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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sepia Saturday - Families Together

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

Before the days of popular indoor flash photography, no pictures exist of my family celebrating birthdays and Christmas.  So weddings  were the main opportunity for group photographs and each tells a unique story. 

I had aspirations of grandeur - I always wanted to have a formal  family photograph of  three or four generations  as epitomized in royal  photographs.   However it was not to be.  Here is the nearest I come to that ambition - a photograph of my great grandmother's sister, Jane Riley, nee Rawcliffe of Fleetwood, Lancashire  with her son, George, grandson Jack  and great grandson, baby  George. Jane was the second of eight Rawcliffe daughters, though three died in infancy.   She and her sister Jennet married two brothers Thomas  and Richard Riley.  Jane died in 1926. 

Other family photographs in their own way each tell a story.  Below is one of  my  favourites.     Taken in 1916 as my grandfather was going to war,  it shows my grandmother Alice Danson, nee English, with their four children - Edith, Kathleen (my mother), Harry and baby Billy.  Another daughter Peggy was born in 1922.  Did Granddad take this photograph with him to Flanders?  From there he sent  to Alice and his children  many embroidered cards which  remain among my family treasures.

1929 - and the marriage of my Great Aunt Jennie Danson .  Jennie was the baby of the fmaily - the only  daughter born after eight sons, with  the eldest  of her many brothers - Robert giving her away  (on the far left).  The little bridesmaid at the front was my Aunt Peggy and on the right Jennie's eldest niece Annie,  whose mother died of TB when she was a year old, and whose father died in the First World War.

The local  newspaper report gave an  over-the-top account of Jennie's dress:
stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone. The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony. Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount. She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horseshoe attached."

I have very few photograph of my father's family and this one is a rarity that only came to me recently through a distant connection of my cousin.  It is 1930 and the wedding   of my  Uncle Fred Weston.  My father (looking very serious) is on the left, holding that large hat with his younger brother brother Charles behind.  I guess that one of the bridesmaids must surely be Madge the only daughter of the family.   My grandmother Weston is in the cloche hat next to Fred, and is that behind  her my grandfather with his face partially hidden?  I just don't know.  

Onto 1938 and  this is the only photograph where I can identify my  paternal grandfather It was taken in the garden of my mother's home,  after my parent's wedding  with Mum's  parents (William and Alice Danson) on the left and my father's parents on the right (Mary and Albert Weston)  - unfortunately again not a particularly good image with grandfather Weston in the sun.

A  happy family group of the Danson family  - Edith, youngest daughter Peggy, my grandparents William and Alice, son Harry   and my mother Kathleen, with youngest son Billy missing. The three sisters enjoyed fashion and made their own clothes on a treadle sewing machine (the house did not have electricity until the mid 1950's! 

This  photograph was a puzzle, as I never asked questions about it when I could have done.  My guess as to the occasion rests on Uncle Harry wearing the carnation  Was this his short-lived wartime wedding?  Through snatches of conversation I picked up as a child, I became aware that he had at some time married and was divorced - all very hush, hush  in those days, swept under the carpet and certainly never openly mentioned. 

It was only after his death, I found the papers confirming a marriage on 11th June 1940 and divorce in 1947.   The marriage date is significant as Uncle Harry was one of the thousands of troops evacuated from Dunkirk on the flotilla of small ships  between 27th May and 4th  June 1940. Yet here  he was married some ten days later. 

Another wartime picture of my grandmother, Alice Danson with her youngest daughter Peggy who served in the  WAAF on a barrage balloon station, her son-in-law my father. serving in the RAF Code & Ciphers Division   and,  with his Italian born wife, youngest son Billy who served in the navy.  

1946 and the families gather for a postwar winter wedding of my uncle Charles Weston.  I am the shivering little bridesmaid holding up my giant posy.  My father and mother (looking very elegant) stand behind me, with my grandmother Weston to her left.  This marked a period of happiness for Charles after years in a  Japanese prisoner of war camp. .  
And finally another memorable family group as this is the only photograph I have of my mother with her three grandchildren together, taken in 1981. 


Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. I enjoyed looking at all these family groups from your album and reading the very detailed accounts (even the over the top ones!), and what a treasure that last one is.

  2. Terrific photos Sue. I particularly enjoyed the description of your great aunt Jennie's 1929 wedding dress. It helps to make sense of the photograph and make one really look at it to understand what went in to making the dress. Best wishes Anne

  3. Wonderful photographs. I smiled at the over-the-top description of your Great Aunt Jennie's wedding dress. A service club I used to belong to put on a fund-raiser fashion show every year & I was responsible for writing up all the descriptions of clothing modeled which was a little different since all the clothing came from local thrift shops. We called it the "You CAN Afford It" fashion show & it was always a big hit - especially when I announced the prices of the outfits. The price of a full outfit including accessories, was generally around $5.00 to $10.00, & the models usually bought their outfits rather than return them to the shop after the show.

  4. I like all the "circular frills" in the 1929 photo. (I would call them ruffles)

  5. I have been scanning some old family wedding photographs recently and - as I have surely said many times before - our families could almost be interchangeable. Same looks, same clothes, same massive bunches of bridal flowers.

  6. As you were busy being a little bridesmaid in your Uncle Charles Weston's wedding in 1946, I was busy being born in Boston...these are fabulous shots, Sue!

  7. Just beautiful photos - all of them. Very difficult to choose a favourite but I am drawn to the scallops on that bride's dress I confess.

  8. All fine photos, the second one appeals because the photographer has placed the camera higher than typical and arranged the children into a heart shape. I don't think I have the vocabulary to describe women's fashions, especially wedding gowns.

  9. There is a total absence of family group photos on my side of the family. So I can only put names to most of my early relatives. It's easy to see we missed out somewhere when I admire your photos.

  10. These are wonderful. I love a 4-generation photo too. And I have those "Uncle Harry"-type stories in my family too, and sometimes I wonder, "Did I imagine this? Did this really happen?" Those stories can make you crazy!

  11. Thanks for sharing your family photos; I especially enjoyed the wedding photos. I think that many of us wish we had more photos of our family members long gone, formal or not.

  12. Thank you to everyone for their comments on my family photos.

  13. such an amazing array, I guess OI should have shifted gears as so many of you clever folks did for this week but I was so stuck on one photo which I could not find. ah well....what amazes me still is that we have so many similarly posed family photos from the same era in different parts of this country across the sea and yet....we are not that different.


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