Updated: 18 June 2012
Photos of your ancestors are great! Until you have one (or ten) where you don’t know who the subjects are. This post is dedicated to some photos I have in my possession of children who I didn’t know who were! And now I do. And it’s to remind everyone out there that if you know who someone in a photo is, write it neatly in pencil on the back! Then questions won’t get repeated!!!
Photo from the Pyne family collection
The search for these children can be categorised under “famous last words”.
This photo is in the possession of one of my Pyne cousins in Ireland. He generously let us borrow the albums and scan the photos. Many his mother had identified, but this one she had not. Probably because it was taken in Christchurch, New Zealand. This narrowed the field of potential subjects a bit – they had to be one of the descendents of Arthur Pyne in NZ – one who was still keeping in touch with the Irish side of the family.
With some pointers from the Helpful People on Trade Me’s Genealogy forum, I have found a few things that might help. Firstly, there is an interesting information on Meers & Co on the Early New Zealand Photographers blog which helps with dating. So secondly, it was likely that the photo was taken some time between 1886 and 1900 – give or take.
So who were they? The combination of boy/girl (can’t tell who’s oldest), boy, girl (and assuming they’re siblings and not a combination of cousins – this is the famous last words bit) is quite unusual. Interestingly, many of the Pyne g-grandchildren were runs of girls or boys, not alternate as the photo would suggest.
Tentatively they have been 4 of the children of Denis O’Callaghan and his wife Martha Jane Phillpot, as they had alternate boy/girl children. But this was a bit hard to believe. Denis was the first Pyne grandson to leave Ireland and was long thought dead at sea until he turned up in NZ. Contact with the family in Ireland doesn’t seem all that likely!
I recently got in contact with one of Denis and Martha’s descendants. She says all her family is blonde or red so the children are too dark to be hers.
So I went back to another Arthur Pyne descendant I hadn’t been in touch with for a while. And after her reply, I sat there thinking I’m pretty sure I asked her about this before! And like before she came up with the answer.
They are Francis Arthur Pyne (1874-1930) and his sister Fanny Pyne (1877-1941) who are the children of William Beynham Pyne and Agnes Walker Smith. With them are their younger cousins (famous last words!) Arthur Charles Beynham Pyne (1880-?) and Ida May Pyne (1882-1852) the children of Charles Frank Masters Pyne and Caroline Chisholm Smith. Interestingly, they’re double cousins as their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters.
Arthur and Ida’s parents both died within months of each other in 1885. They were either living with their uncle and aunt or were grouped for a photo that would have gone to their half-uncle George Masters Pyne of Ballyvolane.
Boys dressed as girls
For a while my train of thought expanded to – but what if the smallest child is a boy…?
Yes, boys wore dresses in those days. As my husband likes to point out – it’s amusing that all the upper class men who fought in the Great War grew up wearing pink dresses.
The only family with that many boys in a row is that of Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan and his wife Winifred Alice Baker. They had 12 children in total so which 4? And why only them?? And Jasper has never struck me as one to write home either…?
Further consultation on Trade Me resulted in me going back to Plan A – she’s a girl.
It was suggested that she had been ill not long before the photo was taken. Apparently it was quite common to cut the hair of sick children. This would make it easier to wash and/or would stop it “draining the nutrients”. It might also explain why she looks tired compared to her siblings.
The Lost Children in Auckland
This is another one where asking your distant cousins will find you an answer. I have the original of this photo which I knew came from my Mum’s side of the family. Since it was taken in Auckland that meant it came from her father’s side (her Mum being a Pom/English).
I recently re-established contact with my Johnston cousins. Various members of my family have been in touch with them over the years (and I suspect asked exactly the same question I asked!), but no one ever writes the important things (like who’s in that photo) down. Anyway, my Johnston cousins have confirmed that it is from my Mum’s side of the family and more specifically the Johnstons.
These are the first three children (of four) of Robert Johnston and Elizabeth Foster – (from l to r) Ena Nellie Johnston (1891-1920), Robert Foster Johnston (1883-1954) and May Elizabeth Johnston (1885-1940). It was probably taken around 1893.
My gg-grandmother Elizabeth Foster immigrated to NZ with her husband Robert Johnston in 1882. Not long after her parents William Foster (c.1839-1904) and Isabella/Elizabeth Corrigan (c.1836-1919) immigrated with all her siblings and they settled in the Gisborne area. So here are the details of William and Isabella’s children:
- ELIZABETH FOSTER was born on 01 Jan 1860 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland and died on 18 Sep 1940 in Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. She married ROBERT JOHNSTON on 04 Oct 1881 in Garvary Church of Ireland, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland, son of JOHN JOHNSTON and HELEN YOUNG. He was born about 1844 in Falkirk, Stirling, Scotland and died on 20 Jan 1925 in Auckland, New Zealand.
- “MAGGIE” MARGARET FOSTER was born about 1861 in Fermanagh, Ireland and died on 07 Oct 1933 in Auckland, New Zealand. She married JAMES JOHNSTON on 01 Mar 1881 in Garvary Church of Ireland, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland. He was born about 1860 and died on 22 Oct 1917 in Auckland, New Zealand.
- ANNE JANE FOSTER was born on 18 Jun 1864 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland. She married DAVID DAWSON in 1888 in New Zealand. He was born in 1863 in New Zealand.
- WILLIAM FOSTER was born about 1867 in Fermanagh, Ireland and died before 08 Dec 1895 in Auckland, NZ.
- “JACK” JOHN FOSTER was born on 19 Feb 1869 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland and died about 1950. He married (1) RACHEL GREENE on 28 Aug 1896 in Gisborne, New Zealand. She was born on 10 Mar 1873 in Te Arai, Gisborne, NZ and died on 16 Mar 1950 in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand. He married (2) “LIL” ADA LILLIAN MORGAN on 28 Aug 1945 in Masterton, New Zealand. She was born about 1881 in New Zealand and died in 1956 in New Zealand.
- SARAH FOSTER was born on 22 Jun 1870 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland. She married JOHN WILLIS in 1899 in New Zealand.
- JAMES FOSTER was born about 1877 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland and died in 1948 without marrying.
- MABEL FOSTER. She married MR SMITH.