Dating my favourite photograph

Over the years, I’ve collected many photographs from the older of my relatives. I’ve always borrowed them, scanned them as high a resolution as I can and then returned them. The most frustrating aspect though is not knowing who is in them nor when/where it was taken. This one is no exception – though it is my favourite by a long shot. And given time, it’s coming together.

Unknown, Frederick Blacknell, William Arthur Freer, John Freer, unknown, Edgar Freer (back row, left to right).
Unknown, unknown, unknown, Mary Ann Elliott, Clara Freer, Helen Freer, unknown, unknown (2nd row, left to right).
Anna Maria Freer, unknown (front row, left to right).

A lot of older photographs don’t come with any annotations or markings but this photocard did at least have the name of the photographer’s business on the back. Back in 2005, when I came across it, it gave little away other than Whitchurch was 20 miles from Ruabon where the Freers were based.

In 1909, George Pace was listed in Kelly’s Directory as a photographer living at 11 Smallbrook Road, Whitchurch. He wasn’t mentioned in either the 1895 or 1913 directories, though in the 1911 census his occupation was photographer and he was still living at Smallbrook Road (aged 35, so not retired). In 1913, there was only one photographer operating in Whitchurch so it seems Pace’s business was no longer operating (at least in Whitchurch) by then. That’s quite a timespan though – 1895 through 1913.

Whitchurch is 18 miles from Ruabon, and research on tracking down the Freer children subsequently led to discovering John Freer (1861-1938) working as Second Groom on the Terrick Hall estate. We know he settled there between March 1901 (the Adderley census) and August 1902 (birth of his daughter Winifred). So now we’re narrowing it to between 1901 and 1913.

We also know that Clara & Frederick had moved back from Nottingham (where they were living in March 1901) to Ruabon by December 1910 when my grandfather was born. It might be a a leap of faith that Frederick and Clara didn’t travel from Nottingham to Ruabon for a big family event but it’s not that likely. Granted, it could have been taken after Ernest was born between 1911-12. Clara doesn’t appear pregnant in this photo, so we can assume it was taken before June 1910. Her mother Mary Ann Elliott died in January 1913 from a stroke she had two months previously so this also means it was pre November 1912.

Now we compare known subjects in this photograph with others we have that are dated – not that easy with adults.

Frederick looks younger than in this photograph B which we know was taken around 1909 (when he was 42).

Clara also looks a bit younger in both Photos B & C too (taken on the same day, in fact), but a lot older than in Photo A taken 1899 when she was 30.

William looks a little younger than in Photo C also taken circa 1909 .

It is very difficult to compare ages for Anna Maria in Photo C – she would be 35 in 1909.

In conclusion, we believe this photograph was taken sometime between 1905-1907 in Whitchurch, Shropshire on the Terrick Hall estate.


UK, City and County Directories, 1600s-1900s; Kelly’s Directory, Shropshire, 1909 p.298

Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901, Adderley, Shropshire; entry for John Freer household

Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911, Whitchurch, Shropshire; entry for George Pace household

1939 Register, England and Wales, Whitchurch, Shropshire; entry for Lionel Griffies household.

By Paul Blacknell

I’ve been researching my genealogy since 1988 when I started interviewing my eldest relatives. Although my primary focus has leant towards the Blacknells (and spelling variants), I've also uncovered many Quigleys, Freers & Colhouns. So far my family history can be traced back to 1730 in Calverton, Nottinghamshire.

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