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.

A page from the Ledger Index, showing December 1913 deaths.  Click for a bigger version.

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.

Detail of a January 1882 Ledger Index page showing racial classification.  Click for a bigger version.

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 detail 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).   

Detail of a January 1882 Ledger Index page showing causes of death.  Click for a bigger version.

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 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! 

Map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf, from Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability)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 via Ask the Librarian, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or help you plan your research. 

In the meantime, happy researching!

 


Do you want to know more about finding other local obituaries?  Take a look at my post Where is that Oregon obituary? 

Or if you'd like to step it back a bit and learn more about family history research with obituaries, my colleague Kate S. walks you through some of the basics in her post on Obituaries 101.


 

The winners of the Oregon Book Awards were recently announced! From a number of excellent finalists, Portland’s own Emily Kendal Frey was awarded the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. I’ve been reading the award winning book, Sorrow Arrow, and it’s a real treat - a wild emotional ride between poignant sadness and some rather hilarious moments, and memorable lines such as “You sit in your body, quietly making blood.” The book transpires in brief lyric lines, sometimes disjunctive and sometimes tenacious, in a series of untitled poems that build upon one another in a wonderful wall of feeling.

Are you interested in reading books by Emily Kendal Frey and other Oregon poets? Here’s a booklist for you.

National Poetry Month is not yet over! April 30th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, when you are encouraged to carry a poem around. In your pocket. At Central Library we will have a selection of poems for you to choose from, including some new work by local poets! Look for our display in the 1st floor lobby. 

 

Five years old by September? Sign up for school by June 1!
 
If your child will be five years old by September 1, he or she is ready to start school. Register at your school by June 1 to give your child a good start, connect to summer activities and get access to free resources. School offices close for the summer, so don’t wait! When you register by June 1, you have time to get to know your school and your teacher, and your teacher has time to prepare the classroom for your child. To identify your school or get help with other childhood issues call 211 or email children@211info.org. Interpretation is available.
 
How can the library help you and your child get ready for kindergarten? Bring them to storytime!  By the time your child is 5 years old, you may have heard many messages — on TV, in magazines, from other parents — about the importance of learning letters and numbers.
 
But kindergarten teachers care much more about having children who are ready and excited to learn. Kindergarten readiness includes things such as playing well with others, following simple instructions and talking about feelings and thoughts. There are lots of fun ways to develop these skills, and the library is here to help you!
 
At storytime we read stories and sing songs. We talk about the things we’ve read. We work on following directions with shakers and scarves and simple group games. Storytimes are a great opportunity for your child to learn to socialize with other children and adults. In storytime children also learn to ask questions and function well in a group; develop language and problem-solving skills; and perhaps most importantly, discover that books and learning are fun!
 
What else can you do?  Read, talk, sing, write and play!  

 

 

Logo for the Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon database

Curious about censorship or banned books in Oregon?  Need to know what's been published in the local news?  The Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon: A News Database, may have what you need.  The database is the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse's news clipping files, and is updated twice a year. The database includes news articles and editorials about intellectual freedom issues printed in Oregon newspapers over the past 65 years. The database can be searched by article title, newspaper name, date, city/location, name of challenged book or material, and organizations or individuals involved. After you have found what you want to read, contact the coordinator of the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, Katie Anderson, 503-378-2528 to request a complete text of the articles or editorials.  And if you have any trouble, don't forget to Ask a Librarian!

Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver book jacketBridges are one of the bonuses of living in Portland. Did you know there are 22 bridges over the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the Portland and Vancouver area? I love all of the different styles and types of bridges we have. Getting out of my car and seeing them from the river bank or a boat on the river adds to my enjoyment of them. The more I learn about our bridges the more interesting they become. It is easy to learn more about our bridges with Sharon Wood Wortman's great new book, Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland & Vancouver.

What makes this book special is that it is written for kids. It has lots of art and graphics as well as facts, bridge poems and interviews with bridge designers and workers. It includes the new Tilikum Crossing and Selwood bridges. Adults needn’t worry about this being a kids' book, there is plenty of information about the bridges. You also will learn about bridge building and design. There are even plans to build model bridges out of popsicle sticks that you can load test.

Sharon Wood Wortman also wrote The Portland Bridge Book. The first and second editions are illustrated with neat line drawings and the third edition, which came out in 2006, has photographs of the bridges. These books are also worth looking at, but they’re not as much fun as Big & Awesome Bridges. You can find out more about Portland’s bridges online at  Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver and at PDX Bridge Festival.

Black History Month: More Than Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. This marks the end of our month long journey of learning and exploration. We hope you enjoyed and learned facts about Black History Month that you didn't previously know. Thank you for joining us!

Aasha Benton

February 28, 2015

Painting by Aasha Benton

Aasha's story goes a bit like this. She graduates from college in 2012 and moves back to her hometown right here in Portland, Oregon. She discovers a love for art. So, she begins to paint. Taking inspiration from various periods in Black history and soul music, she creates incredible, yet simple, works. Her paintings are fun, colorful, serious and obtainable. Best of all? You can check them out here!

Further Exploration: http://artbyaasha.tumblr.com/

Available at Multnomah County Library: http://multcolib.bibliocommons.com/item/show/1299586068

 

 

Dynamic Design Duo

#BlackWilliamsPDX

February 27, 2015

Culturally Creative lunch boxes and water bottles

Photo Credit: http://shop.soapboxtheory.com/

Source:  Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis

Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis are a husband and wife designing force. If you can think of it, they can create it! Recently named curators of the Williams Art Project, their talent and ingenuity will soon be displayed for all to see and enjoy.  When they aren’t creating for the Williams Art Project, you can find them at 3940-3944 N Williams Ave. for all of your designing needs. Or, you can find them online where they specialize in being “culturally creative.” In their own words, “As part of the Honoring the African American History of N Williams Art Project, we are combining stories, memories, and locations to create what is essentially a walk through mid-century life in Portland’s largest Black community. Follow us on twitter @blkwilliamspdx for updates on the project, and share your stories using #blackwilliamspdx.”  Be sure to join in!

Jamila Clarke

 

Photographer Jamila Clarke Photo: JamilaClarke\.com

She takes DIY to another level, and she could be the city’s best kept secret.  Jamila Clarke is an impressive creative and she’s good, really good! Clarke does design, illustration, interactive, photography and print, and she even makes jewelry! According to Clarke, her jewelry is “vintage inspired handmade resin jewelry with a modern twist.” More good news: She is right here in Portland. You can find her here , here and here.

Further Exploration: www.jamilaclarke.com

Available at Multnomah County Library: Northwest Passage, The Birth of Portland’s D.I.Y Culture by Lastra, Mike (DVD)

 

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the backgroundLocal Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

The League of Woman Voters of Portland provides a handy Directory of Elected Officials of local, state, and federal elected officials for the entire Multnomah County including local school districts.

 

State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   

 

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009Federal Government

USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

Kenneth Doswell

 

BettyJean Couture owner Kenneth Doswell Photo: Oregonlive

Kenneth Doswell is the owner of Bettyjeancouture. He made personal history in 2014 when he received his first national fashion award, Designer of the Year at New York’s Full Figured Fashion week. He only designs for women.  Doswell’s designs are a fashion work of art combining nostalgia with contemporary elements.  He ignores trends and creates beautiful, longlasting fashion.  For most, he is a well kept secret.  If truth be told, Doswell entered the fashion scene at 8 years of age. He designs and creates clothing for leading women. The beauty of it all, his clothes are affordable and he’s right here in Portland!

 

Further Exploration: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/06/north_portlands_kenneth_doswel.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Michelle Obama, First Lady of Fashion and Style by Swimmer, Susan

 

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