Monday, March 31, 2014

Serendipity at the Cemetery

When first beginning my research in family history, my grandparents and great aunt and uncle took me to Lone Fir Cemetery to show me where the burial sites are for my great great grandmother and some of her children. What was odd at the time is we did not know where her husband was buried. Later in my journey of discovering the family story we returned to this cemetery and went to the office to see what other information they might be able to provide. At that time they were very liberal about sharing the information from the two files on this family.

There were two plots purchased, one in 1889 and the other in 1928 by H.O. Brown the son of Ola A. Brown and Helene Hendrickson.
Ole A. Brown died 1 May 1889 and the burial is recorded in the cemetery records as D&H buried Ola A. Brown in center of N 1/2 Lot 65-B25, H. O. Brown Lot. There were three other family members buried in two plots within this lot: his daughter, a nephew and a granddaughter. When Helene his wife died 29 March 1928 their son H. O. Brown purchased lot Sec 35, Lot 178 and she is buried there with two of her children, their spouses and one grandchild.

The question is why were the parents buried in separate locations in the cemetery? My belief is that at the time of the mother's death the family members may have forgotten where the other burial site was, or they simply wanted more space so they could be buried by their mother.

The next step in the research was to locate the descendants of Ole A. Brown and Helene Hendrickson. They had six children, of which two had no children, one had three, two had two and my great grandparents had seven. My pursuit at this time was for the one who had three and the two who had two, or seven descendants. For these three family groups there are letters and pictures that it would be nice to share with them. Another hope is that they might have information on the origination in Norway where this couple came from.

In 2005 contact was made with the family of H. O. Brown. Their mother was the only child of the daughter of H. O. Brown.  Their contact information was found online and a call was made to the likely brother living in Oregon City, Oregon, not far from my home. He put me in touch with his sister. We enjoyed a lively exchange of emails. Then as is natural we lost contact.

Then about a year ago there was an article in the Oregonian newspaper about the problem of Lone Fir Cemetery selling old plots that were not connected to living relatives. In working on the cemetery records it was obvious that there was an unused plot for our family and to me it was important that the family claim this as their grandmother was the last relative to have ownership transferred to her. First contact was made with the cemetery, explaining an interest in the known plot, at which time they informed me of three other plots at the second burial site.

After examining the information the cemetery informed me that the family did have the right to claim ownership. Then the family was contacted using an email address that was eight years old. As one can imagine, a prayer for a miracle was uttered. The miracle occurred with a quick response. The family was interested and would discuss what to do about the four plots that were available. The five of them decided to give two plots to their brother living locally and that the other two would be given to me. They gave me the choice of which plots and I chose one at each burial site so the brother could have two adjoining plots.

It was a lengthy process to have the documents drawn up and then signed by each of the six individuals in front of a notary where they live. When the package came to me in February 2014 it was an incredible feeling. The package included the two Certificates of Internment Rights with my name on them, copies of the lot sheets with my name added, and copies of the affidavits signed by each of us. Forty years after first visiting this cemetery I now own these two plots. Even better is my connection with the new branch of our family tree.

By coincidence I also connected with the person owning the plot adjacent to the lot of our great great grandfather and I could possibly be buried next to him some day, though we are not related in any way. Oregon recently changed the laws regarding the reuse of cemetery plots and shortened the time required to wait to 75 years. An article in the Oregonian dated 19 June 2013 clarifies the details. Cemeteries are wonderful places for connections and serendipity moments, but we must keep abreast of the changes in the laws regarding them.


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