Photo-sleuthing – The Murdoch album


When album owners put together their photograph collection, they frequently concluded that their audience was familiar with the people in the pictures. Annotation was kept for friends and relatives abroad, with whom the family might be unfamiliar. Only babies and small children were usually named (with dates, to show how they had grown).

Neil and Margaret Murdoch with Janet Bell Murdoch

The latest album was a prime example of just how far photo-sleuthing can go down the road of identification. It was bought locally, in a nice condition, no photos removed and a portrait on the first page of a man, woman and baby, almost undoubtedly the key family in the book. It was packed with photos taken mostly in Glasgow studios but there no indication of who the people were. Just one subject did not dress like the others – a man with a bow tie and bowler hat. There were five separate portraits where the person held a letter and another where the woman stood at a table with a photograph album. Was the photographer hinting at an overseas connection?

Clinton D Morris [?]

This suggestion was reinforced by a brown envelope in the album containing passport sized portraits of the man and woman from the first photo, together with one of a young boy. It also contained the indigestion prescription of a Mr N Murdoch. One of the fifty six photos in the album was taken in Kansas, and another in Paulding, Ohio. But the break-through came with a picture of a baby, captioned ‘To Uncle Neil from Edgar Morris’ taken in Ontario and of two small boys ‘George Hume Morris age 4 Edgar Frances M age 6’ taken in Ohio.

George and Edgar Morris

Although I had no dates to work with, many of the women in the album wore dresses with leg o’ mutton sleeves, a fashion which can be linked to the 1893-97 period. I searched on Ancestry for the birth of an Edgar Frances Morris in Canada around 1890 and immediately found him born to Clinton D Morris and Georgeana Murdock [sic] in Essex, Ontario in 1889. His brother, George Hume, followed a year later.

The excellent Canadian records then showed the marriage of Georginna Murdock [sic] aged eighteen, born Glasgow, Scotland, parents George Murdock and Jennett. ScotlandsPeople soon revealed the marriage of George Murdoch and Janet Bell in Hutchesontown in 1867 and their subsequent children, Neil Alexander and Georgina. I believe the photo shows Neil Alexander Murdoch and his wife, Margaret Dickson, with their first child, Janet Bell Murdoch (born 1896). And I do hope that the prescription made up by John W Millar, pharmacist, of 252 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, helped Neil’s indigestion!

Neil Murdoch’s prescription

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