Monday, June 11, 2018
Choosing the Right Hazel
Some tasks require a researcher to step back from that computer database and venture out into the real world to get answers. That, as it's turning out, is apparently going to be the case for our darling little Hazel from Aberdeen, Washington. All we have to go on, at this point, is her first name—and really, I'm not entirely sure the "compliments of Hazel" note on the reverse of that abandoned photograph refers to the subject of the portrait—and the studio where the picture was taken.
I was hoping I'd have access to the city directories for Aberdeen from prior years, but face it: directories for a city the size of tiny Aberdeen in 1900 wouldn't be the type of collection you'd find in most libraries. Except, maybe, Aberdeen.
So I reached out to the Aberdeen public library system and asked what their policy was on lookup requests from out of the area. I'm waiting for a reference librarian to get back to me with an answer on when the Finch photography studio was in business in their community.
But who needs to wait, when we have expert opinions offered right here on this blog by reliable sources? Just this weekend, my mentor "Far Side" from the blog, Forgotten Old Photos, chimed in the detail that Hazel had her picture taken at a studio which was in existence from sometime in the 1890s through about 1910. Far Side estimated that the style of Hazel's clothing seemed to be mid-1890s, and that she looked to be around three years of age, which means she might have been born around 1892.
Meanwhile, I'm puzzling over whether I'll need to search through census records in Aberdeen alone, or extend that search to the surrounding area. Apparently, in the early years, Aberdeen was not the only city in what was then Chehalis County. There were also two other towns which competed with Aberdeen for business: Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.
Hoquiam was not even incorporated until 1890, so it might be possible that a family could have lived in that area and made the short trip to Aberdeen for family pictures in the mid 1890s, for instance. And Cosmopolis, notwithstanding its grand name, was a "city" of barely one thousand people at the turn of the century. Chances may have been good that Hazel's family could have come from anywhere in Chehalis County, not just from Aberdeen, itself.
Still, taking a quick glance at the 1900 census, there was only one family in Aberdeen, itself, with a daughter of the possible age to have been young enough to match the look of the girl in the picture taken in the mid-1890s. That was the middle child in the family of F. M. and Ella Owen. That Hazel was about six years of age by the time of the census, and had been born in Oregon.
Since the family had just moved from Oregon to Washington within the past year, it would make sense that the Owen family would want to send photos of their little ones back to family in Oregon. However, that would mean that the photograph would have had to be taken around 1900, not earlier. But why wouldn't the Owen family have taken one picture with all the children, not just the middle child?
Something tells me I need to delve further into the possibilities here. Hazel Owen of Aberdeen, Washington, may not be my gal.