Hazel or Lillian? There Is No One To Ask

The cover peels back like a piece of warm taffy. It is well-used, well-loved, and continues to serve its purpose. I’m guessing my great grandma Orah put it together.

And, it is a goldmine. It is filled with faces, but very few dates or places are labelled. My father went through it before he died, added labels, best he could recall. Still, more questions remain. As the last Geier in our line, when dad died, so did the knowledge. The guesswork begins.

April 2016_photo album
Butterfield family album~1900s

Most of the pages inside look like this:

April 2016_page in album
About 1918 or 1919

Dad labelled those he knew, but what of the hundreds of loose photos? Bertha Butterfield (below center, and youngest of the four daughters) was a dead ringer for her mother, Orah (below, second from right). Regarding Bertha, it is hard to mess up that one.

Grandma and Hazel, the bookends, looked more like Elmer, their father, below.

April 2016_PIX_Butterfield_Elmer

I have few clues about the two pictures below. They were taken in Tacoma, WA, and I am certain the second little girl is Bertha. I am also assuming they were taken the same day, the same year (same photographer, same frame and format).

My question is: who is this first little girl? Is this Hazel or Lillian Butterfield? Bear with me, there were four daughters born in the following order: Lillian, Lalla, Hazel, and Bertha.

April 2016_young Hazel_

April 2-16_young Bertha

Here’s how I think I have figured out this one, tiny mystery. Hazel was born in 1902, in Minneapolis. Sometime thereafter, the family moved to Tacoma, WA, close to 1904 or 1905. Bertha was born in 1908, in Tacoma, and census records verify the family lived in Tacoma by 1910.

Here’s the catch. Look at this photo a bit closer:

April 2016_Elmer and girls on swing
Elmer and daughters Lalla (left), Hazel (center), Lillian (right)~ 1905, Minneapolis

Hazel, center, appears to be about three here. If that is true, grandma Lalla would be about seven, and Lillian would be 11. So far, so good.Β  Looking again at the photo of Bertha, I would say she was about four or five.

April 2-16_young Bertha
Bertha, about four or five, 1912 or 1913
April 2016_Lillian in rocking chair
Lillian~circa 1911 or 1912

If Bertha was four or five, and the year was 1911 or 1912, Lillian would have been gravely ill or close to passing away. She died in August of 1912 of tuberculosis at age 17. This is the last known photo of Lillian Butterfield.

My conclusion: the girl in the photo has to be Hazel. If the year was 1912 and Bertha was four, Hazel would have been eight. This girl looks to be about eight or nine.

April 2016_young Hazel_
Hazel Butterfield

Sometimes it’s hours and hours of perusing with no conclusions drawn. A particular challenge we face is that of the four girls, only my grandma had children. She only had one (my father). There is no one else to ask. My sister and I are the only remaining descendants.

Yet, I try to remain thankful for the photos themselves, try to gear up for this enormous challenge. The faces become more familiar the more I look. Heck, I was able to identify one woman by her teeth (those years in dentistry may yet pay off).

I’d love to know what you think. How do you identify people in your old photos?

Now, who’s got some good wine?

7 thoughts on “Hazel or Lillian? There Is No One To Ask

  • I wish you luck, I no longer have any old photos of my family, except one of my mum and her sister Joyce, when they were in their late teens/early 20’s. Sadly they’ve both passed. My aunt Joyce died in 1971, mum in 1985. I still miss my mum although the pain is still there it’s bearable now. Good luck in your quest, it won’t be easy but nothing worthwhile ever is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dave. You are so right about worthwhile. I have learned so much since I started a year ago (we have hundreds of letters, from two periods in time).

      I am saddened you have so few photos. We are very lucky in that in each generation, someone took it upon themselves to start that process.

      I just wrote a piece about losing my dad (it has been 10 years this month; the piece is Mud Pie Moments, and you are right again, the pain persists). I want my children to know who came before me, and my gift to them is my blog about our history. When I am long gone, I hope and pray they are interested enough to read it all. Thanks for the kind comments and the follow as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I think your reasoning makes sense, but I find it hard to judge the ages of children in these old pictures. (I had similar questions about the photo in my last post, but no one took the bait!). I think the children may be younger than your estimates, especially your estimates for the three on the swing. But I am not sure that that affects your ultimate conclusion. I love these puzzles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is difficult to know for sure. I based my reasoning and conclusion on Hazel herself, the middle girl on the swing. What I did not discuss, though, was her size. As a full grown woman, Hazel stood 4′ 10″, and weighed 110. Throughout her life, appeared younger than her actual age. Not only that, one leg was shorter than the other and her entire life, she walked with a significant limp. As a two year old, I doubt they would have left her on that swing, but as a three year old, more likely, given that neither sister was supporting her while all three were seated. Not overly secure for a young child. But, you’re right, if I’ve missed the actual ages, even by a year, the conclusion is the same. I’ll have to go back and read your last post about your photo. Also, mom gave me a tiny tin type she found recently and, you guessed it, I now have another mystery to solve. Thank God I’ve retired. πŸ™‚


  • I love how you are able to use all the dates and birth years to figure things out. Smart. It’s sad about Lillian. That that was her last picture and that she passed at 17. I wonder how different your grandma’s life would have been if Lillian hadn’t gotten tuberculosis.

    I love looking at your photos. ❀️


    • Yes, I agree that Lillian’s death impacted the family in ways I’ll never fully understand. I wish grandma and her sisters Hazel and Bertha would have talked more about her. Then again, I was 19 when grandma died, and probably had little if any interest in family history at that time. Sad on many levels. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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