Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

I have of course been meaning to write this post for some time, but when I finally got around to digging in all my photo tins I simply could not find the photo I was looking for. Surrendering to the hopelessness of trying to find one photo in a sea of photos I put it to the back of my mind for another day. It wasn’t until last night when I was at my Mum and Dad’s house that I spotted a large envelope which I knew contained information about my Barratt ancestors. Revelling in the task of rummaging it didn’t take long before I spied it, a nondescript envelope with a description of its contents written by my Grandpa. Inside, just where it had always been, was the photo of the woman behind the mantel.

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As you can see the photo itself isn’t actually of a woman standing behind a mantel but it’s the name I’ve given the photo simply because it was found behind the mantelpiece at 62 Wasley Street in North Perth.  My family has had a very long-standing association with this house. It was bought in the 1920s by my Great Grandfather when my Grandpa was only a baby and remained in the family until it was sold early last year after my Grandpa’s death in 2011. Unfortunately Grandpa provided no date of when the photograph was discovered and only stated that it was found behind the mantelpiece during renovations.

Unable to resist a good mystery, I decided to do some digging.

The photo itself provides few clues. The woman looks to be in her 20s. The photo is labelled ‘Stewart & Co. Melbourne’ so we can assume the woman is perhaps from Victoria or at least lived there at some point in her life. After searching through the State Library of Victoria’s catalogue I found similarly labelled photos and can conclude that the photo may have been taken in the 1870s or 1880s. This time period also fits with the woman’s style of dress and the way she’s wearing her hair.

First question: why was the photo behind the mantelpiece? My overactive imagination immediately jumped to the conclusion that perhaps the photo was hidden by the original owner for some secretive reason. The more logical part of my mind however theorised that the photo may have been simply sitting on the mantel and somehow fell behind it.

I then turned my attention to the next question: who was living at 62 Wasley Street before my family came to live there? After consulting the WA Post Office Directories I’ve found that Wasley Street does not show up until 1917. From 1917 to 1919, a Mr Henry Peisley lived in the house. Afterwards, from 1920 to 1921, a Mr Harold E Daw lived there. My Great Grandfather, Charles Victor Barratt isn’t listed in the directory until 1922.

These dates fit the following advertisement placed in The West Australian in 1918.

Capture

One can assume that it was Henry Peisley who was selling everything and moving. The fact that he’s moving to the East also makes me wonder if perhaps he had relatives over there. Could this woman be someone that he or one his family members knew?

Despite the few bits and pieces associated with both the photo and the house I don’t actually have any idea whether the photo belonged to one of the above gentlemen or their family or to someone completely different. Unfortunately the chance of me ever finding out the name of the woman, her story and how or why her photo came to be behind the mantelpiece is slim. For now she’s nameless but I send her image out into the world in the hope that there’ll be a bit of luck and someone who knows her will come across the photo and recognise her. If you’re reading this and that person is you, please leave a comment. There’s nothing I love more than a photo with a name.

Sources:

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