Photo-sleuthing – The Yarnold album

Reginald Yarnold
Reginald Yarnold

Some years ago, knowing my interest in old photos, a friend had alerted me to a bundle of family papers and photos on eBay. Out of politeness I had a quick look at the item but it was too recent to catch my interest. Some higher being, however, clearly thought otherwise – I accidentally clicked the ‘Buy’ button and the collection was mine!

On arrival, it turned out to be the photos and wedding memorabilia of Reginald Charles Edward Yarnold and Gladys Blake. Most of the collection related to the inter-war period, and included the original telegrams received at the couple’s wedding.

I looked at Ancestry’s public members trees and found several entries relating to the couple. Reginald’s mother was Ellen Mary Cruwys, a familiar surname in genetic genealogy. An early DNA project, set up in 2007 by author and blogger, Debbie Kennett, and the subject of a One Name Study, Cruwys is a 12th century name from a Devon parish.

Records showed that Reginald had been born in 1899 and had three brothers. His mother died in 1914 and his father remarried two years later. In 1917, Reginald joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (Mersey division), a force active in WW1. He trained as a mechanical engineer at Liverpool University, and in 1930 married Gladys Blake at Farnborough, Hampshire.

Many of the black and white photos were holiday snaps taken in the U.K but among them were pictures of far-flung destinations – India, USA and Canada – together with coy notes on the back hinting at impending baby arrivals. Further investigations revealed that Gladys had a sister, Doris (‘Dolly’) married to Hubert (‘Harry’) Nunn, a professional soldier, and Dolly was sending her sister photographs from their latest postings.

Reginald and Gladys at the seaside
Reginald and Gladys at the seaside

Wedding pictures in Karachi show that Hubert was a staff sergeant in the Cameronians. The couple stayed in India until at least 1935, during which time their son, Malcolm, was born. By 1955, they were settled back in Britain.

Having extricated the identities of Dolly and Harry from the photos, I stumbled across the marriage in 1927 of Stanley Cruwys Yarnold to Mavis Helena France in Ridgefield Park, N.J. and realised a second tranche of photos related to another branch of the family, Reginald’s younger brother.

A final poignant photo is of Dolly, now well-upholstered and middle aged, standing proudly by a brand new 1956 Dodge automobile. As for Reginald and Gladys, the 1939 Register for England and Wales shows Reginald working as an Examiner of Patents in Bath. He died at Farnborough in 1978. Gladys lived until just short of her 101st birthday, passing away at the family home at Highgate Lane.

Having organised the collection in an album, I ran a ‘photo-sleuthing’ slot on the GWSFHS Facebook page to show how family historians can deduce information from old pictures. I posted the photo of Reginald Yarnold in his WW1 uniform, and told his story. A year later, I was astonished to receive an email, asking if I still had the album and if I would be prepared to sell it.

Album handover
Album hand-over

It turned out that the daughter of Reginald and Gladys, now a very old lady, had lost touch with her parents’ wedding memorabilia and other documents when distant relatives had cleared their house. Her god-daughter had spotted Reginald’s name on the Society’s Facebook page and saw the wonderful opportunity to reunite her beloved god-mother with her parents’ collection.

Ann and her god daughter’s son, Ben Cochrane

Under CV-19 restrictions, we met last summer in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and the album was exchanged. Do you believe in Fate – I think I am beginning to!

The album comes home

GWSFHS Members receive full access to articles and commenting.