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Archived Articles
Formerly published by

Published 18 August 2011

Dating Edinburgh Photographs Taken by Professional Photographers 1839 - 1939
By Rick Roberts, Global Genealogy

The early years of professional photography represented a time in which photographers were the happy beneficiaries of a booming new business. Most were inundated with customers when they first set up shop in a new location. Eventually demand would level off, causing many photographers to seek greener pastures at a new location. These frequent moves makes it easier to place and date a photograph.

There is a free web site where you can find out where and when a specific photographer worked in Edinburgh.

Pinning down the time period that a photo was taken is much easier if you know where a particular photographer worked at a specific time. The process starts by looking for the photographer's imprint or the imprint of the photogarpher's studio that was usually stamped or engraved in the matting surrounding the photo. Most, if not all professional photographers, added their name to their work as a method of advertising.

An example of a photographer's imprint on a portrait that
was taken by Steinhaus Photography in Sheboygan, Wisconsin
[I didn't have an Edinburgh example]

If you have a photograph that was taken by a professional photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland between 1839 and 1939, look for the name of the photographer on the photograph, then go to and look up the photographer. The site lists photographers by name, and also by address.

The following entry is from the site. It is the listing for one professional photographer, a John Annan who worked in Edinburgh between 1869 and 1890.

Professional photographer John Annan operated from
six different locations during his 21 years in Edinburgh.

The second step is to use a map of Edinburgh to compare the photographer's addresses with your ancestor's address. It is probable, though not a sure thing, that your ancestor lived near the studio where they had their portrait taken. Knowing that will help you identify the date range when your ancestor sat for that photographer. Using the above example of photographer John Annan, if your ancestor lived near George Street in Edinburgh, there is a probablility that the photo was taken between 1882-85. The web site has a collection of detailed historic Edinburgh maps that can be used for this purpose.

Indentifying a photographer in Ontario and Western Canada:

Glen C. Phillips has compiled three books to help those seeking to identify when and where individual photographers worked in Ontario or Western Canada.

Browse the resources at
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