Photos of family members in India late 1800's

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Photos of family members in India late 1800's

Postby surfkitten » 18 Feb 2015 21:20

Hello. Hopefully I am posting in the right location! I recently inherited a photo album with photos of members of my family in India. I hope there are some experts here who may be able to help me identify the uniforms they are wearing and give me some historical context as to what they may have been doing.

The photo of a single man I am posting is a man called Roderick MacKay - born in 1861 in Inverness Scotland. I have a death record for him in Sewree Bombay India on 14 June 1897 and buried on the 15th. I wonder if he would have succumbed to bubonic plague that was a problem at the time? Is there anything you can tell me about his uniform or give me any sources to search for more information about him?

The other photo of three men is the Powell family. I believe this to be Francis Powell and his sons Frank and George Powell. I have one birth record for one of the sons in Deesa Bombay in 23 Sept 1856 but that is about all I have. Francis Powell married Roderick's sister Annie Ross MacKay in 1881 in Bombay. Again I am interested in their uniforms and what sources I can use to find out more about them.

Thanks very much for any help! Cheers!
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Roderick MacKay
b0e77141-6212-4ad2-b0a8-73e191150a6f.jpg (40.34 KiB) Viewed 560 times
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Re: Photos of family members in India late 1800's

Postby Maureene » 18 Feb 2015 23:44

The following records are from findmypast
Burials at Sewree Cemetery, [Bombay]
First name(s) Roderick
Last name MacKay
Birth year 1861
Death date 14 Jun 1897
Death year 1897
Age 36
Burial date 15 Jun 1897
Place Sewree
Presidency Bombay
Archive Reference N-3-77
Folio -
Page 8
Information from the image:
Groom’s occupation: Ex Foreman Bombay Fire Brigade
Cause of death: Congestion of the Liver.
Foot Note [in small writing which appears to say] Church of Scotland records

Marriages registered at St Andrew’s Church , Bombay
First name(s) Frank
Last name Powell
Marriage year 1881
Marriage date 17 Jan 1881
Spouse's first name Annie Ross
Spouse's last name Mackay
Place Bombay
Presidency Bombay
Groom's age 24
Bride's age 21
Groom's father's first name George
Groom's father's last name Powell
Bride's father's first name Fergus
Bride's father's last name Mackay
Catalogue description Parish register transcripts from the Presidency of Bombay, 1709-1948, :
Archive reference N-3-55
Folio number 61
Information from the image:
Groom’s Occupation: G I P R Coy’s Service; Residence: Sholapore

See the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Great Indian Peninsula Railway ... la_Railway
There was an associated Volunteer Regiment, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Regiment, earlier called the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Volunteer Corps ... y_Regiment

I note the photograph for the three men says Dalhousie and Meerut. These are cantonments in the Bengal Presidency, whereas the church records are from Bombay, a different Presidency, which perhaps suggests the three men may be a different group of men.

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Re: Photos of family members in India late 1800's

Postby jf42 » 18 Feb 2015 23:59

Hello, surf kitten.

The dates from your family records are intriguing because the mixture of styles seen in the tropical helmets on the ground in front of the three men in khaki appear to date the picture to around the turn of the 19th into the 20th century.

The two helmets flanking the central one were an obsolescent model that had been in service since the 1870s and which was being superceded by the one in the middle.You can see that it is sitting flat on the ground while the other two have a lower edge that is curved. The distinction is subtle but useful. The central model, known as the 'Wolsleley', began to appear around 1898 but almost exclusively for officers as far as I am aware. There may have been earlier prototype models but it would be unusual to find them worn by men other than officers before 1900 or perhaps even later. My understanding is that the collar and pocket detail on the khaki frocks (that is, jackets) mean they couldn't be much later than about 1903

The slightly blurred insignia on a square of cloth at the side of each helmet looks to be the image of a galloping horse. This is the White Horse of Hanover, a fairly common military insignia in the 18th century, but less so in the late C19th. My guess would be that it is the regimental badge of the West Yorkshire Regiment, who had the White Horse of Hanover as the central emblem in their regimental badge. The 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment had arrived in India from Singapore in 1897 although they appear to have been based in the Punjab in what is now Pakistan which would not correspond to the photograph being taken in Meerut, now in the state of Uttar Pradesh, about 70 km north of New Delhi or in the hill station of Dalhousie, far to the north on the border with Kashmir.

Another option would be the 4th Kings Own Hussars, who also had a galloping White Horse of Hanover as their badge. They were in India at Lucknow from 1898-1900. I have to say that these don't look like cavalrymen to me but as Lucknow is a much better bet in terms of the Gillmore and Carter Studio, maybe that is what they are.

Other members will, I am sure, be able to fine-tune these observations and either confirm my estimate of the date or correct it, so let's see. I have to say that, on the face of it, although I suppose one of those men could have been born in 1856, making him a fairly young looking 44 year-old in 1900, I don't think there is anyone in that picture old enough to have fathered a 44-year old.

As for Roderick MacKay, that isn't a military uniform. My guess, from the helmet and the boots, is that he is wearing a fireman's uniform but others may know more.
Last edited by jf42 on 22 Feb 2015 10:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Photos of family members in India late 1800's

Postby surfkitten » 19 Feb 2015 01:03

Thanks so very much! I have rescanned to try and give a closer look at the hats and the uniforms....
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Re: Photos of family members in India late 1800's

Postby surfkitten » 19 Feb 2015 01:05

And here is a closer view of the uniforms.....I am really not sure but I am hypothesizing that the father(Francis Powell) is far right and the two boys are left and center (possible George Powell). I am really having trouble identifying this group of men.

Thanks's also highly possible that these are just friends of my relative. I thought I had George Powell in the center (I have other photos of George and it sure looks like him) but I am also starting to wonder if it's not another relative by the name of Thomas Thomson from Edinburgh on the far left with his two sons. Such a mystery!
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