Monday, April 15, 2013

Ole A. Brown - Finally the Serendipity Moment

Today while working on the family of Ole A. Brown there was a serendipity moment just waiting to happen. Back in 2005 I wrote about Ole A. for the writing contest for the Genealogical Forum of Oregon and was honored to receive an honorable mention. With this recognition came the joy of having my story published in their March 2006 issue of the Bulletin, their quarterly publication. It can be found on this blog as a page from the bar across the top.

Even though I began working on our family history in the early 1970s, it would take me years at a snail's pace, with the resources available at that time. With living relatives who could provide me some information about the Brown family, they knew very little about Ole A. There is only one picture of him and a few letters that he wrote to his daughter. As I look through the collection of family documents and pictures they paint a very shallow portrait of his life.

Ole Brown born 15 Sep. 1833 in Norway, died 6 May 1889 in Portland, Oregon.
His wife Helene Brown born 22 Nov. 1839 in Norway, died 29 March 1928 in Sherwood, Oregon.
Daughter Julia Brown Olsen born 15 Aug. 1869 in Chicago, Ill., died 28 April 1940 in Sherwood, Oregon.
Son Dr. Henry O. Brown born July 1871 in Minneapolis, Minn., died 11 Dec. 1934 probably in St. Johns, Oregon. He was a chiropractor.
Daughter Otallia J. Brown Holm born 25 Nov. 1873 in Minneapolis, Minn., died 11 May 1963 in Portland, Oregon.
Daughter Anne Brown born March 1876 in Minneapolis, Minn., died 2 March 1902 in Portland, Oregon.
Daughter Emma Caroline Brown Hart, Ness, Berg born 25 Feb. 1878 in Des Moines, Iowa, died 24 Sep. 1963 in San Diego, California.
Son Adolph Jonas Brown born 6 June 1880/2 in Minneapolis, Minn., died 26 March 1945 in San Francisco, California. He was a chemist.

Many of them are buried in Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, where I first went in the early 1970s. In 1994 I started looking for Ole A. in more earnest and one of the first places was the Oregon Historical Society, then the Multnomah County Assessment and Taxation Office and finally back to Lone Fir Cemetery. Then in 2005 we explored the Oregon State Archives for the probate and guardianship information which followed Ole A.'s death.

One of my last statements in the 2005 story is, "Now I wonder if there is just no record for his death, or did he die someplace else nearby." What I really wanted to know is what he died of at the age of 56, as my father died of a brain tumor at the age of 53 and I wanted to know if this could have been hereditary.

As I looked through the collection again last night I came across three letters written by relatives of Emma Brown wanting to know more about the family history. In their writing they provided the facts that they knew. There were two letters from Cyriana Gault of California in 1992 and 1993, and one from Judith Tessitor of Maryland in 1978. These letters were found when I helped my great aunt and uncle downsize their home in preparing to move. Now I wonder if I really read the letters when I found them in 1995 or did I just put them in the family notebook? Am I just reading them now with different understanding of all the facts related to the family?

The letter from Judith provided the most information. This letter was written the year that I was married, so I was probably not very focused on family history. From this letter I discover that the family from another descendancy line than ours knew that Ole A. Brown died of T.B. His name in Norway was Ole Amundson Brueland and his wife's name was Helene Hendrickson. She suggests that they had seven children, four of them sons, but nothing I found indicates anyone other than the children listed above. Pretty much the letter confirms information that I pieced together over the years.

My great aunt probably never answered their questions, but I know I can help them better today than I could thirty five years ago. One of the descendants has the family tree on In contacting them I hope to fill in some of their family tree. Opening that letter brought a serendipity moment as I discovered the cause of death for Ole A. Now I need to pursue their beginnings in Norway. From the journal of my great grandfather John Philip Olsen, I know that a sister of Helene lived in the town of Sannesund, as he visited her while in Norway in 1914.

Do some of the answers to your genealogy questions lie within the materials already in your possession? A careful re-reading of all collected material is critical to solving what appear to be brick walls in our research. Maybe those serendipity moments are just waiting to be rediscovered and viewed through our improved understanding of how the family puzzle pieces fit together. This is time consuming work, start today and just do one family puzzle at a time. Every piece of information we can contribute to the family history will be greatly appreciated by generations to come and from other descendant lines as well.

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