with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Where is Lorelle? Portland, Oregon

After dropping my father off at his home, after months of warmth and fun, he’s back in the rain and cold of Seattle. I slept for a few days (after weeks of not sleeping – and I mean weeks that add up to months), then packed my mother up in the little motor home and we are in Portland, Oregon.

The goal here in Portland was to do some genealogy research and then play. After driving the small motor home around for over an hour in downtown Portland, we finally found a parking spot, wedged into a high roofed parking garage. Amazing. Then we hiked up the hill to the County Courthouse where we struck out. Or so we thought.

I’m trying to track down information on Louella Pinder, my great grandmother, who is a big question mark. She supposedly didn’t marry my great grandfather, and he might not have even known he had a son. At the age of six, my grandfather and his half sister (6 months old) were abandoned in Portland by their mother, handed over to the Juvenal Courts and put in “children’s homes”, aka orphanages. Grandfather’s sister was rescued by her father after a couple years, but he was in the orphanage until he was about 13 or 14 years old when his father finally found him and pulled him out.

Tracking children down in orphanages and adoption agencies is very difficult. I called around and did some Internet searching and found that all children’s homes and charities run by the Catholics in Oregon were consolidated under the Catholic Charities in Portland. A few phone calls found an incredibly helpful woman who recruited some of her interns to dig through the “dungeon” of old files. She warned me that this was probably a dead end search as there are only two books of records from that time period still in known existence. Many got rid of their records, handed them over to other agencies, or who knows. One hundred years is a long time.

So I didn’t expect much, and didn’t expect to get a phone call early in the week from this wonderful woman telling me that she had found one line on a card about my grandfather. I was thrilled.

So we’ve come to Portland to get a copy of that one line record, saying when he was admitted, baptized, and released, and to hunt up his mother’s records.

The county courthouse was a bust. No mention of Louella Pinder or any of her surnames (she married a few times and through stories passed down, I learned she wasn’t very selective.), but there was a Lulu Parrett, and Parrett is one of her last surnames on record. The records in the courthouse were for a GUAR which my mother guessed was “guarantee”, like some kind of debt note, though I’m not sure. We were only guessing so I decided not to get those records.

We then did a little shopping to justify the $10 spent when our mission was over in 20 minutes. I haven’t been near a Nordstrom’s in years, so that was a treat. I love walking around downtowns, especially active and vibrant ones like Portland. It was fun to see all the people and I felt so at home with family people types, figures, clothings, fashions, and attitudes.

Then we pulled the motor home out of it’s costly parking spot and headed to the Department of Human Services and Vital Records. I filled in the form for Louella Pinder and what came back after another $20 and another 20 minutes was the death certificate for Lula Parrett with the same last known address which I found in my grandfather’s 1925-26 log book from when he was on the USS Arizona, along with a note of the date of her death. After many decades of research, I finally found Louella. And more leads. And it looks like the County records of “Lula” may be the same. More clues!

Family stories told of her being born in Canada, so I’ve been hunting for Pinders in Canada. Yet, while she might have been born in Canada, where we have no clue, it says her father was born in England! I also found that Pinder isn’t her maiden name. I have her father’s last name but nothing on her mother. Another mystery to dig into. All those years spent looking for her in places she may have never been. Amazing what you can learn from a little bit of information.

Today we head to the Juvenal Courts and Catholic Charities to continue our research. I’ve tried finding the address for Louella Parrett in Portland on Cook Street from 1930, but I can’t find 1930 downtown Portland maps, nor does Google or Yahoo maps turn up a Cook Street. There is a NE Cook and N Cook but no straight Cook Street. I’ll have to dig into some archives at a library to find that information.

So the hunt goes on. After we do a little more research, I think my mother and I are going to head to the Painted Hills of Oregon to do some photography, then to the beach for some ocean smells and tidal pools, then make our way home to Seattle.

This has been a busy but amazing trip and I’m learning so much about my family history. But there is so much more to learn.


  • Corinna Tode
    Posted June 12, 2006 at 8:09 | Permalink

    I’m in the same boat! Trying to find East 13th street. All there is SE 13th Ave., now. I’m looking for a 1930’s map for Portland City too. I’m also looking for children’s homes in the 1930’s too. My grandmother lived in Portland City in the 20’s and some 30’s, but was told she went to a foster home in Salem, OR. I remember telling my mother she grew up in Salem, OR. I’m trying to see were she lived in 1930 and figure out what Elementary school she went to. I think if East 13th St. changed to SE 13th Ave., then she went to Abernethy Elem. It was in operation in 1930. Then I’m going to check into Catholic Charities, (thanks for the suggestion)to see if I can find where she lived while she was in a foster home. And then maybe the High school and nursing school she attended.

  • Posted June 12, 2006 at 8:52 | Permalink

    I found a map of Portland in the 1930s at the Seattle National Archives. I’m still looking for an online resource for a decent map of then or before and I haven’t found one. Let me know if you succeed in finding one.

    And finding the other information. I hope the Catholic Charities will help locate your family members.

  • Karen Tomblin
    Posted July 27, 2006 at 0:49 | Permalink

    Hope I’m not too late to give you some help. The book “Portland Names and Neighborhoods” by Eugene Snyder pg 58 says anyone looking for an address in Portland from 1892-1933 needs to know that: All east side streets were labeled as “east” but if the same street name appeared on the west side it was given no “west” in the address. An address north of Ankeny St. was labeled “North” if it had no “North” you know it was south of Ankeny St. So here are some examples of the same street address in different parts of town.
    93 First Street (must be on the west side and south of Ankeny)
    93 First Street North (must be on the west side north of Ankeny)
    93 East First Street(must be east side of the river south of Ankeny)
    93 East First Street North (says it all).
    So the Old Portland streets haven’t really changed much from 1933 to the present.

  • Posted July 27, 2006 at 8:28 | Permalink

    Never too late. I’ll use this information to help find Cook Street.

    Do you know of any online site with maps of Portland from before 1930? I can’t find decent plat maps or anything of downtown Portland. It’s really frustrating.

    I did find a map of Portland in the 1920s at the Seattle Archives, but we’re not allowed to photocopy them. We have to have one of the staff do it. They gave me a couple of the copied pages which I glanced at as I was now into other research, and when I got home I found out that they’d copied the wrong parts of the map. I’m now in Alabama and stuck. So any suggestions would be helpful.

    Thank you!

  • Posted January 1, 2007 at 15:59 | Permalink

    I’m familiar with the N/NE Cook street because it’s in my neighborhood. For maps of Portland from the 30s, I’d take a look at the Oregon History Center the next time you’re in Portland. They can take photos of the maps. Also, if you can track down information on Portland’s Trolleys and Streetcars, you’ll likely find maps of various eras that might help.

    Also, check this resource out, the historical census browser at the University of Virginia. It has tons of information. The majority of documents there are photos or PDFs, so it’s not indexed but I found it to be fascinating reading (with no parking fees).

  • Posted January 9, 2007 at 1:34 | Permalink

    That’s the hard part of this search. It is not a north, northeast, or other direction for Cook Street. It is simply “Cook Street”.

    There is some thought that Cook Street went underwater during the floods and then was buried when the area was filled in along the downtown area. Hopefully, we’ll figure this all out soon.

    I’ve a trip planned to the Oregon History Center very soon so hopefully this information will be uncovered as part of my research.

    Thanks for the help.

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