Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Jower Family of St. Johns, Oregon - Serendipity At Its Best

Yesterday I paused to decide what to do next with my Saturday. The Genealogical Forum of Oregon would be open one more hour and if I left shortly I could go there and pick up some books I need to review. Then the phone rang and that plan was quickly cast aside. Tony King, someone I never met, had been directed to call me by a friend of mine he met in the BYU Family Search Center in Provo, Utah. That is one of my favorite places to research in and I can easily picture him walking into the Lee Library on BYU campus, a large spacious library, going downstairs, through the heavy doors, down the long hallway and through more heavy doors, into the spacious FSC. As he entered he was met by one of many missionary volunteers who assist patrons in their research. Tony meets Gerald Kammerman a good friend of mine who moved to Utah several years ago. We often connect when I go to Utah for the BYU Family History Conference in the summer.

Tony explains to Gerald that he is working on the Jower Family of St. Johns, Oregon. Gerald tells Tony of two of his friends who do research in the Portland area of which St. Johns is a suburb. Tony chose to call me yesterday afternoon. He explained to me that his grandparents Wan and Ho Sui (Violet) Jower were both born in China and he is trying to establish a clear line of lineage between them and their family in China. With his permission I share his story.

Last November I was in southern China and while there I visited a tomb and village that honor this one ancestor of mine. I was able to visit the village of my mother's paternal grandfather (my great grandfather) and tour his house which is still standing. As a result of these visits, I was eventually able to obtain information that allows me to trace both lines back to the Yellow Emporer who lived almost 5,000 years ago. This is amazing in and of itself. However, since making these visits, it seems the whole world of family history has opened up to me. It seems not a day when I work on my family history that I don't discover something new. And one of the great blessings is that I am now in touch with relatives like Marilyn who I have never known before (still haven't met face to face). I am even now in touch with a third cousin once removed who lives in the city of Taishan, in Guangdong, China. We write each other every few weeks, often just writing about our daily lives half way around the world. I also spoke by phone yesterday to a cousin of my mother's in Honolulu regarding a different family line. Again, this is another person I have never met. Family history is such a great work to be involved in. Thanks for all your help.

For about a half hour we discuss Oregon record sources I believe will help him in his research. At he found in the Oregon Death Index a listing for Wan Jower, so I directed him to the Oregon State Archives to obtain a copy of the record and did a quick search of the online index of that facility. There were nine records listed and I suggested that he should look at all of them. He mentioned that he had family information that suggested a burial at Mt. Scott Cemetery, which I believe has been renamed Lincoln Memorial Cemetery where my father is buried. By calling them he should be able to determine if that is the correct cemetery and they can direct him further. He said he was interested in what records the Genealogical Forum of Oregon might have for him to use. When he comes to Portland I look forward to working with him in person.

After our conversation I gave him my email so we could further discuss his Oregon work. He wrote me shortly and apologized for preempting my trip to the GFO that day. It was just meant to be that way. One of my favorite things to do is take a fresh family and see what I can find on them. For the next hour I played around on and looking over the census records and other items to help me in understanding the Jower family. At this time I also left a phone message for my mother who grew up in St. Johns, Oregon.

My findings in the search included that the parents Wan came to the U.S. in about 1872 and Violet came in about 1895. They married shortly after her arrival and it is likely that it was a pre-arranged marriage. I did not find a marriage record for them in the index, but I am sure it occurred in a location near here. In the 1900 Census one child is listed, Henry, and she lists only having had one child. In the 1920 Census there are four children Henry, Joseph, Benjamin and James, and only lists having had four children. In the 1920 Census all five sons are listed including the youngest Gilbert. The 1930 Census includes only four sons, their son Joseph now living on his own. Their daughter-in-law Hazel is living with them. The 1940 Census shows their granddaughter Marilyn living with them.

There were nineteen articles found at under the name Jower in Oregon. Of those I shared four of interest. The first, dated January 15, 1935, was for the marriage of James Wan Jower living at 8005 Kellogg Street, who married Pearl Wong. The second, dated September 11, 1940, was the obituary for Wan Jower husband of Mrs. Wan Jower and father of Henry, Joseph, Benjamin, James and Gilbert. The address given was 8005 Kellogg Street. Interment was at Riverview Cemetery (not Mt. Scott). Now he needs to contact that cemetery. There were several articles related to the involvement of Violet Jower in the Chinese Benevolent Society, of which she was the first President and she was an active member until she died in May of 1973. I sent Tony all of the above information with my thoughts on how it might be useful in his research.

Then my mother returned my phone call.  When I mentioned the Jower family she was in shock. As I told her of the story of Tony and his family history research, she kept telling me stories about his family. They lived about a block apart in St. Johns and were good friends. Her brother Jim went to high school with Marilyn. My father bought all of his work pants from the Jower Men's Clothing Store in St. Johns. Mom knew many of the people working in the store. I emailed my uncle Jim to see what more he might remember about this family. I grew up closely connected to the St. Johns area as my grandmother lived there for fifty years until her death in 2005.

What are the odds that Tony in his family history journey would:
1. Happen upon my friend Gerald at the FSC in Provo, Utah
2. Choose to call me of the two references given
3. Reach me just as I was considering leaving for the GFO
4. Connect with someone who can help with his research in the Portland area
5. Connect with someone whose family closely interacted with his family

Serendipity at its finest was surely enjoyed by all of us involved, as I even emailed Gerald to let him know the results of his recommendation.

May you have such wonderful experiences as you work on your family history. Remember these experiences come to those who have a plan, work their plan and then allow their paths to be directed by unforeseen sources. I feel truly blessed in the work that I do and the resources that I have at my disposal in doing this work.

1 comment:

  1. I met with Tony and we had a great visit. He met Marilyn. He went to the Oregon State Archives and gathered records there. He went to the GFO and is going to three cemeteries: Lincoln Memorial, Riverview and Lone Fir. He needs to visit the Oregon Historical Society, Portland City Archives and the Multnomah County Archives. His journey of discovering his ancestors from China is fascinating. What a wonderful educational experience for me.