One of the photos included in those I received from my Aunt Alma’s estate was this one – a formal portrait of an unknown family, taken in the first part of the twentieth century. I had no idea who the family was, so I studied the faces closely to see if I could spot any family resemblances.
I sent the photo off to relatives to see if they could recognize anyone, but no one could. I knew that you can’t always identify a photo right away, so from time to time I would review it and wonder, but move on.
Back when my Great Grandmother Becky was a teenager, she worked as a nanny to the influential and wealthy family of Howard Butcher, Jr. and his wife, the former Margaret Keen, daughter of William Williams Keen, the first brain surgeon in the United States. Family members recollected a bond stronger than that of just employer and employee, but more of a close friendship. Becky wasn’t the only family member that had worked for them, so had her mother and her sister Amelia. Amelia worked as their nanny when they traveled Europe, getting to see places like Florence, Rome, Rotterdam, London, and Luzerne – something not many average Philadelphia girls got to do in the early 1900s.
After Becky had married, had her daughter Alma and was pregnant with my grandfather Bill, she and her husband went through a bitter divorce. She reached out to Margaret Butcher, who helped her to find legal representation. After Becky moved with her children to California, she lost contact with the Butcher family.
Knowing that you can sometimes learn things by researching those associated with your family, I set out to discover a little more about this family. Margaret Keen had married Howard Butcher, Jr. and they had had children: Howard – 1901, Margaret – 1903, Dora – 1905, Mary Louisa ‘Polly’ – 1907, ‘Keen’ – about 1916, and Florence – about 1918.
I then found Passport Application records on Ancestry.com and downloaded those images. When I took a closer look at the passport application photo for Howard Butcher, Jr., he looked familiar. Where had I seen that photo before?!? Aha! I quickly pulled up both the formal family portrait and the passport application – and it was the same person! Examining the passport application photos for the other family members clinched the identification. I had identified all of the people in this photo.
Based upon these findings, I believe this family portrait can now be positively identified as that of family friends Howard Butcher, Jr. and his wife Margaret Keen Butcher and their children. Because of the other children included, the baby must be William W. ‘Keen’ Butcher, born about 1916, which also dates the photo.