Friday, September 23, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moment - Howell Family in Oregon

Several years ago I was helping a friend research her Howell family ancestors. One day she asked if I would go with her to the Howell family cemetery outside of Salem, Oregon. It was a lovely spring day and it took about an hour to drive to the location of the cemetery. The only problem was we could not find the cemetery. The information was that the cemetery was just down the road from the intersection of Silverton Road NE and Howell Prairie Road NE. This was before the use of GPS and the Internet in general.


First we drove north and then south on Howell Prairie Road, thinking the cemetery would be on the road that had been named by her ancestors. No sign whatsoever of a cemetery. We drove west on Silverton Road originally and now tried going east without any sighting of a cemetery. In the process we stopped several times to ask the local people, and no one had any idea. At the intersection of the two roads there was a school and a small market. Inquiries there brought no results. We even stopped the local mail carrier and he had no idea.

Finally we were ready to give up and we headed west on Silverton Road towards the freeway. We spent so much time trying to locate the cemetery and our time was growing short. She was driving and I was the co-pilot. Just as we rounded a bend in the road I glanced out the window and saw a small cemetery sign below the road sign. Could this possibly be it? We decided we had to go check it out and quickly pulled into a driveway to turn around.

The road looked more like the driveway to the house we passed. Then a quarter of a mile down the road we see the cemetery. It has a tall metal sign identifying it. We quickly park and split up to search for the family markers. Our search was richly rewarded with finding a beautiful marker honoring her great grandparents, John and Temperance Howell. There was one other marker for their son Wesley Howell.

In preparation for writing I explored for further information about the family and the cemetery. At findagrave.com I found the cemetery with 247 burials. The pages for John, Temperance and Wesley provide valuable information and pictures of the markers. There are GPS coordinates for the cemetery (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 44.98970, Longitude: -122.92939), but no street address. I wanted to pinpoint the location on a map. The Mapquest map they linked to was not clear for defining the location and when I used the website it sent me several directions, but they did not feel right. A google search for the cemetery was not helpful either.

Then I turned to a book, the Oregon Burial Site Guide, which I was recently given as a gift. It was published in 2001, compiled by Dean H. Byrd, Stanley R Clarke and Janice M. Healy and with Ruth C. Bishop as sponsor.  As I looked at the various references oo the Howell Prairie Cemetery, I was pleased to find directions for finding the cemetery. Google maps were then used to map the location, as those maps actually showed the name of the cemetery.

The book mentions that the Howell family settled there in 1843, on the donation land claim of John Howell, D.L.C.#47, O.C.#48. The first death was of Temperance Howell on 22 March 1848.

This was very fruitful research time because we have now recorded the information on the Howell family of Howell Prairie, Oregon. We are fortunate to have so many research tools at our disposal. The Internet is helpful, but turning to a published book was important for further understanding. So much of my research was done years ago and I now need to work on updating information. Working one family at a time I encourage you to update your older research.

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