博客: Local interest

heading from an early page of the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths

Have you ever had trouble finding an obituary for a Portland ancestor who died around the turn of the last century?  You’re not alone!

In the 19th century and even in the early 20th, newspapers often put obituaries in with the regular news, making them hard to find.  This was also before it was common for Portland newspapers to include a "Daily city statistics" section listing the names of people who had died in the city recently.  So it’s no wonder that it can be a big challenge to find Portland obituaries from before about 1910.  

But I have good news for you: if your ancestor was a Portlander, and if they died within city limits 1881-1917, their death was probably recorded in the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.

What is the Ledger Index?

The Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is a long list of people who died in the city of Portland 1881-1917.  It’s quite a bit more robust than most modern death indexes -- in addition to the name and death date of each person included, it includes details like the address or name of the place where the person died, their cause of death, and (in some years) the name of the cemetery where they were buried.  This additional information makes the Ledger Index a pretty decent substitute for obituaries.  

Here’s what the Ledger Index actually looks like.  The library has a microfilmed copy, which is why it’s white text on a black background.

Finding your ancestor

The Ledger Index is arranged by date of death -- because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Chronologic Index.”  If you know the date your ancestor died, simply go to that date and hopefully you’ll find them!

If you don’t know your ancestor’s date of death, try looking for their name in the Oregon State Archives’ Oregon Historical Records Index.  This index includes most records from the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.  If your ancestor is listed, their date of death should lead you to the correct page of the Ledger Index.

Racial classification in the Ledger Index

There are some challenges to using the Ledger Index.  The information in the Index is a primary source, created a full century ago, and it is a government record reflecting the mainstream standards and ideas of its time.  There is no context or commentary to interpret the index for you -- you will have to provide your own analysis.  

One thing these records show us is the unexamined racism of the past.  The Ledger Index states the race of each person listed, often using terms that are decidedly not used in polite speech today: “Chinese,” “Colored,” “Half-Breed,” “Mulatto,” “White,” and possibly others.  Some of these terms appear on the zoomed-in image from January 1882 at left.  In later years, single-letter abbreviations are used.  There is no key showing what the abbreviations meant, but I’ve guessed that “C” stands for “colored” (meaning Black or African-American); “W” for “white;” and “Y” for “yellow” (meaning Asian or Asian-American).   

Causes of death in the Ledger Index

This detail from a January 1882 Ledger Index page shows some familiar-sounding causes of death: “still born,” "consumption," “scarlet fever.”  But read if you read through a few pages worth of deaths, you'll also find unexpected causes like “softening of spinal marrow.”  If you find your ancestor’s death has officially been recorded due to something that doesn’t sound like it would kill a person, be prepared to draw gentle, careful conclusions.  And remember, you may need to do some research to discover what a cause-of-death term meant in the past. 

Portland deaths only

Another thing to beware of when using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is that it mostly only includes people who died within the city limits of Portland.  And the city was quite a bit smaller 100 years ago than it is now!  (A few people whose bodies were cared for by a Portalnd undertaker or whose bodies travelled through Portland are also included.)

Fortunately, the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has a very helpful map showing historical annexations to the city of Portland (pdf), which you can look at to get a sense for where city limits were during your ancestor’s lifetime.  

Of course, people are mobile.  The Ledger Index lists people who died in Portland, not people who lived there.  Your ancestor who lived in Linnton or East Portland or St. Johns could well have died within Portland city limits, particularly if they died in an accident or in a hospital.

Using the Ledger Index, and getting help with it

You can consult the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths at Central Library.  Ask at any reference desk, and the librarian on duty will help you get the volumes you need.  To read it, you’ll need to use one of Central Library’s microfilm machines -- read more about that in my colleague Ross B.’s post Microfilm at the library.

But you don’t have to visit the library to tap the riches of this great resource --  librarians are always happy to help.  Just get in touch with us by phone or email, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or help you plan your research. 

In the meantime, happy researching!

 

The COVID-19 pandemic presents many unique legal challenges. Here are some resources to help you get the information and support you need during this difficult time. (Check out Law help: legal research assistance and legal aid for more resources.)

Note: It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law; we may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights.

If you have questions or need research suggestions, contact us anytime!


Free, reliable legal information on multiple topics, including housing protections, stimulus money, and court closures.
 
Access to authoritative informational and legal resources from the State of Oregon Law Library.
 
An up-to-date list of federal legislation, regulation, and contract spending related to COVID-19. From Skopos Labs.
 

Housing

 
The latest information from Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. 
 
Information about Oregon’s eviction moratorium and rent replacement grace period. From the Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid Services of Oregon.
 

Workplace

 
Oregon regulation and guidance pertaining to workplace issues like safety, sick time, and discrimination.
 
Information from the U.S. Department of Labor.
 

Family

 
Prepared by Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center.
 
From the Oregon Department of Justice.
 
A joint statement from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
 

Immigrants and Refugees

 
Information and resources from the Oregon Attorney General.
 
A general overview of some of the federal public programs available to support individuals and families during the COVID-19 crisis. From Protecting Immigrant Families.
 
Information about your employment and sick time rights in Oregon.
 

Consumer

 
From the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Protection.
 
A list of resources to help families navigate their financial lives during the pandemic.

Drawing of Lady Justice in front of an American flag.
Life is full of law questions. Whether you are researching laws or looking for legal help, we can suggest some excellent resources to help you out.

First, a caveat: It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law; we may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights.

The following is not a comprehensive list, but it will help you get started. (Check out COVID-19 law help for resources specific to the pandemic.) If you have questions or need research suggestions, contact us anytime!


Free & reduced-cost legal help:

 
The Community Legal & Educational Access & Referral Clinic provides free assistance with criminal record and eviction expungements, DACA applications and renewals, housing and immigration court navigation, legal name and gender-marker changes, and more.
 
Legal Aid Services of Oregon
A statewide non-profit organization that provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.
 
The OSB Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a lawyer who may be able to assist you with your legal matter.
 
Oregon State Bar Modest Means program
An OSB program to help moderate-income Oregonians find affordable legal assistance.
 
A nonprofit law firm that offers sliding-scale legal services.

Legal advocacy and assistance for:

Artists
Consumers
Crime victims
Families
Immigrants and refugees
Inmates
LGBT+ community
Military service members and their dependents
Native American community
People with disabilities
Renters
Russian community
Seniors
Teens
Veterans
Workers

Legal research and forms:

 
General legal information on a variety of topics, provided as a public service by Oregon's lawyers. 
 
Free legal information for low-income Oregonians.
 
Links to resources for users who want to learn more about the law and courts or want to represent themselves in a legal matter.
 
Provides legal reference assistance and more six days a week; you can access various legal forms and complete NOLO legal reference books on common legal topics online, 24/7, through their website. The Washington County Law Library is also open to the public and has many great resources online and in person.
 
Promoting justice by providing all Oregonians with access to legal information and legal research assistance.
 
Forms, court records, and information about going to court.
 
Free online access to court calendars and basic case information for the Oregon circuit courts and the Oregon Tax Court.
 
A legal research tool that lets you search sources of law from Oregon, the U.S. Government and many other western states. 
 
Provides online access to briefs and opinions of the Oregon Supreme and Appellate Courts, legal research guides, and in-person and virtual legal reference services.
 
Information and forms from the federal Judiciary.
 
Includes legislative information and a Guide to Law Online.
 
Learn about your rights as a person living in the United States of America.
 
Find out how to file a complaint or appeal a decision related to health information privacy, civil rights, Medicare, and more.

You might be keeping safe at home but enjoy these live online performances from some amazing library children’s performers.

IRS 1040 form with pen

Update: COVID-19 Tax Relief Options

As of March 18, 2020, the Federal Government is allowing all individual and other non-corporate filers to defer up to $1 million in federal income tax payments until July 15, 2020. As of March 25, 2020, under Governor Brown's direction, the state of Oregon will be following the federal government's extension for state taxes, as well. You can check for more information on the "COVID-19 Tax Relief Options" page of the state government website.

Since library locations are currently closed, we recommend you print state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. We can still help refer you to tax professionals. Some tax preparers are able to work with you online or in another way that doesn't require an in-person visit.

Federal Hard Copy Forms

While libraries are closed, you can download and print federal tax items from the IRS Forms & Publications page. You can also direct questions to the IRS offices in Oregon. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. You can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.

State Hard Copy Forms

Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can print them from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:

Other States

You can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.

Dusty adding machine keys
Online Filing

Once the tax season officially opens, both the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue will have listings for online filing services. Remember, with the COVID-19 Tax Relief, most state and federal taxes can be submitted by July 15th without penalty. Take a look at the state of Oregon's page on COVID-19 tax relief for up-to-date details.

You can find tax preparation assistance through the AARP's Tax-Aide Locator, CASH Oregon and the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Some of these programs may be offering virtual help or have rescheduled their appointment availability while others may not have specific information at this time. 

 

Each year the Portland Book Festival, presented by the Bank of America, brings thousands of readers to the Southwest Park Blocks for a day-long celebration of all things reading. Needless to say, we're big fans.

MK Reed's Wild Weather

To call attention to any one author inevitably leaves out a stellar line-up - who doesn't want to see Malcolm Gladwell and Rainbow Rowell? But there's so many quality events to choose from, so here are top picks.

Would it be too self-centered to say that we're so looking forward to seeing our library moderators in action? Elleona Budd, Natasha Forrester CampbellLanel JacksonEbonee Bell, Eduardo Arizaga and Alicia Tate will be moderating talks on everything from science comics to dark magic in fantasy.

We're looking forward to hearing from Saeed Jones about his new memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives. David Treuer's Heartbeat of Wounded Knee has made it to the top of many of our reading lists.  Mira Jacobs's graphic memoir Good Talk, about interracial families made it to the top of many library staff lists. And we'd like to hear how cartoonist and animator Graham Annable expresses his love for slots and hockey, when he isn't writing. Romance readers among us have been eagerly awaiting more from Jasmine Guillory, “the queen of contemporary romance” (OprahMag.com). Our teen librarians have long been fans of Gabby Rivera's Juliet Takes a Breath. We're looking forward to the pop-up events, among them Theodore Van Alst reading from his linked short stories, Sacred Smokes. 

We're also excited to hear home town heroes, Renée Watson, Carson Ellis, Mitchell S. Jackson, ... drat! Why did we limit ourselves to only 10? 

And that doesn't even take into account Friday night's Lit Crawl -- the Poetry Karaoke looks especially intriguing.

Take a look at the festival event site and go hang out with book lovers all day long. It's the best time, and we hope to see you there.

The North Portland Library recently unveiled a special collection devoted to the history and experiences of our region’s Black community. The Black Pacific Northwest Collection features the literature, music, film and other creative expressions of the Black experience in the Pacific Northwest and is part of the Black Resources Collection. The collection includes Raymond Burell’s celebration of the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, Lucas N.N. Burke’s history of Portland’s Black Panther movement, the poetry of S. Renee Mitchell and Samiya A. Bashir, and Renée Watson’s award-winning Piecing Me Together.

We knew it was important for the scope to be of local interest but wanted to broaden it beyond the Portland experience, so this collection includes authors and subjects throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and northern California. You’ll find works by the University of Washington’s emeritus Charles Johnson and works about the late Seattle-based playwright August Wilson. Check out this new collection by visiting the North Portland Library or by searching “Black Pacific Northwest Collection” from the home page.

Help grow the Black Pacific Northwest Collection

This special collection currently features about 200 titles, including works of fiction, nonfiction, films, and even zines — but we’d like to add more, and we need your help! You know the creatives here in our community and beyond — the writers, musicians, filmmakers, historians, social scientists — documenting the rich Black experience in our region. Tell us about them. Have them get in touch with us. Or, if you have written a book, made a record, created a film, compiled a bibliography, let us know. To suggest materials to add to the Black Pacific Northwest collection, please visit North Portland Library or email Kirby at kirbym at multcolib.org.

(Photos are by Cheyenne Thorpe.)

 

Hat Rock Oregon geology

Oregon has an extensive geologic history, which is viewable from roadside videos. There are also videos of various landforms in the state created by geologic actions. Like other Pacific Northwestern states, Oregon has many volcanoes. Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens are two volcanic peaks close to Portland. The geologic history of the whole Pacific Northwest was influenced by the great Missoula Floods which has left its mark on the geology of the Columbia River gorge.  The geology of Eastern Oregon also features the mammal fossil beds at John Day, which include the Painted Hills. The Pacific Northwest also faces the potential of a massive earthquake, due to the Cascadia subduction zone.

 

Signs that say Hope and Despair.
When you are seeking help, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. This is a selective list of social service organizations and places that offer housing, shelter, mental health counseling, escape from abusive situations and other basic needs for people who are homeless, jobless or going through personal transitions. If you have any questions or need assistance finding services, contact us and we'll be happy to help!

When in doubt, start here: 211info

211info is a comprehensive support hub for referrals to food, shelter, housing, foreclosure assistance, health care, and much more. Calls are confidential, anonymous and free. Certified Information and Referral Specialists assess the situation and refer callers using a locally managed database of over 4,200 programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Telephone interpreters are available for help in more than 150 languages. Dial 211 from any phone; text your zip code to 898211; send an email to help@211info.org; or search resources online.

Other resources:

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare

Cascadia provides mental health counseling for people with psychiatric and substance use challenges. They provide crisis intervention, addictions treatment, and housing services for people who are very low-income.

Multnomah County Mental Health & Addictions Services

Provides mental health services to adults, children and families. They serve Oregon Health Plan members enrolled in Health Share of Oregon/Multnomah Mental Health as well as people who have no insurance or resources. Their Mental Health Call Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week; call 503-988-4888, 800-716-9769 (toll free) or 503-988-5866 (TTY).

Northwest Pilot Project

Provides housing and other supportive services for seniors ages 55 and older who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Help finding housing, transportation help, advocacy and referrals to other resources and services. NW Pilot Project recommends calling 503-227-5605 before coming in.

Outside In

Outside In is a community resource for homeless youth.  They provide health services, counseling and shelter, as well as programs and education.

Call to Safety

Offers 24 hour telephone crisis counseling for victims of domestic and sexual violence; call 503-235-5333 or 888-235-5333. The organization also offers support groups and direct service counseling for victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Rose City Resource

Street Roots publishes this very comprehensive directory of services for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.  It is updated twice a year.

Transition Projects

This organization can help with a variety of services including shelter, showers, food box vouchers, clothing, laundry services, Trimet tickets, information and referral, and housing search assistance.

Irie Page is about to turn 14. Instead of, say, a birthday sleepover, she has planned a gift for her community, a free event featuring Mike Domitrz, the founder of the Date Safe Project and a consent educator for kids, teens and adults.  The funny, interactive presentation that he gives to teens and adults is called "Can I Kiss You?", which is also the title of his book. It focuses on how to have healthy, safe relationships and how to both avoid sexual assault and avoid sexually assaulting someone else. Her family raised money online to pay Domitrz's speaking fee, and after the story was covered on the local news, they got all the funding they needed. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 9th in the Lincoln Recital Hall at Portland State University. PSU has waived the rental fees in support of Irie’s event.


I first met this remarkable young woman at the reference desk at my library when she was just a little kid signing up for our Read to the Dogs program. We book lovers who work at the library always notice the passionate readers, the ones who leave with huge stacks of books they’re obviously eager to dive into, and that was Irie. When she was old enough, I suggested that she volunteer for our Summer Reading program, giving out prizes to kids for reading, and she brought huge enthusiasm to this as well. When she told me last summer about the event she was planning, we decided to put together a book display. Irie chose all the books herself. If you can’t get in to see the display, here’s the list.

“After I saw Malala speak, I was inspired to do something for my community,” Irie told me. She originally wanted actress and feminist Emma Watson. "That's not going to happen," her mom told her, and then suggested Domitrz. When Irie happened upon a book here at the library about philanthropy parties, her idea took off.

“I’ve always seen things in the world and thought, ‘That’s messed up. I want to change that,” said Irie. Like Malala, the Pakistani advocate for girls’ rights to education, she decided she could make a difference. She chose to start here, in her own city. 


***EDITED to update Irie's story. This event was a huge success. There was so much community interest that Portland State University gave them a bigger theater in which to hold it, and it was still standing room only, with more than 500 in attendance. I took my middle school-age son and we both found it interesting and inspiring. I was delighted last week when I ran into Irie in the library and she told me she's one of two state honorees for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. This is a very big deal! She's won $1000, a silver medallion, and a trip to Washington, D.C. At a ceremony in D.C., five national honorees will be chosen from among the state award winners. The staff at my library, who has known Irie for so long, is rooting for her to win the national award, which comes with even more honors and with cash awards for her and for the charity of her choice. We're so proud of her.

 

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