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.