Tuesday, June 12, 2018

More Choices

Remember how the popularity of the name Hazel leaped from the decade of the 1880s to that of the 1890s? Now that we're circling the possibility of a Hazel born in the 1890s, we're talking about a young girl who had at least twenty thousand fellow cherubs born in that decade bearing the same name. Yep. Twenty thousand Hazels in the United States born in the 1890s.

That does not make our task any easier, in seeking to return to her family the abandoned photograph of Hazel from the Finch photography studio in Aberdeen, Washington.

Furthermore, despite finding a potential candidate for our Hazel yesterday, that result came to us, provided we limited our search only to residents of Aberdeen, itself, in the 1900 census. What if Hazel's family didn't live in the city, but traveled into town from a more rural part of the county to have her picture taken?

The trouble with searching for Hazels outside the city limits of Aberdeen is that, at that time, the county name was Chehalis, not Grays Harbor as it is today. Despite that fact, it is not possible to simply do a search on Ancestry for Hazels living in 1900 within the county of Chehalis. For some reason, that fact does not resonate with Ancestry's search engine. So, for instance, while I can call up a manageable number of results if I isolate the terms to Aberdeen specifically, if I broaden the search to include all of Chehalis county, the search mechanism somehow is stymied, giving me everything from a few Chehalis residents peppered in with thousands of others from all parts of Washington state and other states, too.

I eyeballed my way through fifteen pages of search results, and the end result was that it confirmed my hunch that there could be a lot more candidates for our Hazel. Even if we narrowed the margin of dates for her birth to, say, 1892 through 1896.

Beside the Hazel we found with the Owen family from Oregon, there were, for instance, the Hazels living in nearby Elma, Washington. Never mind that, at the turn of the century, Elma was a bustling metropolis of just under nine hundred peopleit still managed to have not one, but three Hazels within our targeted age range: Hazel Preston, Hazel Thayer, and Hazel Clark.

But Elma wasn't the only town in the show. Take nearby Porter, Washington, home of five year old Hazel McPherson. Or seven year old Hazel Coghlan in Montesano. Or even three year old Hazel Dailey in Satsop. Besides, in rival Cosmopolis, we had Hazel Cole.

With the exception of Hazel Clark, who was an only child until the arrival of her baby sister in 1899, all the other Hazels had multiple siblings. Somehow, I just don't see a three year old in such a carefully-kept outfit surviving a rough and tumble ride into town with a mother who was distracted with the task of keeping multiple children's appearances pristine for the photographer.

However, there was one other possibility. In Hoquiam, the town which was situated cheek-and-jowl with Aberdeen, there was another Hazel. This Hazel was, by 1900, aged six, and was the only child of her parents, William and Mollie Dawson. Mollie had come from Canada as a child, and her husband, William, was originally from Ohio.

What makes this couple doubly interesting is that William Dawson served as "city street commissioner," according to the 1900 census, an occupation setting him apart from the loggers, mill wrights and railroad workers who were the dads of the other Hazels. Other than for Hazel Coghlan, whose father was editor of a local newspaper, in the more rural settings in Chehalis County, it seems less plausible that any other young girl's perfect attire would have presented as well as our Hazel's, if only by reason of both the distance required to travel to the Aberdeen studio and social status of the families enabling them to dress their child in such a beautiful, well-kept outfit.

Above: Excerpt from the 1900 U.S. Census for Holquiam in Chehalis County, Washington, showing the household of William and Mollie Dawson; courtesy Ancestry.com. 


  1. I love following your research on this photograph! Your thoughts on Hazel being an only child and perhaps the daughter of a family in more comfortable circumstances make sense to me. I recently picked up a couple of photographs at an antique shop in South Dakota, and will share about them soon!

    1. I can't wait to hear about the photos you found in South Dakota, Melanie! I'll keep an eye on your blog for the stories.

  2. Cole or Dawson seem good choices...will you ever know for sure? At lease all their names are out there incase someone is searching:)

    1. I'm a firm believer in writing to benefit the search engines out there, trawling through all this genealogy content, Far Side. Yep, added all those names in there, just in case someone comes searching.

      That may turn out to be the only way we find out just who this Hazel really is. I'm sure you've experienced that yourself, in your Forgotten Old Photos blog, too. Waiting is hard to do, but worth it, if Google can deliver the answer to our doorstep through a successful search for a name.


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