We are about a third of the way through the nearly 5000 images that record some of the citizens of Bendigo and surrounds, over the 40 year period of the operation of Vincent Kelly’s photographic studio.

Most have names written on the glass plate negatives. Using family history resources and research skills, we have been able to locate some of the subjects in or around Bendigo and district.

We do come across those where we can’t decipher the names, or we can but the subjects seem to be near unfindable – anywhere, let alone in Bendigo. Or, it is impossible to sift definite – or even possible – identities from our search results, without a confirming image elsewhere. Trove (of course!) can be helpful here, as can the public family trees available through Ancestry Library Edition.

I have included a few of these mysteries below – let us know if any of the names or faces resonate with you!

These images are both labelled Davies – are they related?

Or, as in the case of the Everett family, we can find Everetts in Bendigo, but are unable to identify these specific people. The below photograph, especially the demeanour of the older woman, suggests bereavement, with the young boy, pen in pocket, ready to take on administrative tasks for the family.

photographic portrait of a woman with 3 children, a family grouping. Woman wearing black and one girl in a white dress with a sailor typecollar, the boy in a jacket with a pen in the top pocket, the girl in a white dress with a square neckline.
Studio portrait of a mother with three children, two girls and a boy, surname possibly Everett, ca. 1920-1930, H2018.319/91

The next image is inscribed Zavetchanos – we think – but have been unable to link the name with Bendigo, at this time. The rocking horse has featured in many of the portraits of young children.
young woman with a bobbed haircut, next to a young child on a rocking horse.
Studio portrait of a young woman and child, family name possibly Zavetchanos, ca. 1910-1915, H2018.319/125

This is a gem of a photograph. Disappointingly, an illegible name makes any next steps to identify the members of what looks like a family grouping challenging.

photographic portrait of  6 people 3 adults and 3 children holding musical instruments
Studio portrait of a group of six people holding instruments, family name possibly Gard,
ca. 1915-1930, H2019.83/69

Another family grouping, unnamed on the glass negative. We can see the ghost of a parent on the left, waving a teddy bear to entice compliance from the youngest member of the group.

photographic portrait of 4 children arranged in height order, facing side on to the camera, hands on the person before shoulders.

Studio portrait of four unidentified children, standing in a row, ca. 1920-1940, H2018.15/30

There are many pictures of soldiers, prior to departure, sometimes solitary or with loved ones. Fortunately we have been able to identify most, and connect them with their military record. For these images though – one labelled (as far as we can decipher) Gisler, the other Osler – identities remain elusive. Suggestions are welcome!

Unusually, this photograph was taken outdoors, not in the studio, and a few smiles too, unusual in the studio portraits.

Four unidentified women in outdoor setting, ca. 1920-1930, H2018.15/167

These two portraits, possibly recording significant moments – on the left, the subject wearing a smart outfit, with a strand of pearls and the other, a stunning hat.

The collection includes multi-generational portraits – such as this pair, perhaps marking first birthdays of the youngest in the family.

Throughout the archive are photographs of children dressed up in costume for pantomimes or community events, even with a name on the negative – what next?!

photographic portrait of 5 young children dressed in white carrying bouquets of flowers, one girl in the centre wearing a crown
Studio portrait of five unidentified girls, in costumes, possibly for an Easter parade or Children of Mary, ca. 1920-1930, H2018.15/245

As you can see from this short survey of the collection, the portraits capture many moods – a trip to the studios of Vincent Kelly marked a variety of occasions, both celebratory and sombre.

We’d love to hear from you if you recognise any of these people. If you have family connections to the Bendigo area, try searching for the family name on our catalogue, adding in the terms ‘Kelly Rosenberg’, to see if someone you know visited Vincent Kelly’s Photographic Studio.

More to explore

The tasks that deliver these beautiful and evocative images to your screen involves skilled contributions from staff across the library – you can read and view more about that work here:

Various authors, ‘Vincent Kelly photographic studio, Bendigo: opening up a collection of early 20th-century photographs’, 2020, The La Trobe Journal, No. 104 March, pp 48-62, viewed 9th August 2023, <https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/stories/la-trobe-journal/la-trobe-journal-no-104-march-2020>

Ask a Librarian: Vincent Kelly and the people of Bendigo, video, State Library Victoria, viewed 9th August 2023, <https://youtu.be/nHxsxU8Kc2M>

This article has 51 comments

  1. Hello Jane,

    Such a fascinating collection of photographs!

    I’ve been doing some sleuthing through Trove trying to find out about the family of musicians. It’s been difficult, but I believe I’ve come across one answer. There was a touring group of performers who were active in the time period specified called the ‘Gibson Pantomime Company’. While I cannot find out the names of the individual members (I’m still looking), I’ve reasoned the family might be part of this company based on the collection of instruments which closely matches the instruments mentioned in this advertisement in the Clunes Guardian newspaper (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119488636). Regarding the instruments themselves, one of them has been misnamed. The brass instrument that looks like a French Horn is actually an old instrument called a Mellophone which is a cross between a trumpet and a French Horn. It enabled brass musicians who played a trumpet or cornet to play an instrument that sounded like a French Horn.

    I hope this helps.

    • Hello Jeremy – thank you for reading the post – it is the most wonderful collection, and we are so fortunate to have it at the Library. Thank you too, for the tips regarding the Gibson Pantomime Company – certainly worth exploring further!

  2. May I echo Jeremy’s enthusiastic support for your collection? This is both amazing and enthralling. When I saw the image of what seemed to be a family of musicians, based on the spread of the apparent ages and the familiarity that they evidently had with the instruments, (based on the way that each held an instrument), my first thought was to look for a family group of performers in the social or event pages of local newspapers of the time. I believe Jeremy is on the money with his suggestion.

    I am originally from the Bendigo area with quite a number of contacts from the area from the late 1800’s so I can’t wait to view the collection in the hope that I may be able to assist.

  3. Oh Happy Days…so many Bendigo ancestors…so few likenesses!
    I can’t wait to investigate. Thanks for your great work.

    • Hello Genevieve – thank you – we are so pleased to be able to share this collection, and hope that we are able to connect people with pictures of their family members.

  4. So wonderful that you can involve the public in your quest.
    Is it possible to submit the photos to ancestry.com.au to see if it matches anything?

    • Hello Julie – yes – with all our collections – it is wonderful to have public use and engagement with them – we do do use the Ancestry public family tree images, and they have been helpful.

  5. Also are you able to advertise or have a story printed in the Bendigo Advertiser?

    • Hello Julie – that is a good suggestion – we have in the past when we started work on the collection – but worth revisiting. Thankyou!

  6. Annie McEwen? Wife of prime minister John McEwan? She was educated in Bendigo?

  7. Maybe contact the Midland Express which publishes a Macedon Ranges edition local newspaper. They may be interested in doing an article – so many people gravitated to the goldfields in Victorian times, and many of their ancestors are still here in our small towns. They also print a Castlemaine version, which is even closer geographically, to Bendigo!

  8. Brian John Marshall

    Dear Jane
    The photos with the soldier plus women, compared to the one with just the two women looks like a family shot. Soldier off to war gets photo with mum and sister/wife and the other photo would be one he takes to war with him. The two women are wearing the same clothes in both shots

    • Hello Brian – thank you – yes we think so – it is the next steps that are challenging! We wondered too, if the women were nurses, or involved in the Red Cross from the badges.

      • I wondered that too and have just tried a quick search for nurses (no luck sorry).

        Would it be possible to see a scan of the hand writing to analyse ther Osler/Gisler names?

        • Hello Deb – someone else has replied saying they are of the Osler family, from Ballarat district – and that the family has the photograph too which is remarkable! Thanks for your interest.

          • The soldier has the Medic Trade Badge on his right sleeve, so a member of the Australian Army Medical Corps.

          • Hello Susan – now that we have a confirmed name – I’ll be able to follow that lead – thank you for your suggestion.

  9. Hello Jane I enjoyed reading your Article my Husband’s family history. In Bendigo goes back to to the 1860′ their Names are Addams and Holmes if there are any of those names we may be able to
    With Kind Regards Cheryl

  10. Hi, Re surname Gisler. Correct spelling will probably be Geisler. Ancestry records show lots with this surname all born in Bendigo.

    • Hello Lyn – thanks for your interest – yes we had found those Geislers, but not able to then definitively identify people – someone else on this post has identified the family as Osler, from Ballarat – the family has the same photograph!

  11. Jennifer Mary Osler

    Osler photo. This photo is of the daughters of William Osler. They lived in Ballarat, six children in the family. They are my husband’s great aunts. He has this photo & will be able to give you their names. Jenny Osler

    • Hello Jennifer – that is wonderful to hear! thanks for reading and passing on that information. They are beautiful photographs indeed, photo’s from this time are especially moving.

  12. What wonderful photos you have provided they really makes your imagination run wild! You mentioned that you share on Ancestry. Do you also share on My Heritage?
    Best Regards Jytte

    • Hello Jyette – thankyou for your interest – yes – researching the names and sometimes coming across more information on the people is a powerful thing. We don’t share on Ancestry, but have on occasions have found Vincent Kelly images there as well, or another photograph posted by a family member that we can use to corroborate or correct our research.

  13. Hi Jane,

    This is so fascinating. Could you please post some photos of the undecipherable handwritten names? This will help us research other options as well.

    • Hello Rosie – I’m so glad you found it so! the images in the catalogue have been reproduced in their entirety – including the names, we have cropped them slightly to include in these posts. We have found opening the images in phot-editing software allows you to change contrast, brightness and magnify, to aid in deciphering. I will get some together and post back here. Thankyou Rosie!

  14. Hi Jane, Thanks for alerting us to this fascinating collection. I have just come across one entitled “Studio portrait of a nun, family name possibly Dwyer.” I think the young women is more likely to be a nurse than a nun. Maybe her photo was taken before she left to serve in a nursing corps in the war? Could the title be changed from “Nun” to “Nurse” to enable her to be found by someone searching for a nurse. Thank you.

    • Hello Margaret – thank you for your interest and that suggestion too – we will follow up – and yes another avenue to pursue.

  15. I am wondering in the collection of the photos are there any from the Smith family 3 brothers died. they were Harold Ernest, Richard Godfrey and Walter Leslie.
    The other family I am interested in is Somerville.
    Ruth Le serve

    • Hello Ruth – thank you for you interest – there are quite a few portraits labelled Smith – none labelled Somerville, that we have been able to decipher to date – we are about a third the way through the collection, so there are many more names to discover.

  16. Hi Jane,
    Love the web site and the images there in. I have been hunting for family photo’s for quite some time, but have come up empty.
    The rocking horse pictures are of great interest as my Uncle was photographed on one such horse. Unfortunately the photo disappeared many years ago when his marriage broke down. (probably sold for the value of the dome glass frame).
    Is there a Vincent Kelly portrait with the rocking horse of a boy called Wallace Hilson?
    I have been looking but there is a few and the search does not bring up anything.
    I have quite a few portraits of family, hand coloured, one includes the instructions to the colourist.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Hello Julie – thank you for your interest, and it is such a wonderful collection to be working on. I have looked for the name Hilson, and nothing yet – we are about a third of the of the way through though, so still possible he may be included. The work done by people colouring photographs was remarkable – and to have the instructions as well, is such an insight into their work.

  17. In writing my tales about personal and family history, I have found photos to be a great source of information. In relation to this post, in addition to Vincent Kelly, I have been able to use photos produced by W.E. Robertson and Kevin White in Bendigo in the early years of the twentieth century.
    My background knowledge of Bendigo in those years makes me fairly certain that your photo, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/4168676, is not a Children of Mary group. The Children of Mary was a Sodality for young women older than those pictured. They dressed on a cloak of blue and wore a white veil. But you are correct in thinking there would be a likelihood of Kelly taking pictures associated with Irish Catholic events. It was an era when Queen Carnivals were popular fund raisers and a number of these were run by Catholic groups.
    On page 55 of my book, Castle 259, which is available at SLV, I have used a Kelly photo of the Queen of Erin princess group from the St Kilian’s 1916 Queen Carnival. Often, similar events were run as Junior Queen Carnivals. In my mind the crown in your photo may well be the key clue about the group we see.
    Ray Watson

    • Hello Ray – thankyou for that information about the Children of Mary, and agree – photographs are a wonderful resource. I will look at your book with interest. Many thanks!

  18. Hi Jane,
    I have done some research on the photo titled: “Studio portrait of two men, family name possibly Huckel.” Record ID 9938685093607636, and have identified the man standing as Robert William Frank Huckel. He is wearing an RSL badge.
    2843 Private Robert William Frank Huckel, a baker from Chewton. He was born in about 1891 and died in 1974. He served during WWII and there is a picture on his service record that looks similar (give about 20 years.) which is accessible through the National Archives of Australia.
    Not sure who the man sitting is.
    Regards, Dan

  19. Hi Jane, I just came across this article about The Children of Mary.

    The Children of Mary is an organization for young people between the ages of 7 and 18 who wish to consecrate themselves in a special way to Our Blessed Mother. The sign of membership is the Miraculous Medal worn on a broad blue ribbon.

    My Bendigo ancestors were O’Donnell, Frazer, Madden and Kelly.
    Mary Beaumont nee Kelly

    • Hello Mary – thank you for that information about the Children of Mary – having clues about medallions can be helpful for identification purposes. We have 2 images labelled O’Donnell, one Frazer, there are 6 portraits with the family name Kelly – but none – yet of Madden. Hopefully some of the above include your family members.

  20. Very sad to leave a photo of the soldier at the studio.

    • Hello Mary – yes these photographs of soldiers are so sad to contemplate – when tracing some of the soldiers and finding their military records after their return, it often was a very difficult life, after surviving the war itself.

  21. And a family of Osler’s in Stawell, Vic. records on National Archives.

    • Thank you Mary – I will investigate – the thing we try to do is connect the person to Bendigo, if we can’t are reluctant to confirm an ID, even with ‘possibly’ in front, without a corroborating photograph, in the time available too.

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