Friday, September 21, 2012

A Beautiful Fall Day at Rose City Cemetery

Back on Memorial Day I visited the Milwaukie Pioneer Cemetery with my friend Teena. Since then I helped her to organize her collection of family history into a notebook and computer database. She shared the notebook at a recent family reunion. While the family compared notes, they came to an agreement that the family had been linked to the wrong brother in New Zealand. To further corroborate this link required a visit to Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon where her grandparents and great grandparents on her paternal line are buried. There is also another great grandfather on her maternal line.

Last week we made plans to visit the cemetery and we set off yesterday on the adventure. To add to the adventure I had two couples that were friends of our family that I wanted to find.  It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for cemetery hunting. At the beginning there was a fine mist in the air and cloud cover that accommadated picture taking. This cemetery is very well cared for, clean and well marked.

In preparation I made a printout from the computer database of locations, which created a list of people recorded as being buried in this cemetery. Then I looked online at findagrave.com for the family members known to buried at this cemetery.  The thing lacking on these findagrave.com citations is that none of the family members are interlinked, so one must search thoroughly through each possible surname for connections. For this day we just worked on the individuals that we knew.

We arrived at about 11am and entered the closest building, only to discover that it is used for funerals. There was a large gathering of Hispanic people waiting for a viewing and funeral. We were pretty conspicuous as the only Caucasian people and felt somewhat like intruders on a private family gathering. Then we determined that we needed to go to the other building, where the cemetery office is located. There we met a wonderful man, Mike Nelson, who has worked for the cemetery for about fifteen years. He said that there are about 75,000 burials on the site and that they will have space for many years to come. On findagrave.com where we located some of the burial information, there are 16,843 entries, so there is more work to be done. He mentioned that there is a woman who comes every day to provide more entries. That is a very admirable contribution for this cemetery.

Mike provided us with maps, notating the burial sites for the people we were looking for. This took about a half hour. A sign on the counter notes that there is a limit of one search per day for Internet or Findagrave requests. We felt very blessed that he looked up all eleven people and also found an unknown baby buried with one of the couples. The same signs notes that one can order records for individuals for $5. This is a very reasonable price for the service that they provide.

We took off looking first for John Hall and Elizabeth Ann Withers Hall in section B. They are listed on findagrave.com with a picture of the stone with the surname Hall in large letters. The stone needs to be cleaned, as it was very hard to read the information on the bottom where it includes John Hall 1852-1924 and Elizabeth Hall 1856-1937. This is where the baby is buried, but there is no marker. Mike said the baby died in 1920, so it may be a grandchild.

The second marker was for Charles Hastings and Mildred Frances Hall in section I. They are listed on findagrave.com. with a picture of the stone with the surname Hastings in large letters. This stone is in much better condition. The information at the bottom includes Charles F. Hastings 1878-1935 and Mildred F. Hastings 1875-1959.

The third and fourth markers were for Frederick Hall and Emma Christine Uno Hall in section I, who have individual markers next to one another. They are listed on findagrave.com with pictures of the stones with Frederick Hall 1883-1929 on one and Emma C. Hall 1887-1980 on the other.

Our next stop was to the Memorial Wall, section 7 for the Rosenes, who were friends of my family. They are at the top of the wall and show Victor Rosene 1883-1981 and Hilma E. Rosene 1884-1968. They are  not listed on findagrave.com.

Then we moved on to their daughter and son in law's marker in section Q. This marker shows Melvyn F. Lofton 1909 - 2000 and Eleanor R. Lofton 1916-1996.
They are not listed on findagrave.com.

By this point we could see the processional from the funeral coming up close behind us. As is typical of Hispanic tradition, the pallbearers were carrying a pine box with everyone else following closely, walking clear across this vast cemetery. Fortunately we were headed in the opposite direction and did not have to disturb their burial. It was amazing how many attended and the entire parking lot was full. This required us to be creative in how we accessed the parts of the cemetery.

The final stone we were looking for was in section M, a narrow strip along Fremont Street. We looked for some time, but there were many gravesites without markers. I suggested that we return to the office to request the individual records of Teena's family and see if there were records about stones for the individual interments. Mike very graciously brought out a very old book that contains the burial plot maps with individual names listed. He noted eight of the surrounding burials so we could look for stones for those people. In the meantime Teena made her request for information on the family.

Returning to the location we maneuvered past the funeral and made it back to section M. After a bit more looking Teena finally came upon the marker for Jakob N. Quiberg 1857-1919. He is not listed on findagrave.com. This is one of the most unusual grave markers that I have ever seen. It is about 2' x3' and has enough space that his wife could have been listed. She died in Sacramento, California in 1956 and is buried there.

Here are the most remarkable serendipity moments. I found all of Teena's first four markers and she found the two markers for me. The very last maker Teena found and it was covered in grass clippings and dirt. The first time she walked by it without really noticing the marker. When she found it she truly experienced the thrill in a cemetery search.

We have plans for at least four more local cemeteries, several of which my ancestors are at. It is so much fun to share in these experiences. The buried treasure in cemeteries is truly in the markers, some lost to view and overgrown, and the records found within the offices. Thank you to Mike and the other very friendly and accommodating staff at Rose City Cemetery.

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