UNNAMED NO MORE: Marge Shelley was identified after David Owens' mission.
UNNAMED NO MORE: Marge Shelley was identified after David Owens' mission. State Library of Queensland

The mystery behind the lost faces of Warwick

WHEN David Owens first began his hunt to reunite the lost faces of Warwick's history with their families, what he didn't know was that he would also end up uncovering his own family's past.

Spurred by the story of a relative who lost his life in WWI, Mr Owens had always been interested in reuniting unknown soldiers to their families.

Tracking down photos from Ebay and private collections, Mr Owens would post them onto historical Facebook pages, in the hopes they could be identified by family members who were searching, and then finally laid to rest with the National Archives in Canberra.

But in flicking through a random collection of glass-plate negatives from the State Library of Queensland recently, he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a familiar face.

"I nearly fell off my chair. Streuth that's Grandma Ryan!,” Mr Owens said.

In between photos of soldiers, Mr Owens found never-before-seen images of his great-great-grandmother Ellen Ryan.

"I became convinced it wasn't actually her but I got some relatives together and it was. I got really interested then,” he said.

With a helping hand from the Facebook page, Warwick - Pictures from the Past and admin Nicki Elswyk, Mr Owens put out a call to see if anyone in the town knew the unnamed faces and responses flooded in.

"Mum is the second last one. I have a matching photo. Some of the others have familiar faces,” Lester Mundey commented.

"If only these photos could talk. I look at them and wonder...who they are, what are their stories,” Brenda Sloan said.

Mr Owens was also able to track down Bill Haig's daughter, the owner of the Warwick photography store where the negatives came from.

"She was quite amazed that they could belong to the family and that she hadn't even seen them before,” he said.

He was also able to give her a copy of a photo of her dad and uncle outside the store that had never been developed.

For Mr Owens, it was this ability to place the images back into the hands of those who could treasure them most that kept him going.

"They're such magnificent photos, so clear and so crisp. The most beautiful photos I've ever seen despite being black and white,” he said.

"Back then, it was such an expensive thing that was only done for important occasions,” he said.

"I get a great deal of enjoyment getting to pass those family keepsakes onto their families.”

To find Mr Owens' continuing quest to name these lost Warwick residents, check out Warwick - Pictures from the Past or our photo gallery below.



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