Photo comparisons in search of relationships.

Photo comparison is neither a science nor an assured way of confirming relatedness. We see what we want to see when comparing photographs in search of a likeness. But it’s fun to do all the same, with the appropriate caveats. Biological children can be the “spit” of their parents or it can be hard to find any resemblance. Children may look more like their aunts, uncle or grandparents until they grow into their features as adults. Different people will see very different things.

I wanted to create a “line-up” of the Stevenson brothers of Barrhill with some of their descendants at the same sort of age although this is proving hard to do. As yet I have not been able to track down a picture of Mabel Earley in any stage of her life. I seem to have become the default keeper of all of the family photos from the Stevenson side but there are very few. I suspect that with some digging I could find some photos of Mabel by contacting descendants of her second son, Willy Watson. That family lived in the tiny hamlet of Sorbie, Wigtownshire. This corner of south-west Scotland was home to weavers – damask weavers in this case – and the main street of the town consisted mainly of low single-storey weavers’ cottages. Many parts of the south west of Scotland seem to be like the land that time forgot – there is a sense of tranquillity and stability in the air, a contentedness with the way things are. The photographs of Sorbie “then and now” illustrate that to perfection – the main street has barely changed since 1890.

(The same row of houses in Sorbie main street, 1890 and today).

Yesterday at lunch our elderly relative handed over a packet of old photographs of the family (unfortunately none of Mabel). All of them were black and white. We paused over one, my husband’s father in the grammar school rugby team in his teens, and wondered what colour the rugby shirt might have been. “Uncle” Jim said he couldn’t remember, but remarked that everything looked better in black and white, and that some people around here still have black and white television sets. Jim does not have any internet, probably hasn’t used a computer ever and I doubt whether he has a cellphone. He is a happy 90 year-old , in reasonable health, still driving, going bowling (lawn bowls, not 10-pin) ¬†and enjoying a pint of Boddington’s Bitter now and again.

The photos were fabulous, a joy to have . There were several of my father-in-law as a young man, and a few of him as young as 7 or 8 in a boy scout troup. So from that I have been able to add another young face to the Barrhill Stevenson lineup. One of these faces was his grandfather and the other were great-uncles. Again, photo comparison is for fun and is pure speculation. But here they are.

The four Stevenson brothers of Barrhill – John, William, James, David.


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My father-in-law aged about 13, taken at school at Castle Douglas in Dumfriesshire – he is the grandson of one of the above.

And my husband and his brother, sons of the above, taken in “new-fangled colour”, also in Castle Douglas, around 1972?

Doug Bob cowboy crop 2