This Victorian “Portrait and Autograph Birthday Book” belonged to Auntie’s close companion and cousin Elsie Fry. I know this because it is inscribed inside:
The inscription also solves a mystery for me: in my trawls through the archives I have come across several references to the Fry family home, Llwyn Derw, which I presumed to be in Wales (here‘s an example). This inscription, however, reads: “Elsie M. Fry, Llwyn Derw, Bournemouth, Feb. 20 1913”. On this date, there is a photograph of Elsie herself as a young woman:
The book, along with many friendship-related literary quotations, provides much useful information for tracing my ancestors. Photographs of Elsie’s family members appear alongside their signatures and dates of birth, which may help me to identify some of the faces in all those old photograph albums. There are several Horman Fishers and Frys featured (Elsie’s mother Margaret having been a Horman Fisher by birth), in fact on March 12th there is one of each, sharing a birthday:
J.S.H. Horman-Fisher, on 2nd December, looks familiar; I think he may well have been the gentleman whose oil portrait graced the walls of Derwen, and of our family home, throughout my childhood:
Some of the snapshots provide wonderful examples of period fashions, such as these 3 ladies in July:
Margaret J. Fry is, I think, Elsie’s mother. There are other families too, probably related: Ostles, Lurys, Ransoms (I was very excited to find an “Arthur Ransom” on February 2nd, until I realised that the spelling and date of birth mean that this is not the Arthur Ransome, of Swallows & Amazons fame!). And on 20th October, minus photograph but in familiar handwriting, is “Mary”: Mabel Zoe Watson. Auntie herself.
This birthday book, like my Mum’s, is a real treasure to have in the archives. I can envisage spending many hours absorbed in my research, cross-referencing these entries with all those ancient photographs and letters. Who knows what I will discover there…so watch this space!