Saturday 31 March 2018

Who's in the picture?

Does anyone know this chap? 

He is probably related to me somehow. The photograph was found at 'Black Raven', Dad's ancestral home, in Yellow Walls, Malahide, so chances are he was connected to one of my grandparents - James Byrne or Lena O'Neill.  

Looks can be deceiving, but he doesn't resemble a typical Byrne to me. Nearly all Dad's paternal first cousins lived in or around Yellow Walls, where I grew up and I knew most of them. 

So, perhaps he was on the O'Neill side. My grandmother and her sister Joan were raised in foster care in Yellow Walls, but their older siblings lived elsewhere.  We didn't know them. 

The biggest clue to dating the picture is the photographer’s stamp on the back. It reads: 
‘The Franco Portrait Studios – 6 Nth. Earl Street, 85 Talbot Street, 39 Mary Street, 46 Harrington St., Sackville Studios, 15a Lr. Sackville St. – Dublin’  

A review of old Dublin Street Directories revealed the Franco Portrait Studios were a group of businesses, seemingly operated by photographer Harry Cowan. He worked in Dublin city during the first half of the twentieth century. 

The Directories show Harry operated under his own name at 15 Lower Sackville Street, under the name Franco Portrait Coy at 6 North Earl Street and 85 Talbot Street, and as the Franco-British Portrait Co. at 46½ Harrington Street. And, he must have had a relationship with Mark Rubenstein, who worked as a photographer at 39 Mary Street. 

Directory listings may be a year or two out of date, but we can still use them to help date the photograph, given Harry's various studios were in business at different times.  

6 North Earl Street was destroyed during the British bombardment of Dublin city in April 1916. It was not rebuilt until after 1919, and the Street Directory that year lists the address as 'destroyed in rebellion'. The Directories for 1920 and 1923 are not available online, but in 1921 and 1922, all five studios listed on the back of the photograph were in operation. The Talbot Street studio did not appear in the Directory for 1924, and we know Sackville Street officially changed its name to O’Connell Street that year anyway. So our photograph must have been taken between about 1920 and 1923.[1] 

I'm not good at estimating ages, but based on this timeline, I'd say the lad in the picture was born at the turn of the twentieth century, give or take a few years. How old would you say he was when this picture was taken?

My grandmother Lena was the baby of the O'Neill family, born in 1895, eliminating all her older brothers as potential candidates. Perhaps it was one of her nephews, except which one? 

We can rule out Lena's sister Teresa, who had no children, and Joan who only had a daughter, and Mary Agnes whose eldest son wasn't born until 1916. And, we can rule out her brother Arthur too, as he did not marry until 1917. 

This leaves Lena's brother Robert, whose eldest son, also Robert O'Neill, was born in August 1909. He'd have been fourteen years old in 1923 - too young to have been the boy in the photo? Robert grew up in Navan, Co. Meath, anyway. 

So, perhaps it was Lena's nephew, Charles O'Neill, the eldest son of her brother John, born in December 1907. He grew up in Dominick Street, in Dublin city, not far from the Harry Cowan studios. 

We cannot rule out Lena's eldest siblings, Charles O'Neill born in 1875 and Catherine O'Neill born in 1876 - they've not been spotted since their respective baptisms, and may have perished as infants, but they could have gone on to have families of their own, and may have kept in touch with my grandmother. 

Maybe someone out there recognises the boy? If you do, please send me an email or leave a comment below. 

Update 5 August 2018: Mystery solved - here

[1] The Post Office Dublin Directory and Calendar for 1918, vol. 1-3, Alex. Thom & Co., Limited, Dublin, 1918, accessed at FamilySearchThoms Irish Almanac and Official Directory - the years 1919, 1922 & 1924 accessed at ($) Ancestry, and 1921 & 1925 accessed at Ask about Ireland

© Black Raven Genealogy

1 comment:

  1. Nice looking young man. I like how you have ruled in and ruled out the possibilities.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!