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Can you identify these presumed family members?

These pictures were handed down from Anne Fortune #736. She believed them to be photos of Dr. James Murdoch and his wife Grace Beveridge Murdoch, but that is highly unlikely.

If not Dr James and Grace, then who? Given the beliefs of Anne Fortune, they are presumed to be family members. Read this email exchange about the mystery...


Dear John,

...I'm also attaching ... scans of the two silver-gelatin photos which are purported to be James & Grace. It's very curious. The back of James' photo is marked "G & D HAY, PHOTOGRAPHISTS, 68 Princes Street, Edinburgh", which suggests that the photos were taken before they left and were bought out with them. The problem is, was silver-gelatin photography around in 1822 and before? Going by what I can find on the net, the earliest methods of photography came along about ten years after that. I find it difficult to believe that it is actually them. They came from a maiden aunt (of my father's father...), Anne Fortune, who lived in Kew in Melbourne for years until her death back in the 90s. She was adamant that it's them. What do you think?

Best regards, Jason Murdoch

Hi Jason...

...via Google I found this website/page: early photography history in Edinburgh

If we take the info there at face value, this tells us that photography wasn't established until 1839, and puts G&D Hay photographers in the 68 Princes St address in 1857. Dr James, had he been alive in 1857 would have been 72 years old - but he died in 1848 - 7 years before G&D Hay established their business, and 9 years before the Hays moved their business to 68 Princes St.

Even if the G&D Hay mark is bogus (unlikely?), and if the photo was taken soon after photography start-up in 1839, he would still have been at least 54 - I don't see a 54-yr old man in the photo. Dr J was age 36 when he left Edinburgh in 1821, and died at age 62 in 1848..

So - we can't say that this is definitively not James & Grace, but we can say that this is "not James & Grace photographed by G&D Hay circa 1857", and we can also say that given the ages of our forebears aligned with the date of commencement of photography it is unlikely to be James & Grace.

Sorry to burst the bubble - our only mystery now is to solve the puzzle .. "who are the folks in the photos"? It seems highly likely that they are relatives, since Anne Fortune clearly treasured them. I see a well-to-do age 40's maybe man in the photo - so the photo subject at say age 40 would have been born around 1817 and would presumably have lived in Scotland (to have be photo'd by Hay in Princes St in ~1857). The only relatives that come close to that profile are Dr James daughter Mary Murdoch #5 (born 1818 and left behind in Scotland) and her husband William Bethune #15 (born 1813, William bought Craigow Scotland from Dr J. in 1849). If these are the subjects, then they would have been age 39 (Mary) and 44 (Wm) in 1857 at the time the photo was taken... a bit of a stretch, but not impossible.

We don't know how the photos got to Van Diemens Land, and eventually to Anne Fortune, and I don't know who of our Van Diemens rels might possibly have gone back to Scotland for a visit.

Cheers, John Murdoch

Hi John,

...The riddle of the photo is fascinating, perhaps I can make it more so. I have a photo of William Bethune #15 (1813-1886) whom you suggest may be the subject. This is endorsed "Photographed by Peter Ewing Kinross" (no date). I can see no resemblance between this and the one Jason has. Annie Fortune was a great friend of my Aunt Mary whom you may remember, she left me a number of family photos and this one (William Bethune) was with them no doubt given to her by Annie. Looking at the connection between Annie and the Murdoch family, you will find that her father was James Fortune #735 (1850-1927) and her mother was Mary Grace Murdoch #671 (1864-1927).

Mary Grace was a Granddaughter of Dr James. James Fortune was the son of James Fortune (1823-1861) and Elizabeth Wilson (1834-1864) James Fortune Jnr. came to Australia in 1880. The chances are that Annie may not have met her grandparents.

On this basis it is likely that the photo is of James and Elizabeth Fortune. However this is supposition and we may never know the truth. The most knowledgeable person on the Bethune part of the Family is Dr.Roger Mangnall... he may be able to help.

Regards, Max (Linton)


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