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Photo of the Month – October 2014

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Genes Advisor 1 Oct 2014 13:18

Dress-historian, portrait specialist and photo detective Jayne Shrimpton is on hand to date your family photos.



I have attached a photo of the Frey Family. The Freys all came from Germany, the 1911 census states that George aka Adolf and Marie Frey had been married 27 years and their first child was born in Manchester so I can date their marriage to about 1884 and can find no record of the marriage in the UK. They had 11 children born between 1885 and 1905. My grandfather, William Bradshaw  (b.1894 Manchester) married  daughter Alice Frey (b.1893 Manchester) in 1916.  He served in the Manchester regiment in WW1  and family tales tell of bricks through his window at home while he was in the trenches because his wife was of German descent. In a bigger twist of fate she died of the Spanish Flu epidemic  on the 12 of November 1918, a  day after the armistice was declared, leaving my grandfather a widower with two daughters born 1916 and 1917. It is from one of these daughters that I managed to get this photo but she was unable to say much about it other than it was the Frey family.  

Of the 11 children ,7 had died by 1918 and I think because of strong anti German feelings ,all the remaining Freys emigrated to New York where George had a sister who had emigrated there many years before.  George and Marie along with a son and daughter show up in the 1930 New york census now age 73 and 68. I would like to think that the photo handed down to my aunts is in fact the wedding photo of George and Marie in Germany as it would seem to be a family group with a young couple in the middle. Could this photo date to around 1884 or thereabouts? 

Jayne Shrimpton's analysis:

This is indeed a wedding photograph representing the bridal party and a large number of guests, most of whom are likely to have been family members. Photographed by a professional photographer hired for the occasion, the scene is necessarily set outdoors, where there was ample space to pose almost 30 people. The location is not identifiable: it could be a field or perhaps the grounds of wherever the wedding reception was held, following the church ceremony. Everyone is well-dressed, as one would expect for such an important family event and the appearance of the ladies in particular provides a close, accurate time frame for the scene.

The bride wears a contemporary white dress with a fashionable hat – only her hat veil and large bouquet of flowers setting her apart from the other females here. All the women and girls have donned smart day dresses or suits with feminine blouses and display striking headwear, many of them also wearing floral corsages on their bodices, although nobody stands out as being a bridesmaid. The style of their clothes and accessories are typical of the late-Edwardian era, key features including their high necklines, narrow sleeves ornamented with horizontal tucks and their vast, wide-brimmed hats decorated with flowers, feathers and ribbons. Above all, this style of hat, which often featured a huge crown as well as a sweeping brim and is sometimes referred to as a ‘Titanic-era hat’, was fashionable broadly between 1909 and 1913, but especially during the years 1910-12.

Men’s appearance cannot be pinned down so precisely, but the suits worn by the male figures all accord with this pre-WW1 date range. Many wear floral buttonholes and the white neck ties reserved for special occasions. It is hard to tell whether the groom, sitting beside the bride, is wearing a formal knee-length frock or morning coat, or whether he wears an ordinary dark three-piece lounge suit like most of the male guests. Although the extravagant-looking fashions seen here may perhaps convey a rather grand air, the dress in general and the nature of the scene is highly characteristic of a lower-middle class or successful working class wedding.

Three generations of the family seem to be represented here, including older figures who may possibly be the bride and groom’s fathers and one - or perhaps two - ladies who could be a mother. Often parents of the bridal couple were placed close to their respective son or daughter in a formal group photo, but precise relationships aren’t always clear in large group scenes such as this and it appears as though all four parents may not have been present. There also look to be many people aged in their 20s and 30s and several children and ‘teenagers’, including the four in the front, a girl next to the groom and another older girl standing back right.

I am sorry to disappoint you by advising that this photograph cannot possibly represent George and Marie’s German wedding of c.1884, but relates to the next generation, who married in England. However you do now have a realistic time frame for this lovely photograph and the 1909-13 date range coincides nicely with the 1911 Census, which should aid identification of some of the people pictured here. Another clue that may narrow possibilities when searching the Marriage indexes for a likely marriage is that this wedding appears to have occurred in late or spring summer. It seems to me that the marriage could well be that of one of George and Marie’s older children – a son or daughter born in the 1880s or the beginning of the 1890s. In addition, your grandfather, William (born in 1894), if the brother of bride or groom, could be one of the older teenagers here - perhaps one of the youths seated on the ground in the front row. His presence here would certainly explain how the photograph later came into the possession of one of his daughters.


If you have any 18th, 19th or 20th century pictures, and are happy for Genes Reunited to share the image and findings, please scan and send a copy to with PHOTO in the subject.

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The Genes Reunited Team