During a recent visit to my father’s cousins in New Jersey, my brother, John, and I came across this mystery photograph. He was looking through an old religious book that had belonged to their maiden great-aunt, Lizzie Hall. There stuck inside one of the pages, was this picture that neither Ted nor MaryLou had remembered seeing before! Their father, William John Doran, had received the book, along with some holy pictures, from the estate of Lizzie Hall in 1933.
They both said that I could keep the picture and research the history. The photo was one of the early post cards popular from the early 20th Century on.
When I saw this photograph I instantly remembered a similar picture, that had been emailed to my sister and I, from a fellow Belfast Doran clan researcher, James Doran. His photo shows his father, “wee Artie” and his grandparents, Arthur Patrick and Sarah Hermon Doran. It was taken about 1911 in Belfast. When my brother and I got back to his house we compared the two photographs. The two men are sitting on the same type of chair, called a throne chair, popular in photographers’ studios in the early 20th century. Looking at the pictures closely, we all agree that it seems to be the same chair the men are sitting on, and a different chair that the ladies are sitting on. James Doran said his mother has the original and he will try to locate it to see if there is anything printed or written on the back. It is possible we are related since our two families were next door neighbors in Belfast at one point, plus a few other similarities. Thanks, James, for your permission to share the photo!
Along with my brother, my sister and I started researching the photographer. James Thompson was listed in both the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses as a Belfast photographer. In the 1911 Irish Census he was living with his family at 33 Cranmore Avenue, in the Windsor Ward of Belfast. He was 42 years old, and born in England. His son, also James Thompson, was age 17, born in Belfast, and also a photographer.
Taking in account the address on the back, our mystery photo was taken around 1912, or later in Belfast. Grosvener House, now called Grosvenor House, was designed by the Irish architects, Patterson and Grahame, active circa 1911 – 1915. The building has a date of 1912 for completion. To find out more about their work please look at his link: http://www.dia.ie/architects/view/4294/PATTERSON%26GRAHAME#tab_works
Prior to being in this building, the photographer, James Thompson, was in the Cranes Building, in the same vicinity, Wellington Place, Belfast, near the Belfast City Hall. Information from the website of Lennon Wylie, in his databases – Belfast / Ulster Street Directories, was researched by my sister, Veronica, my brother, John, and myself to try and pinpoint when the photo was taken [http://www.lennonwylie.co.uk/ ].
1907 Belfast / Ulster Street Directory: Thompson, Jas., photographer, #26, Fourth Floor, Wellington Place, Donegall Square to College Square East, Cranes Building.
1908 Belfast / Ulster Street Directory: Thompson, Jas., photographer # 26, Cranes Building [same as 1907].
1910 Belfast / Ulster Street Directory: Thompson, James, photographic artist, #26, Cranes Building [same as 1907].
1918 Belfast / Ulster Street Directory: Thompson, Jas., photographer, Grosvenor House, Donegall Square North to College Square East, St. Anne’s Ward, South Par. Div., 5 Wellington Place, res., 17 Stranmillies Road.
1913 Belfast Telephone Directory: Thompson, James, photographer, 5 Wellington Place.
Now that we know the mystery photo was taken after about 1911 in Belfast, Ireland, we can start researching any family members that were still living in Belfast during that time. The unknown picture could show Doran or Hall family members, or turn out to be simply friends of Lizzie Hall. Lizzie emigrated to New Jersey from Belfast in 1914. By researching when the Belfast YMCA was in the same building as James Thompson, we may be able to narrow the dates. Here is the back of the photograph postcard.
Mystery Monday is a blogging prompt suggested by Geneabloggers. Many thanks to my father’s first cousins, Ted and MaryLou, and their spouses, for the mystery photograph, and all of their help researching our Doran family, and for a wonderful day spent together! Thanks also to James Doran, who is our honorary cousin, if not our direct cousin!
Copyright 2015 by Maryann Barnes and Genealogy Sisters.