Big Family Photo – Who Are They??

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large family gathering photo perhaps belfast or dundee

I have a much larger size image for those that might to examine it closer. 2560X1851 pixels, 745 Kb.

Which family is this?

My sister has been scanning old photo prints she has located, and this has been one of them. I’ve used it as the cover image for the “Scott Family Stories” index page – it’s obviously related to us in some way. Someone thought it important enough to pass on through the generations, and while the people remain a mystery, I’m glad that others before me tried to keep it (although it appears it could have been preserved better).

I have stared at the faces many times; probably cumulatively many hours, looking for hints. Although I work with technology, I am more of a paper and pen and hardcopy person, though. Going back and forth between various images on a monitor is not as easy to me, than having photos scattered on a table, and being able to glance through them rapidly. On the other hand, scanning at high resolution does enable a larger view than what we would see on paper.

What makes it really challenging is that there are several possibilities as to which family(s) are in the photo, and who they are. These include (but I’m not excluding other possibilities), the Stephen Family in Aberdeen, Scotland (unlikely as I believe it was found with other Scott photos, and the Stephen family are our maternal ancestors), the McDowels/Keenans/Scotts in Belfast, Ireland, or the Scotts in Dundee, Scotland.

What I’ve Done So Far

I learned that using Google’s face recognition intelligence might help to identify faces in photos, as long as you have some individuals in the photos, identified in other photos. This means, that it could be possible to put a face to a Great-Grandfather in a photo you are positively sure is your great-grandfather, and perhaps after some days, Google’s face intelligence will let you know it’s identified that face in another photo.

While others have claimed success using this method, I have not. Not with the old photos I have now. I’ve tested it by identifying several faces that we are sure of their identity, and then other photos of the same person, just waiting to see if Google’s technology ever recognizes them.

So far, I’ve had no luck with this, and Google hasn’t been able to match up faces that I know their identity. So with that in mind, it does not mean that this photo does not contain photos of people we have identified, but are unsure about.

I think I may have found myself though, two or three people that appear familiar in other photos.

Belfast Option

Right off the bat, I’m thinking that Belfast is the least possibile between the choices of Belfast and Dundee. There are 30 people (including the baby on the elderly woman’s knee, and a baby being held by a woman over on the right hand side that Google could not pick out even as a faces. I had to look a few times to notice the one on the right hand as well. Do you see it? 🙂 ).

If it is Belfast, it likely includes John Scott (my Great-Grandfather) and Sarah McDowell, his first spouse. It would probably also include other McDowells and probably must include another family, the Keenans.

Dundee Option

As I look at the photo, and try to put different faces to possible people, I’m more leaning towards this being the Scott family with another family (or more – maybe even friends). Perhaps at a wedding, and the couple in the centre are the bride and groom.

There are a few reasons why I’m leaning toward Dundee, but I admit that I could be very very wrong – so if you find criticism with my ideas; perhaps you have some other knowledge, or see things I don’t, I invite those criticisms with the goal to be to try to figure out as much as possible about the photo.

There are two men who appear to be “patriarchs” in this photo, although it’s possible there’s a third. There is also the possibility of another that could have been in such a photo, but has passed away.

The man on the left hand side with the beard, who appears elderly and thin, also has a resemblance, rough resemblance though, as the photo is not very clear, to Great-Great-Grandfather Scott in an earlier and not well preserved photo.

My Observations – What Are Yours?

Almost all the men and many of the women are wearing a flower on their lapel. Interestingly, there seem to be two different colours though. The “patriarchal” figure that looks very distinguished with his white beard, broad shoulders, and is sitting, is wearing a darker coloured flower. It’d definitely not white. We can’t tell what colour it is.

Were there any traditions about bride’s family and groom’s family, and the colour of the flower they would wear on their lapel? I don’t know; I have not gone that far in digging and researching. Something to check though.

Two women of age that they could be married appear to be alone; the one on the far right, and the one front and almost centre in a dark dress. The female to her left, does not appear to be of an age where one might be expected to be married.

If Dundee, the one on the right could possibly be Kirsty Scott, the aunt of our G-Grandfather Scott, and sister of GG-Grandfather Scott.

On the other hand, if in Belfast, the one on the right could possibly be Agnes McDowell, who appeared to remain single all her life.

Or of course, this person could be someone else entirely.

Other Photos We Know Or Possibly Know

We have several photos of our great-grandfather Scott at various ages. And it was with these in mind, that I started thinking about this being in Dundee. But after he had gone to Belfast, and perhaps returned for some family event.

The person I think looks like some of the photos of our Great-Grandfather John Scott is the man in what you would call the “back row,” fourth person from the right. Just in front of him is a woman with her body slightly turned. This woman appears to be like another in ONE photo that my father marked as Sarah McDowell. But to my eyes, she does not appear to be Sarah McDowell in family photos that include Hugh and Millicent Scott (they cannot be Mary Ellen McDowell, as Sarah would have been still alive for these photos).

But there is more confusion when I examine this big family photo with another photo of John Scott, taken later in his life. The man who is standing to the left of the couple in the centre resembles at least one later photo of John Scott, as well as another photo we have not yet identified.

Let’s Look At Other Photos And See What We See

I say “see what we see” because I’m asking you, the reader, to have a look and tell me what you see as well! My eyes could be entirely wrong. I may have a bias because of my gut feeling (and that could be wrong), that this is in Dundee.

Earliest Known Scott Family Photo

This is the earliest known so far of the Scott Family in Dundee. The very elderly gentleman sitting on the right is Alexander Greig (I believe I have identified another photo of him but need to have a closer look and will post later).

The other grown man is our Great-Great-Grandfather John Scott. The woman is Jane Greig (Scott), Alexander’s daughter. This photo was taken in Dundee, year unknown, but before 1888.

alexander greig and scott family, dundee
Alexander Greig On The Right, Sitting. His Daughter Jane On The Left

Have a close look as you can at John Scott. Also, at Jane Greig. Bear in mind that John died in 1925 at 77 years of age, and Jane passed away in 1910 at 62. And here we have a bit of a problem as the elderly woman in the big family portrait appears older than 62 to my eyes.

But I did see a resemblance to the John Scott in this photo to the elderly patriarch looking fellow that is thin, and has a beard in the “big family” photo.

Known Photos Of John Scott – Great Grandfather

We have more than a few known or strongly suspect photos of our Great-Grandfather John Scott. Perhaps the best is this one, with his family in Belfast. I believe the woman to be Sarah Scott – she passed away when her son Hugh Scott, our grandfather, was about 15 years old. So this photo includes:

John Scott, Sarah McDowell Scott, children Hugh McDowell Scott and Sarah Millicent Scott.

scott family circa 1909
Scott Family circa 1909. Left to Right: John Scott, Millicent Scott, Hugh Scott, Sarah (McDowell) Scott

I personally am very much seeing a resemblance here, between Great-Grandfather Scott in this photo with the man in the large family photo, back row, 4th from right with the woman who’s body is slightly turned.

Another photo we believe to be this John Scott:

john scott belfast
John Scott Photo Taken At Abernethy Photographer, Belfast

I still see a resemblance in our large family photo above. Do you?

It kind of gets better but more confusing! Can We Identify Sarah McDowell Scott?

This photo, I’m told has been marked on the back as Sarah McDowell, by my sister, when our father went through photos. Sarah McDowell is definitely the person in the family photo two photos above. But have a look at this one, that we have been told is Sarah McDowell Scott:

possibly sarah mcdowell scott

Now, scroll way back up, look at the big family portrait, look at this one, and do you see the resemblance to the woman with her body slightly turned, that is front of the man I think may resemble John Scott? To my eyes, they are a match.. So when I look at the big family photo, my eyes pick out, based on the photos of John Scott, and this one that is apparently Sarah McDowell Scott, that couple.

But… when I look at this photo of who is supposedly Sara McDowell Scott, and the photo just above with John Scott, his spouse, and children Hugh and Millicent, I don’t see any resemblance to this photo. What do you think?? The two supposed Sarah McDowells don’t look alike, to me.

It Gets More Confusing

As mentioned we have several photos we are 100% sure or are certain but not 100%, that are John Scott. Another that is very certain is a not very clear photo taken of him in front of the shop he managed at 83 Hanover Street, Belfast. Here it is:

john scott in front of store at 83 hanover street, belfast
John Scott In Front Of Grocery Store At 83 Hanover Street, Belfast

It is not very clear, I know. But it is him, older than the previous two above.

Now, let’s take a look at a photo that I cannot identify with any certainty:

I don’t know who it is and am unwilling to say it is John Scott, perhaps middle age, or past middle age. Now go scroll back up to the large family portrait and have a look at the man standing directly left of the couple in the centre. When I first compared, I saw an immediate resemblance. But the more I look, I’m not sure.

What do you think? Does he resemble him? Does he resemble that not very clear John Scott in front of 83 Hanover Street?

What About McDowells?

I don’t know – all we have of photos presently that we can be very sure of is the one of John Scott with Sarah McDowell, above, the one that has been claimed to be Sarah McDowell on her own (but I don’t see the similarity in the photos), and another that has been marked on the back by my grandfather as Hugh McDowell:

hugh mcdowell

We don’t know when the photo was taken, and we don’t know if it is Hugh McDowell b: 1825 d: unknown (very doubtful) or his son Hugh McDowell, b: 1869 and brother to Sarah McDowell (married John Scott), Agnes McDowell, Mary Ellen McDowell, Thomas McDowell, and John G. McDowell (probably)

Does he resemble anyone in the “big family photo,” above?

Final Thoughts

I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to place the photo or identify even some of the people with a strong confidence, in this family photo, possibly of some event. But, we have to start somewhere. Starting somewhere includes guessing. That’s actually a scientific process – you start by making guessing, work at it, eliminate impossibilities, and focus on possibilities 🙂

There’s a good possibility that several original copies of this photo were made. Some one else may have this photo – and may already know who these people are, or who at least some of them are, which then we can fill in blanks.

Maybe Google’s face identification will improve and will be able to help out.

I need to also print off family census reports, go through ages of people, who the married, children, and see if I can eliminate possibilities as well. I haven’t done that yet…

Another good start would be to try to figure out the year this photo was taken.

I still have work to do with some great information from “GenealogyMum” and Shirley Lancaster to nail down some other things, but these photos are also on my mind.

Feel free to help out! Leave a comment and tell me what you think, below.

Or, return to “Scott Family Stories” for other Bios and information.

4 thoughts on “Big Family Photo – Who Are They??”

  1. James McFadden

    Interesting research. It is an ache when photos are hard to identify. Have you tried rootsweb? The website has an area that experts will help identify the year and place of old photos. Might be worth a shot for you.

    1. Awesome, James! Saw your comment and went looking – it’s actually rootschat btw – but there seem to be quite a few helpful people there. I’ve posted the photo. Let’s see what feedback I get! Look forward to the responses! Thanks so very much for pointing me to a possible resources to get some hints and tips.

  2. Pingback: Another Tool Possibly To Help Identify Family Photo - Ian Scott

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