Photo-sleuthing – The Bennet album

Electoral registers record those people eligible to vote in specific UK elections at a given time. They state the voter’s name, address and often occupation. After 1911, they are as close as we can get to a census and, while ages are not given, the first appearance in a household of a new person with same surname as the other occupants suggests an offspring reaching the age of 21.

The owner’s name in this week’s album was written at the beginning – “Anna G Bennet 1934”. It contained the photographic record of an exotic journey through the Far East, to Penang, Rangoon, Mandalay, Shanghai, Nikko, Kyoto and Hangchow, returning home to Britain in Spring 1935. With Anna was travelling a younger couple, and the photo shows the three of them at Port Said, the start of the voyage.

Anna and family at Port Said

It was through the Scottish electoral registers that I discovered Anna’s identity. Because the registers are now digitised and can be searched in Ancestry by name only, I was able to follow the last twenty five years of her life solely through the registers. (And while Ancestry does need a subscription, GWSFHS members can access it free at our research centre when it re-opens.) In 1920/21, she was living at 41 Hermitage Gardens, Edinburgh, a cosy red sandstone house (still in existence) in the smart district of Morningside. She was living there with her sons Joseph L and Harold E Bennet.

Now armed with the names of two of her children, I found her as Anna Bennet in the 1901 census at 34 Polwarth Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh with her husband, John Harper Bennet, a gas meter manufacturer, their sons, Joseph, Harold and Stanley. In the household were also her mother, Jessie Wellbridge and her Jamaican-born sister, Jean Wellbridge, a milliner.

While checking the 1901 census, I had noticed a link to the Andrews Newspaper Index Cards 1790-1976, a collection of notices from newspapers and various official publications which I have never used before. From it, I learnt that Anna Gillespie Bennet was the youngest daughter of Congregational Minister Edwin Angel Wallbridge of Mount Zion, Jamaica.

Back among the electoral registers, I found Anna sharing her Edinburgh house with Frederick C and Mrs Norah [sic] Watson. ScotlandsPeople confirmed that Nora Bennet, born in 1904, had married Frederick in 1934, so it appears that Anna took the newly weds with her on the cruise of a lifetime.

The Edinburgh electoral registers recorded Anna and her household from 1920/1 to 1939/40. The Perth and Kinross registers 1945-1948 showed her living at ‘Ashlea’, Ancaster Road, Callander, initially with Nora and later, on her own. In 1949/50 she was back in Hermitage Gardens and died there on 17 November 1949 aged 74.

GWSFHS Members receive full access to articles and commenting.