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Mystery and suspense, but who are these people?

A parcel arrived from overseas. Inside was a collection of family photos dating back to the 1880s. None were dated. Few were named. I immediately found my magnifying glass and plenty of sunshine and inspected them in detail. Some were of people I recognised, and could follow their age progression, others remain a mystery.

The sender wrote they’d been rescued from the old family home before it was sold but they knew nothing about who was in the photos and hoped I would. It’s going to take a lot of research to date the clothing, and whatever other details I can spot. But I will not be deterred.

Some photos included the photographer’s name on the back or on the front of the cabinet card, which gave me some clues as to the time period they were in business, but some of them extended over several decades as they were often taken over by a son, or sometimes a daughter.

An unusual woman’s hat (similar yet different to these from the Ladies Home Journal 1911) led me to numerous sites detailing the milliners and designs on each decade, but none matched the style of dress she was wearing so I couldn’t accurately date the photo.

It is more likely that the hat was new and fashionable, while the dress was older and out of date. Either way, I can see hours or searching ahead of me. Am I discouraged? Not a jot!

In amongst the photos were more modern embroidered birthday cards, (relatively speaking as they were posted during WWI), the odd newspaper cutting that didn’t enlightened me any further, and a delightful photo of a young boy of about four, in a tartan skirt, lace petticoat and a wearing a sailor’s collar as was the fashion of the time.

The photographer, I discovered, worked in a seaside resort in the early 1900s but will I find out who this young chap is? Unlikely, given the lack of clues.

One, very intriguing image, shows a young man in a Victorian spinal carriage. Was he suffering from tuberculosis, a back injury or a war injury? I’ve never investigated medical aspects before, but already I’m fascinated by the various bath chairs, invalid carriages and other such contraptions designed to make sufferers more comfortable – and more mobile.

The question now is, will this latest period of research lead to another book? You’ll have to wait and see – but you do have nine to choose from so far, all of which required similar levels of research.

Do you have photos like the ones I’ve mentioned? Have you resolved the issues of time and place? I’d be delighted to know, if you have.

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