Sepia Saturday 165: Mystery pics from Aarhus and Copenhagen

Sepia Sat 23 Feb

This week’s Sepia Saturday topic is a “Group Portrait of an Unknown Family”.

Among Mr Cassmob’s inheritance from his father is a batch of photographs with no known connection to his family. Many of them were taken in Denmark in the 19th century, a country where his family has no known links. On the other hand, one of these photos is annotated on the reverse with Cass Album 1. Why? Are they relevant to his family history after all? Did his father simply buy them from a stall when his parents were living for a year in Scotland?

I wanted to find a family photo but in the end I settled for two couples and an infant.


The reverse of these photos.

The reverse of these photos.

Do you have any thoughts on the why or where? It’s a mystery to me!

Beyond the Internet: Week 36 Photographic archives

This is Week 36 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Photographs and Postcards.

Strangely perhaps this topic ties into the archives and libraries branch of the series. This is something of a case of “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” since most of us are forever on the hunt for photographs which show our ancestral families.  With our focus on the personal perhaps we’re a little less likely to think out images of places. So where might we find these hidden treasures?

FFANS: Family, Friends, Associates and Neighbours

A Kunkel wedding at the Fifteen Mile.

You will almost certainly harass every close relative you’re aware of to see if they have any old photos. But what about the family’s friends? Do you remember your family receiving photos of a distant cousin’s First Communion, school photo or 21st? Well it’s quite likely that this happened back as long as there were photos, so isn’t it worth trying to track down who might have what you’re looking for.  

For example one of my treasured family photos of my grandfather’s sister’s wedding includes the extended family group, excluding him (they’d had a falling out over religion). This photo came to me from two 2nd cousins but had been taken by the Kunkel’s neighbour who was the local photographer. I did try to see what happened to this photographer’s images, but sadly without success.  

A page from a 4th cousin’s photograph album.

One photograph of my Mary O’Brien (2x great grandmother) came to me from her granddaughter who had lived with them. However the photo of Mary’s husband, George Kunkel, came from a 3rd cousin in Sydney who has whole suitcases full of photos from her aunts and cousins! Sadly not all of them are labelled or known.

This highlights the importance of shaking the family tree (hard) to see what photos emerge.

Not only are the hoarders among us absolute gold-mines with documents and photos, but there are also friends who are photo-fiends while others take no photos. When a close friend of ours died tragically in his early 30s, the family had very few photos of him but we had lots of photos and even home movies.  

Bric-a-Brac stalls or markets  

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain’s Camp at Murphy’s Creek.

It’s less common to see photos or postcards at market stalls in Australia than it is in the UK (not sure about other countries) but it’s certainly worth snooping among the piles if you come across them.  Don’t forget old postcards which illustrate the places where your families lived, and add richness to your story. I got a great old photograph of a railway camp family through hunting through boxes of photos.  

Local history libraries/museums

I talked in detail about this topic a couple of weeks ago so won’t elaborate much here. However, these places are great opportunities to perhaps find old photos of your family if they lived in that town for a while. For example the Winton Local History Museum has photos of my Mellick relations’ shop. Alternatively there may be photos of their businesses or the local area. My post linked to these types of discoveries by Joan, Sharn and Tanya. 


Again this has been the subject of an earlier post in this series. Old local history books or books about your ancestor’s occupation or industry may well provide you with either indirect or direct images to add to your own story. (Don’t forget to get copyright approval to use them though you can take a photocopy for your personal, unpublished, use).  From a local history book I was able to contact an elderly lady and obtain a copy of the photo of a railway work gang, very relevant to my family history.

Reference Libraries and Archives

This also ties in with books as this is your best chance to find a relevant book. You can also borrow from your national library on an inter-library loan to your local reference library.

The photo of Hannah Partridge from the Queenslander newspaper 7 August 1909 page 62.

These reference libraries may well have archival sections where they store a wide range of photos of people and places (more often catalogued under places or topics). While Picture Australia, now via Trove, has many digitised photos, they’re not all there so it’s still worth working your way through the catalogue to see what they have. For example I’ve looked at old photos of places where my families lived, and the hobbies and activities they were involved with. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t, but at least you’ll know you’ve given it your best effort.

I first found a photograph of my maternal 2xgreat- grandmother, Hannah Partridge courtesy of an index at the John Oxley Library in Queensland. Her photo had been published in The Queenslander as part of a series for Queensland’s Separation in 1909.

Similarly they have an index of many of the Queensland men who joined up in World War I. Both sets of images were published in The Queenslandernewspaper. This has now been digitised but if you search Trove you may not necessarily find their names pop up, or at least that’s been my experience. I know they’re there, have the date and page references from years ago, so I could find them. If you know your ancestor went off to World War I it’s worth while checking to see if there’s a passport-sized photo of him. Try using the search term “Reinforcements” for best success but be aware there may be time delays. If you’re near Brisbane it’s probably best to just check the card index in John Oxley library.

Reinforcements: The Queenslander 24 November 1917, page 27.

The Australian War Memorial is also a good option for finding photos of people or places. For example I was able to obtain a photo of the crossing the line ceremony held on my grandfather’s voyage en route to France in 1917.


Yes this is one of those cross-over moments, and I guess we’ve all searched e-bay and the internet for images of people and places we’re hunting.

I wanted to share another site with you though, perhaps a little more obscure. Have you ever looked at the George Washington Wilson Photographic Archives at the University of Aberdeen? You might be astonished to find, as I was some time ago, that this archive holds photos not only of places around the UK, but also early Australian photos.

There is a photograph of my old school which is labelled only as a convent school – I was able to give them the additional details, and also let the school know of this early image. There are all sorts of other intriguing photos too, so do have a browse and see if it’s helpful. Don’t be too specific in your search parameters to ensure you pick up as many as possible. For example there are 629 images under a search for “Victoria” and 242 for Queensland.

I’ve also found great photos in the Francis Frith collection including one which shows the house where Mr Cassmob’s family lived in Bath before emigrating to Australia. In all cases, don’t forget to check out the copyright and reproduction conditions. Catherine, my fellow blogger and friend, tracked down a photo of her ancestor’s band and her post on Mysterious Musicians and Mariners very clearly illustrates how broadening your search can turn up great relevant images, whether your person is in the image or not.

These diverse sources show just how many strategies you can use to find images which will bring your family story to life.

Have you had any successes in tracking down family images or places in any of these ways? Or have you got your own innovative way of finding them? Why not share them in the comments or on your own blog.

Beyond the Internet Week 14: War diaries, shipping and photographs

This is Week 14 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is War Diaries, shipping and photos.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic, especially if you live overseas and have a different set of records to tell us about. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

This week’s topic is going to be a bit of “dollar each way” because I realise that many of these records are now available online. And yes, it beats having to schedule a trip to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with all the associated expense, to read the documents themselves..but not always as much fun. Still and all, I suspect war diaries are not something that many people use in their family history, so I’m sitting on the virtual fence with this one.

War diaries

While war diaries can be succinct and uninformative on the day of the battle, the attached operations orders can be immensely useful to really add depth to your family history. This is some of the information I’ve found in them, taken from AWM 4, 23/66/1-37 for the 49th Battalion and AWM 4 15/6/1-18 ABGROC:

  • The men of the 40th walking 40 miles to Serapeum on the Suez Canal carrying full kits, packs and ammunition but limited water, in 110C heat.
  • The men of the 49th  referring to their colour patch as the “soccer ball” because they were moved so often.
  • Arrival of additional troops in the field may not mention names but when put with your family member’s service records you can see whether it was a big intake or only a few men.
  • Men going on leave may be mentioned.
  • Men injured or killed, usually only deaths of officers, otherwise numbers only.
  • Summaries of the battle.
  • Descriptions of the clothes issued to the men (sheepskin jackets, leather waistcoats, thigh-high gumboots).
  • The dispersal of companies across the battle field together with their list of responsibilities.
  • The Railway Operating Division’s nickname of “Right Out of Danger”. I’ve talked about their responsibilities here.
  • How the men spent Christmas, received special food treats, and their behind-the-lines activities.
  • Little asides about how the men dealt with being required to sleep on the ground under canvas while there were empty huts nearby.

If you’ve not yet used the war diaries of the AWM either virtually or in situ, I hope I’ve convinced you that there’s plenty there that will reveal the story of your family member’s service.

Of course this refers to the official war diaries for each unit, perhaps your ancestor left a personal diary or perhaps one of his fellow servicemen did. Just imagine what you might learn from those.

War transportation records

Another rich source is the files on the ship transportation of the men to/from foreign service. The men were probably well enough informed about the world (after all in those days schooling focused on the Empire’s history, not Australia’s) but it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have been amazed by the sights they saw or the opportunity to go dancing or for picnics and motor trips in Capetown. On the way overseas the CO for the men on the Port Sydney[i] commended them for their excellent behaviour while on two days leave in Colombo. On the voyage over they also learned additional military skills but they also had a “fine brass band”, an orchestra and several concert parties. My grandfather returned to Australia on the Karmala[ii] in 1919 and the files report they had an orchestra, daily sports, chess, bridge and drafts competitions as well as a daily newspaper, the Karmala Kuts.


J06286 AWM out of copyright. Crossing the line on board Port Sydney November 1917.

This is another fence-sitter as many of these have been digitised, however they’re probably worth mentioning here. Things to look for: names of people, ships to/from field, battle areas.

I was lucky that there was an amateur photographer on board the Port Sydney with my grandfather so I have photos of the Crossing the Line[iii] ceremony on that voyage. There are also quite a lot of my husband’s great-uncle. The photos of Milne Bay or Norieul are certainly much better now in digital form than the old thermal printed ones I got back years ago!

I hope I’ve managed to convince you that there’s lots out there which can enrich your family’s wartime stories, whether in digital or non-digital form.

[i] AWM 7, Port Sydney [5]. This now appears to be item 528138.  Not yet digitised.

[ii] AWM 31, Karmala 306. This now appears to be item 514921. Not yet digitised.

[iii] AWM negative J06286