Yesterdays Selfies (part 2)

I received a lot of feedback on my post about ‘Yesterdays Selfies’ which looked at how various fashions, poses and hairstyles revealed a lot about the time the photograph was taken. A couple of websites in particular were very helpful in giving me more information.

The first of these is Jayne Shrimpton, her website can be found at and she also writes for Find My Past ( where she has a regular page called ‘Ask the Photo Expert’. There is a lot of information here, and time flies when you’re looking at all the back pages! I found it so useful, and am still referring back to it on a regular basis. I found one photo on her site which reminded me of one of my own photographs.

Picture from

Picture from

Front: George John Dinnis, Back right: Joseph Taylor Dinnis (my grandfather), back left: Harry Leonard Percy Dinnis

Front: George John Dinnis, Back right: Joseph Taylor Dinnis (my grandfather), back left: Harry Leonard Percy Dinnis














Jayne Shrimpton states that from the 1880s photographers began to contrive more authentic looking outdoor settings, with painted backdrops. The bark covered fence was a popular prop.

Another great blog is which is currently running a ‘fashion moments’ feature. If you go to the address, select ‘blog’ and then ‘Fashion moments’ from the drop down menu you will find so much information on fashion and photographs.

It would seem that the empty chair shown in my last post on this subject may have been just a popular prop.

Rose Cleeve 1913

Rose Cleeve 1913

I loved the suggestion from Paula Acton that the empty chair showed either a loved one who had passed was not forgotten, or if a loved one was away, they were being waited for and to show their place was still there. It was supposed to tie in with the idea of leaving an empty seat at the dinner table for a loved one who was missing especially if that person were away at war.

A lot of backgrounds were painted in at this time, but looking at the photo above it looks to me as though it were taken in a real garden. Props were popular at this time, and I have another couple of photographs of Rose with another empty chair and some flowers.

Rose Cleeve

Rose Cleeve

Rose Cleeve

Rose Cleeve













While I like the symbolism of the ’empty chair’ I know it wouldn’t work today, as people don’t sit down and eat around the table.


Hottest July day ever

Yesterday, July 1st 2015 was the hottest July day on record in England. This is a .com blog which means a lot of my followers are from the USA, so probably wonder about the English preoccupation with the weather!  I can only say that we Brits love to talk about it because it’s so unpredictable, … Continue reading

Queenie and Doll

When searching on line for family descendants it is very easy to give up too soon.  So I thought I would encourage you, and tell you to persist and to enjoy the journey of finding someone. The advice always given to beginners is to ‘start with what you know’. Which in most cases is the person’s name. However names aren’t always the most reliable piece of information as I have discovered on a few occasions.

In my own family tree I have Queenie, Doll and Babe. Putting these names in a search engine brings nothing. However when you find another member of their family, a brother called William for example, you can then look at the England Census for the time period and see who else lived in the house.

The Cockett family Queenie, middle front row Doll, middle back row

The Cockett family
Queenie, middle front row
Doll, middle back row

The photograph above is of my maternal grandmother (Queenie) and her family taken in the early 1900s. Her mother is Elizabeth, and looking at the England Census for 1911 we can see that at that time Elizabeth was the head of the house, widowed and aged 51. Also at the address of 74 Chestnut Avenue, Walthamstow were five sons and one daughter. The daughter’s name is May Annie Doris Cockett, and she is aged six years.

Then by looking back at birth certificates I note my mother was born ‘May Annie Doris’ and her mother was listed as being named ‘May Annie Doris’ as well. So ‘Queenie’ must have been a pet family name for her.

May Annie Doris Cockett known as Queenie my maternal grandmother

May Annie Doris Cockett
known as Queenie
my maternal grandmother

Her older sister, who I knew was referred to as ‘Doll’ isn’t named in the 1911 Census, but by looking back at the 1891 Census 20 years previously there is a daughter named Jane Nellie aged 5. It would seem she had been called ‘Doll’.

Jane Nellie Cockett known as 'Doll'

Jane Nellie Cockett
known as ‘Doll’

There are also examples of this difficulty in my father’s family, with Grace Cleeve being known as ‘Babe’ and Joe, John and Jack being interchangeable!

I have had great fun tracking down these family members, and getting to know their descendants. A few weeks ago I made contact with Doll’s family, which was wonderful. So in searching for family members be prepared to go sideways and look for the cousins of grandparents or even who lived in the same street. They may have some stories to tell you, or photographs to show. Enjoy the journey.

An Archdeacon in the Family

One of the main things I love about is the feature that enables you to post your family tree online and then to make contact with people searching for the same people you’re looking for. I contacted someone who had downloaded photos I posted on my family tree.

The latest family member I found is Elwin Cockett, who is the current Archdeacon of West Ham. He has a blog here:  We share gg grandparents and Elwin is a relation on my mother’s birth family side. Our great grandfathers were brothers.

May Annie Doris Cockett known as Queenie my maternal grandmother

May Annie Doris Cockett
known as Queenie
my maternal grandmother

I am always delighted to make contact with any family, especially where I see some connection with my recent findings. Therefore it delighted me to see Elwin’s connection with West Ham, when I knew from my mother’s birth certificate that she was born in West Ham. I am still very much on the trail of her early life in the hope of finding who her father was.

When I mentioned this to Elwin he asked me to send him the name of the street she had been born in (as recorded on her birth certificate) because he would be sure to know it.

Enid May Dinnis 1927 - 2000

Enid May Dinnis
1927 – 2000

The address given is Cambridge Park, West Ham (also listed under Wanstead and Walthamstow) and Elwin does indeed know the area very well.  He talks of a Catholic church in that road, also a convent and says it would not be surprising to find there had been a place there for unmarried mothers to give birth. It is also not far from Chestnut Avenue (the address of Queenie and her parents family) as Elwin says ‘close enough to get to easily but far enough away to be discrete’.

So, my next job is to try to find this church, trace a website maybe and see if there is any information there. Of course it may not be my mother’s birth place, but researching and tracking these leads is all that is left to me at this time.

Another unrelated link is my paternal gg grandfather, John Dinnis who died in West Ham!







Occupations – Chimney Sweep

As I think back to my childhood (trying not to make myself sound as though I was born in Victorian times) I remember several house callers who came on a regular basis. There was the coal man, bringing coal and filling our coal bunker in the back garden; the milkman bringing milk in glass bottles and taking away the empty bottles – recycling 1960s style. And the chimney sweep would call periodically, to sweep the chimneys. I realise this makes my household sound a little like ‘Mary Poppins’, but the ‘real fires’ led to a lot of soot which needed cleaning out!

I don’t have any photographs of these workmen, but I do have a picture of me dressed as a chimney sweep for a local fancy dress competition.

Chimney Sweep

Chimney Sweep


The brush looks very authentic and I wonder where my parents got it from? Maybe they borrowed it from the chimney sweep, I’m sure they can’t have had their own brushes!

Church fire in Fleet

Fire destroys roof of All Saints Church, Fleet

Fire destroys roof of All Saints Church, Fleet

This news story caught my eye yesterday. After a few checks online I think it is the church my grandparents were married in. Looking at their marriage certificate, I see they were married at All Saints Church, Fleet on 19 December 1915.

Marriage Certificate of Joseph Taylor Dinnis and Annie Cleeve. 19 December 1915

Marriage Certificate of Joseph Taylor Dinnis and Annie Cleeve.
19 December 1915

This is also confirmed in the Surrey, England, Marriages Index, and the England and Wales FreeBMD Index lists their wedding in the district of Hartley Wintney which is just two and a half miles from Fleet.

It is a very sad story, police and the fire services were called to the church around 5.50pm on 22 June 2015. The church was devastated by the fire which destroyed it’s roof. Five fire engines were called to the blaze, which took over three hours to get under control. The church was built around 150 years ago in the 1860s.

A 16 year old boy has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

More about the fire can be seen by following the link below, or googling ‘Fleet church fire’

How I got to where I got to

Sometimes I don’t post here for a while, but this doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything! On the contrary it means that so much is happening I need time to sort it all out in my head before I post anything.

I don’t like to post on here until I’ve got to the end of a trail, found an answer, got a result. But it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I should post about the in between research. Sometimes people tell me I’m so lucky to find so much information and so many ancestors, when they just keep hitting brick walls in their research.

Well, it isn’t ‘luck’! It’s hard work, it’s looking sideways, going down dead ends and spending loads of time on websites, social media sites and in the library.

A few years ago I took a foundation degree at Sussex University and one of the things I learnt about studying was to be sure to track the trail that led you to your findings. So you can easily show ‘this is how I got there’.

So, I gradually learnt to put on paper the trail I followed. To use language that can be easily understood. And it occurred to me that maybe it might be helpful to me, and to you, if I did that here. If I blogged more often about was I am doing!

At the moment I am caught in a whirl of different surnames and families. Sometimes nothing happens, and at other times, such as these, too much happens on too many fronts. So I find myself juggling with Dinnis/Cleeve/Cockett/Howells families with many of them making contact on email or ancestry. I’m a creative writer, an artist, not a logical information processor. My brain gets tired easily!

I have just posted a blog about photographs, and how you can date old photos by hairstyle, dress and pose. I have just begun looking more closely at my paternal grandfathers family photos showing the three sons in WWI uniform. I have realised that by scanning and then zooming in, it might be possible to focus on the uniforms to trace which regiment they were with. Here is the photo I am using, and I will post more as I find more information.

George John Dinnis, front, Harry Leonard Percy Dinnis, standing left, Joseph Taylor Dinnis (my grandfather) standing right.

George John Dinnis, front, Harry Leonard Percy Dinnis, standing left, Joseph Taylor Dinnis (my grandfather) standing right.



Yesterday’s Selfies

These days if you’re on social media it can’t have escaped your notice that a lot of photographs look the same, head and shoulders shot taken from the same angle, people wearing the same style of clothes with similar hairstyles. These are called selfies.

Back in the early 1900s there was also a certain unique style, and I have found a couple of examples of this. Looking through some family history magazines I found these photographs that almost perfectly match photographs I have of two of my grand-aunts (my paternal grandmother’s sisters).

Picture from My Heritage, family tree magazine

Picture from My Heritage, family tree magazine

Grace Cleeve 1918

Grace Cleeve 1918












This style of portrait was popular around 1914-17. Typically a plain tailored skirt was worn with a blouse.  Collars became an important feature.

Picture from Discover Your Ancestors, Issue 4

Picture from Discover Your Ancestors, Issue 4

Rose Cleeve 1913

Rose Cleeve 1913












This style of photograph was popular around 1904 – 1909. The date is based on hairstyle and flounced elbow length sleeves. Rose’s photo is dated 1913, so perhaps the design of sleeve had changed slightly and become slimmer fitting. Another similarity is the outdoor pose featuring a chair! The earlier pose choice is to stand alongside the chair, the later pose is a seated one.







A Wedding Anniversary

Today, 18th June is the anniversary of my parents marriage. They were married in 1949. Here are some photographs of their wedding day. The photograph of Gordon and Enid Dinnis looks to be taken outside the reception venue, which is stated on the wedding invitations as ‘Streets’ restaurant. They married at St Mary de Haura … Continue reading

My ancestors in the news – John Dinnis and a Bankruptcy in the Family

John Dinnis

John Dinnis

John Dinnis (my gg grandfather) appeared in The London Gazette in 1862. This information, which I found yesterday gives me a better insight into the family and why they may have moved from Brighton to London in the late 1860s. I still have a lot of digging to do, but for now here is the excerpt from the London Gazette along with an old image of John Dinnis.

The London Gazette 30 December 1862

The London Gazette
30 December 1862

Transcript of The London Gazette article, 30 December 1862

John Dinnis, of the Queen’s Head, Steine-street, Brighton, in the county of Sussex, Licensed Victualler, also holding the situation as Cook at the Albion Hotel, Brighton aforesaid, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in the County Court of Sussex, holden at Brighton, on the 22nd day of December, 1862, is hereby required to surrender himself to Mr. Ewen Evershed, Registrar of the said Court, at the first meeting of creditors to be held before the said Registrar, on the 14th day of January-next, at eleven o’clock in the fore*noon precisely, at the said “Court c The Registrar of the said Court is the. Official Assignee, and George Robert Goodman, of No. 73, .Ship-street, Brighton, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy.

This information was also recorded in the Edinburgh Gazette on 2 January 1863.

Having found the entry in the London Gazette I was keen to make sure it was ‘my’ John Dinnis they were writing about. It mentions that he was ‘of the Queens Head, Steine Street, Brighton’ and I know John Dinnis was there at that time because of the 1861 England Census. He was the Cook and Publican.

Also the street directories have told me that in 1859 and 1862 J. Dinnis resided at the Queens Head in Steine Street (Folthorps Directories found on

What I didn’t know, and was surprised to read was that John Dinnis was also ‘holding the situation as Cook at the Albion Hotel, Brighton’. This hotel, now known as the Royal Albion Hotel is still here in Brighton, just around the corner from Steine Street and very close to The Old Ship Hotel, where we know John lived and worked as Cook and Publican from around 1851 to at least July 1856.

I feel very sad that John and his family went through the harrowing experience of bankruptcy and will try to find more about what that actually meant for them at that time.

On a more positive note I am delighted to know my ancestors were so much a part of Brighton’s history and it’s beach holiday heritage. I always wondered just why I feel so embedded in Brighton’s culture, and now I know.




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