The Group Photograph

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As of 4th November 2007, I have started writing the book of this project. Over the last few years, I have found so many reasons for not doing this, but I have now realised that I will not achieve closure until the book is written. It is going to take a while to do - I've got enough material to make a book several feet thick and it is going to be difficult to pick what goes in given that people have to got to be able to lift it to read it. Whether it conforms to the following plan (written several years' ago) remains to be seen...

The longer that I follow the amazing path that this research has taken me, the more that I realise that the story of my search must be an important part of the book that I produce. That said, the core of this book will consist of three main parts:

  1. A biography of each man in the group photograph.
    This will give as much of a general flavour of his life as possible. Within this I would include: his family background (general lineage, parents and siblings), his education, his war service, his work, his recreation, his immediate family life, his witnessing of historical events, and his personal characteristics. Also included will be very general biographies of his direct descendants, to give an idea of how many children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, etc, he had, and how they have spent their lives.

  2. A visual chronology.
    For each year since 1864 (when my great-grandfather was the first member of the photograph to be born), there will be a page giving a pictorial represention of the life-state of each member of the photograph and their direct descendants. In addition, each year will be put in context by including historical markers (contemporary photographs, events, ideas, inventions, etc). This group photograph was less than a second in the lives of these men, but for some of them it may be one of the few things that is left to view them by (and even the shortest-lived of them was alive for something like 594,928,800 seconds) - my aim is to show a somewhat bigger picture of their existence. In order to produce the visual chronology, I need to collect the birth, marriage (and divorce), and death dates for all the men and their direct descendants, as well as all their spouses.

  3. An analysis of all the detailed information about the families.
    I am interested in looking for connections between these men and their various families. The men in the photograph shared a lot - what do their families share now? How many things do I encounter in the living of my life that are connected to me by this photograph? With these things in mind, I need to collect as many details as possible about each of the men in the photograph and their families (particularly concentrating on their direct descendants - I’ve got to narrow things down somehow!). This includes:

    • times and places that they have been in;

    • events involved in or witnessed;

    • details of education, work, hobbies, interests;

    • details of creations, or publications, appearances in the media (e.g. newspapers, TV, radio, film) that others may have come across. (For example, in January 1998 I was watching the Time Team’s programme on Channel 4 about Richmond Palace, when who should appear as an historical adviser but John Cloake (son of Cecil Stedman Cloake), who I had only met a few weeks previously.)

    ( NOTE: I am very aware of the need to protect the people’s privacy, so I will NOT be publishing the exact details of living people. Detailed family trees, addresses, etc., will be in my private collection – what will be published are general biographies, and results of my study of the group as a whole (i.e. trends and connections). I will of course comply with any specific requests not to publish particular material.)

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