless one or other photograph is clearly labelled it is hard to establish the relationship.

Take the gentleman on the cabinet card in my last post (Aunty Jane). On the opposite page is a carte-de-visite of a similar looking man who appears to be some years older. There’s no identification though, just the position of the photographs in the album hinting at a connection.

Brothers? Cousins? Or perhaps the same man?

pwllheli cdv

Aunty Jane

anty jane

This wonderful cabinet card from the Welsh Album caught my attention immediately. It was taken in Longton, Staffordshire by photographer Fred Hulse.

The severity of the of the eldest child’s hair style makes me wonder if she had been ill (I have read that Victorian children sometimes had their hair cropped when they contracted a fever). However, a closer look reveals wavy hair down the back of the neck, so perhaps the hair was simply scraped back from the face:

Anty Jane child

The reverse of the card is blank, but there is a hand-written inscription above it in the album:

anty jane inscription

This probably deciphers as Chwaer Anty Betsi Jane Scubor Ddu, with chwaer being Welsh for sister . According to friends on the Rootschat forum, it could mean that the woman is the sister-in-law of A(u)nty Jane. So who is Betsi? Where is Scubor Ddu? And was it Jane or her sister-in-law who lived there? This begs more research… and underlines the importance of labelling photographs clearly!

Men With Moustaches

Cabinet card by Cross Photo Studio, 256 1/2 Essex St., Salem, Massachusetts

Cabinet card by Ritz Portraits, 58 Temple Place, Boston

The first two cabinet cards in the Welsh Album depict men with moustaches, something of a craze with Victorian men. Apparently by the late 1800s a full beard was seen as old-fashioned, the younger generation preferring to wear a ‘tache instead.

There are several photographs in the album that point to a connection with North America. The upper portrait, taken by Andrew B Cross, probably dates to the 1880s. The lower portrait can be dated quite precisely; Ernest Ferdinand Ritz was a solo photographer from 1884 until the date of his death in 1890. More information can be found in the 1889 edition of Illustrated Boston.

Which Lizzie?


Deciphering hand-writing can be a particular problem for family historians. Throw a different language into the mix, and it can be especially tricky.

Take this entry in the Welsh Album, for example. My best guess is ‘Lizzie Llwyngwgan’. Notice how the ‘a’ is open at the top and the ‘n’ falls away at the end of the word? Judging by other entries in the album, this seems to have been a particular quirk of the person’s writing style. Another quirk involved running a Christian name into a place name, so after much head-scratching I realised that Llwyngwgan is the place where ‘Lizzie’ lived. Or the name of a farm. Or a cottage. All of which appear in the censuses.

There is one entry that stands out. In 1901, the family of David Jones (age 29) is living at Llwyngwgan, Llanfairfechan, Caernarvonshire in North Wales. Living with him is daughter Phebe Lizzie (age 4), and servant Lizzie Jones (age 14). And then there’s another daughter called Elizabeth (age 7).

Could one of these be our Lizzie? My head hurts already!

No more she’s heard to grieve or weep…

Jane Thomas Cabinet Card

It’s hard to know where to begin with the Welsh Album, so I’ll start with the photograph that originally caught my eye, a cabinet card by Mitchell of 505 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo.

It bears a portrait identical to a carte-de-visite also found in the album, below. I suspect that the cabinet card is a reprint of the smaller photograph. There is a poem by Jane Thomas on the reverse which reads as follows:

No more she’s heard to grieve or weep
Beyond the reach of care
No passions awake her from her sleep
For thoughts never enter there
In vain! Alas! These thoughts forgo
Thy sister dwells on high
A stranger grown to pain & woe
She now forgets to sigh
Rise maiden rise thyself prepare
Thy lamp of wisdom tend
To meet the Lord with watchful care
Thy w(e)ary footsteps bend

Jane Thomas was an English poet who published in the mid 19th century. The nature of this poem makes me think that the sitter may have died and the cabinet card was then sent home, perhaps to Liverpool. I can’t find any information about the photographer Mitchell in Kansas City, USA, but Daniel Jones was a photographer in Liverpool, UK, during the 1860s, 70s and early part of the 80s. Which provides a (very) rough date.

Jane Thomas Carte-De-Visite

More Liverpool connections to come. And Wales, of course!

Many thanks to friends at Antiquers and RootsChat forums for help with this research.