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Winnifrith family history mystery - another photo riddle

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 3 March 2021

I described the other day my researches into, inter alia, the big mystery in my family – who was Edith Maude Winnifrith, my great grandmother? She was certainly illegitimate but who were her parents? Is her mother really Edith Wingfield Digby? I continue to go through the papers of her son, Sir John Winnifrith, and stumble across this photo marked up on the back, in Sir John’s writing, “my mother?”

I can date it roughly. Thomas Protheroe set up business in around 1876 in Bristol so it may have been a year or so earlier or any time after that he took this photo. My great-great grandmother’s birth certificate is a complete forgery but for what it is worth her birth is given as 1 August 1875. She certainly hails from that part of the world; her husband’s family the Winnifrith’s are from Kent so this photo grandpa found is, almost certainly, his mother. Or maybe she just kept a random photo of another baby about her age? If so why? That seems illogical.

I do have photos of the folks who brought Edith Maude up, Jack Macfarlane and Ellen Blake from that era and the woman in this photo is not either of them. I have contacted an expert on dresses of that era to tell me who would have been wearing the sort of clothes the lady in the photo is wearing. For what it is worth, that chair and the desk she sits by do not look like the sort of thing you’d find in the house of the poor.

I add one more matter to this mystery. I can find both Ellie Blake and Jack Macfarlane living in separate places in 1881 on the census. No young girl lives with either. And as it happens, I cannot find an Edith Maude Blake, Blaker (the name on her forged birth certificate) or for that matter Wingfield, Digby or a combination of the two living anywhere at all. Very curious. It is almost as if she was being in some way hidden at that point.


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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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