People in the Past

How do we know about people in the past and how they lived?

Modern technology has made it very easy for ordinary people to record their lives in pictures, but in the past this technology was not available. Photography was invented the 1800s, but it was a long time before ordinary people began to own cameras. Old photographs can tell us a lot about how people lived in the past, but we can also learn from old books, paintings, sculptures, letters, diaries, clothes, and other things that people who lived in the past owned.

George Washington Wilson was a famous photographer who was born near Banff in 1823. He worked in Aberdeen from the 1840s until he retired in 1880. He photographed many of Aberdeen's wealthiest families, as well as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He also took photographs that record what Aberdeen looked like at that time.

Sir Robert Williams was an Aberdonian engineer who worked in Africa. He was born in 1860. Aberdeen Art Gallery has a collection of his possessions. They tell us about his life in Africa.

Queen Victoria loved visiting Scotland. She had a home at Balmoral Castle, not far from Aberdeen. There she met the Brown family. Brothers John and Hugh Brown were both servants to the Queen. John Brown became a close friend of Queen Victoria. Aberdeen Art Gallery has a collection of photographs, letters and other things that record some of Queen Victoria's visits to Balmoral and tell us about her friendship with John Brown.

John Brown Photograph George Washington Wilson's Passport Queen Victoria Group Photograph

Timeline Links

Local History - People


You may have seen plaques on buildings that that tell you who lived or worked there in the past. Choose one and try to find out more about the person and what they did. Visit the Commemorative Plaques pages on the Aberdeen City Council website for more information.

Donald Dinnie was a world famous athlete and strong man. He was born near Aberdeen and lived in Victorian times. Look for Donald Dinnie in the timeline of people in the past. What does his belt tell you about him? How do you think he would compare to the sportsmen of today?

Look at this photograph taken by George Washington Wilson in 1860. Where was the picture taken? What things are different and what are the same? What does the picture tell you about life at that time compared to now?