Can you help solve 100-year-old picture puzzle?

A painting by Dingwell Tate with, inset, a mystery lady. Could it be Jim's grandmother?
A painting by Dingwell Tate with, inset, a mystery lady. Could it be Jim's grandmother?
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A retired welder is hoping to piece bits of his Wearside family tree back together - with help from Echo readers.

Jim Tate’s ancestors hail from the city and include 19th century artist and photographer Dingwell Burn Tate, whose work can be found in Sunderland Museum.

Dingwell Tate.

Dingwell Tate.

But it is a woman who married into the Tate family - Sarah Rowntree, nee Smith - who is the focus of Jim’s attentions; as she was the grandmother he never knew.

“I’ve been given a photo by a cousin in London which I believe may show my grandmother, but I would really appreciate it if someone could confirm that information,” said Jim.

“Sarah was my paternal grandmother, but died long before I was born. I would love to treasure the photo as part of my family collection - but I really need to know if it is her.”

Sarah, the third child of tailor William Alexander Smith and his wife Helen, was born in Hudson Road, Middlesbrough, in 1894 and spent her early years in the town.

A painting by Dingwell Tate with, inset, a mystery lady. Could it be Jim's grandmother?

A painting by Dingwell Tate with, inset, a mystery lady. Could it be Jim's grandmother?

Her family had moved to Sunderland, however, by 1897 - as a fourth child, Lottie, was born at 20 George Street that year. Two more were born at the same house in 1900 and 1902.

“Sarah married her first husband, Frederick Rowntree, at Sunderland Parish Church in 1915. Frederick was a miner who was living at Magdelene Street, Durham, at the time,” said Jim.

“But he went off to fight in World War One as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and died in Italy in October 1918 - leaving my grandmother a widow at just 24.”

Sarah received a small pension following Frederick’s death but, after several years, she found love again - this time marrying James Osman Tate on October 25, 1921.

Mystery lady - could this be Jim's grandmother?

Mystery lady - could this be Jim's grandmother?

James, a son of Dingwell Tate, was living at the family home of 16 Foyle Street at the time the wedding - a terraced property which doubled as Dingwell’s photographic and art studio.

“My grandfather was a house painter” said Jim, who lives in Ireland. “Their first son, my father James William Tate, was born on March 18, 1922 at 12 Nile Street.

“Their second son, my uncle John Tate, was born the following April at 30 George Street - which was the house my grandmother had lived in before her first marriage to Frederick.”

Tragically, Sarah was to die at 30 George Street just three years later, in January 1926. Mystery surrounds what happened to her two sons between then and 1930.

Dingwell Tate.

Dingwell Tate.

“I suspect there was some sort of falling out, because my grandmother left her money to her father, rather than her family, in her will. Perhaps someone out there knows more,” said Jim.

“But what I would really like to know is what happened to my father and uncle following her death. Someone must have looked after them, as their father was out working.

“I can find absolutely no record of them until 1930, when they were taken in by Sarah’s younger sister Lottie. She was married and living at 50 Ripon Street, Roker, at the time.

“Perhaps they were put in an orphanage, I just don’t know. But I do know my grandfather remarried, while both boys stayed with Lottie until joining the army for World War Two.”

Jim’s father, James, remained with the army for some time after the war and, in July 1947, he married Hilda Adie. He later moved to Hull, where all three of his sons were born.

The Tate family, however, became rather fractured. While James remained in Hull, his brother John made his home in London. Jim only met his uncle “a couple of times”.

A painting of Littlegate, Bishopwearmouth, by Dingwell Tate and, inset, the artist himself.

A painting of Littlegate, Bishopwearmouth, by Dingwell Tate and, inset, the artist himself.

“My family weren’t at all close; in fact, they didn’t really seem to talk to each other. But I’m very interested in family history, and would love to put all the pieces together,” said Jim.

“There are a great many branches of the Tate/Smith/Rowntree families still in the Sunderland area and I’m hoping that someone, somewhere, will be able to fill me in with some details.”

* Jim can be contacted via email at tateman@eircom.net or by ringing 00-353-21-4646957.