Unsolved mysteries

One of our most frustrating genealogical mysteries is the identity of this woman. If possible, click on the photos to see a larger view. I first thought these are photos of the same person, and I’ll get to that soon.

My confusion stems from the fact that these very similar-looking women are identified differently or not at all, and, further, by people in the family who should know.

I suspected I was looking at photos of Orah’s mother, Helen Eliza White. All of these photos were found in the Butterfield collection. The photo that reads Sarah Butterfield was labeled by my father. I would think he would know, but maybe not. Look how closely “Sarah” resembles the two women labeled “Charley.” Yet, all three women closely resemble the fourth woman, the one in the long white robe.

Take a very close look. Do you notice that Sarah/Charley’s upper lip on her right side (left side in the photos) is turned up ever so slightly? A closer peek at the lady in white and you may think her lip turns upward in the same place. I do, which leads me to believe these photos are of the same woman.

If so, why would the writing say Charley when we know Orah’s mother was Helen? Alfred Josiah Smith, Helen’s husband (and author of the letters in my series Into Ironwood) always referred to his wife as Helen, never Charley.

Adding to my confusion is that the writing belongs to Lalla, Orah’s daughter, who would know to correctly label a photo of her grandma. (I’m very close to saying I’m positive of the writing–Lalla was my grandma and we wrote letters for years–but I must also consider that the writing may not belong to Lalla. The person who wrote on the back might be the grandchild of a different “grandma Smith.” If that’s the case, there are a few other possibilities, and a generation further back.

Then too, Lalla could have been wrong; maybe the woman she thinks was her grandma Smith was another woman. Helen died in 1902 when Lalla was four.

Helen had a sister whose name was Caroline; records show she sometimes went by Carrie. There were no women in the family named Charlene, Charlotte, or anything remotely similar. Other than Orah’s brother Charles who passed at age 22, I have no idea where “Charley” came from. Am I not looking back far enough?

smith_chart showing Lallas grandma SmithIt was pointed out that the woman on the left at top cannot be Helen (who died at the age of 47, and thank you, SP.) This likely eliminates Helen from one of the four above. I’m also fairly certain the woman on the right above isn’t Helen, either. What throws me is how similar “Sarah” looks to “Charley.”

I went on the hunt today and found a possible connection. Take a look at this:

These two women are labeled Sarah Butterfield, one by my father, left, and the other, by the folks at Ancestry. I’m not sure about you, but I see several similarities through the eyes, nose, and mouth. I’ll keep looking for photos of the Sarah on the right. Her given name was Sarah Knowles Reynolds, and she went by Sadie.

Below are the four Butterfield brothers. Back row from left, Carl, Oscar, and Elmer (my great grandfather), and center front, Orlo. Sarah was married to Oscar.

Butterfield brothers_bottom Orlo_left Carl_middle Oscar_right Elmer_photo taken in Michigan

For now, the jury is still out.

Please share your thoughts below, and thank you for reading. ❤

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