The mysterious Lucille Johnson

As part of my New Year’s resolution to organize all of my family history materials, I’ve been going through and organizing boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous material I’ve been given over the years by family members to preserve.

This particular photo was one of two photo postcards that were mixed in with relatively recent photos from the 1980s and 1990s. I suppose that the person who gave them to me had a photo drawer and just put these much older photos in with everything else.

In any case, the photos were labeled by my grandmother, Harriet Eva (Askew) Prettyman and were apparently originally given to her mother, Gertrude (Scott) Askew. One of the photos was labeled “Loraine McCrea,” and as I have several photos of Loraine, I recognized her as Loraine. No mystery there.

Loraine McCrea

The other photo was identified (by Harriet) as “Lucille Johnson,” a name I had never encountered before. Furthermore, Harriet had noted that Lucille was a cousin of her mother Gert.

“Lucille Johnson”

I was grateful for her clarification of the identity of the person in the photo, as I might otherwise have thought this was supposed to be a photo of Gert (Scott) Askew as a young woman—even though it did not look much like her. I have only two photos of Gert as a young woman—one of which is below (Gert is the young woman and the little girl is her youngest sister Eva, who is 10 years younger than Gert).

Gert Scott and her little sister Eva Scott

I had no “Lucille Johnson” in my genealogical database. I’m pretty complete with my genealogical database, recording the names of cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and other family further from my direct lines because knowledge of these people can help me better understand the family lives of my ancestors. So did I miss someone, or is this person not actually Lucille Johnson? My grandmother has been known to make mistakes with the names of older family members that she never personally met, so I’m guessing that this person’s name isn’t exactly Lucille Johnson.

Who are the possible candidates for this woman? “Lucille” is indeed a family name in the Scott/Askew side of the family. In fact, Gert named her oldest daughter “Beulah Lucille Askew.” But from what I can tell, “Lucille” was a family name in her husband Clyde Askew’s family history, not her own. I haven’t yet found any blood relations of Gert’s named “Lucille” who were born before 1920 (when she gave her daughter the middle name Lucille).

What about “Johnson?” One of Gert’s maternal great-grandmothers was named Marion Johnson (1795–1873), but I haven’t yet been able to trace out her siblings (if any) and their families. If any of Marion’s brothers had sons who then had sons, their Johnson children would have been Gert’s third cousins. I doubt this is where this particular woman’s origins lay, as Marion (Johnson) McAllister was born in Scotland and immigrated to Hastings County, Ontario, Canada, at some point between 1833 (when her youngest child was born in Scotland) and 1851 (when she is found on the Canadian census). Since she migrated as a married woman with six children, it’s possible the rest of her family stayed back in Scotland. In any case, a third cousin is stretching the boundary of how broadly we could expect Gert to keep in touch with her extended family.

If Johnson wasn’t her cousin’s maiden name, it could be her married name. Which women in Gert’s family married a Johnson? As it turns out, there were two:

  • Lillian Lightfoot Helembrecht (1893–1961) was Gert’s first cousin. She married Chester Wyman Johnson in 1912.
  • Flora Belle Scott (1875–1960) was Gert’s first cousin once removed. She married John A. Johnson in 1893.

Because of the 18-year difference in these womens’ ages, knowing when this photo was taken could help us rule one or the other woman out. So when was the photo of “Lucille Johnson” taken? We have several clues. The first is the style of the photo postcard itself. The backs of both of these postcards are very similar:

Loraine McCrea looks to be about 3–5 years old on her postcard. She was born on June 14, 1915, so this means this photo was taken around 1918–1920.

In another post that involved dating a photo postcard, I determined that the “AZO” markings around the area for the stamp indicated that the postcard was printed on a specific type of paper—Kodak Professional AZO Paper, which was made between 1904 and 2005. The style of the stamp box changed over time (source 1source 2):

1904–19184 triangles, one in each corner, pointing up
1907–19094 diamonds, one in each corner
1918–19302 triangles pointing up and 2 triangles pointing down
1922–1926Empty corners
1926–1940s4 squares, one in each corner

The stamp box on this photo postcard has four triangles, all pointing up, so that provides strong evidence that this photo postcard was printed between 1904 and 1918.

Lillian Lightfoot (Helembrecht) Johnson would have been 7–25 years old depending on when between 1904 and 1918 this photo was taken, and Flora Belle (Scott) Johnson would been 29–43 years old during this same time period.

Given that the woman’s clothing looks like it dates to the early 1920s, I’m going to say this photo was taken at the later end of the 1904–1918 window (or even a bit later, if the photographer was working with older paper stock), we’re probably looking at an approximately 25-year-old Lillian Lightfoot (Helembrecht) Johnson versus an approximately 43-year-old Flora Belle (Scott) Johnson. In light of that, this is Lillian and not Flora.

Additionally, I imagine it’s more likely that my grandmother confused Lucille with Lillian instead of Flora.

Now that I have a candidate for the person in the photo, I found three photos of Lillian Lightfoot (Helembrecht) Johnson uploaded to Ancestry.com by Gloria A. Hill:

Lillian as a girl
Lillian in ca. 1911 (about 18 years old)
Lillian as an older woman
“Lucille Johnson,” whom I’ve tentatively identified as Lillian (Helembrecht) Johnson

If this is indeed a photo of Lillian taken around 1918, she would have been a married mother of three boys aged 5, 3, and 1 year old. She’s looking awfully composed for being the mother of three young boys! This may have been a girls’ day out for her, or some other form of mini-vacation.

So what do you think? Do you agree that “Lucille Johnson” is actually Lillian Johnson?

4 thoughts on “The mysterious Lucille Johnson

  1. I think you’ve nailed it Michael. If you compare the postcard pix to the young girl pix it’s easier to see the likeness, particularly the eyebrows and nose. The 18 yr old is smiling so it makes it harder to be sure.
    Since you found the older Lilian on Ancestry maybe the ‘tree’ owner can identify for sure.
    Good luck
    PS I’m loving the home movies.

    • Thanks, Linda! The nose, chin, and eyebrows did it for me (and maybe her dimples, too, but I may just be imagining those in the 1918 photo), but I wish her hair and hat didn’t so fashionably cover up her ears in the new photo!
      I’ve written to the woman who supplied the three identified photos of Lillian to see if she might have more, and if she might be able to confirm my identification of this new photo. I’ll put any updates here as I get them.
      Thanks for letting me know you’re enjoying the home movies, too! I’ve got about a dozen more that I’ll be posting as soon as I find the time.

    • I don’t think so for a couple of reasons. First, Lucille—Beulah Lucille (Askew) Fanson—never went by the name Johnson as far as I know. She was married only once, to Vern Fanson. Second, I’ve narrowed the date of the photo to 1904 to 1918 (probably to the later end of this range). As Lucille Askew was born in 1907, she would have been no older than 11 when this photo was taken, and the woman in the photo is a good decade older than that. I have photos of Lucille Askew, but nothing yet between ages 10 and 40.

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