Soap Opera Life: Lula Bell Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, Mystery Ancestor

Faked marriage. Many marriages. Divorce. Adultry. Drugs and alcohol. Mental illness. Abandoned children. Orphanages. All this soap opera material adds up to our major mystery ancestor: Lula Bell/Louella Brunner Pinder West Moorhause/Morehouse Parrett.

Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, mother of Howard West Sr., circa 1905. Photograph used with permission of the familyIt’s really tough when much of the information you have on an ancestor is hearsay, gossip, rumors, and terrible family stories. But that’s all we have right now. We’re looking for more and we need your help.

Louella Brunner was born March 10, 1883 in Canada, according to her death certificate. She died May 3, 1930, in Portland, Oregon. Her father was from England, and her mother, a Canadian. Father was a Brunner.

We have one photograph of “Louella Pinder and son, Howard” when he was a small baby, circa 1905. This is our only clue as to the mother of Howard West. So I’ve been searching for a Louella Pinder for decades with no luck.

We discovered her death certificate very recently, giving her maiden name as Brunner. Yet, we’re not even sure Brunner is her real maiden name. She also went by Lula and Lulu. She may have been married to a Pinder, and we believe she was also married to a Moorhause (sp). We have a record of a Richard (Dick) Pinder and assumed him to be the brother, or maybe the first husband of Louella. We have a dead end address for him in Chicago from the 1920s.

Louella’s son, Howard West, was born in Michigan, Canada, Washington, or Oregon, circa 1905. We’ve never found a birth certificate for Howard West Sr. His father was Walter West, though rumors are that they were never married. Family stories tell of Walter faking a marriage to Louella in a logging camp somewhere in Canada, Michigan, Washington, or Oregon, and putting her on a train, supposedly to Oregon, promising to follow, but never did. We also have no knowledge that he knew Louella was pregnant at the time. He eventually moved to California where he married a woman with a child and there is no record of him ever having any other children.

Louella had a second child from another man, possibly a Moorhause. Her daughter, Carmen, was born circa 1908 in Portland.

In December 1908, Howard and barely six month old Carmen were put into the St. Agnes Baby Home in Portland, Oregon, by the Juvenal Court System. The story is that their mother abandoned them and a neighbor turned them over after weeks of waiting for Louella to return. There are family rumors of her having been institutionalized for alcohol, mental illness, possibly drugs, or just running off with another man, in Portland, Oregon, though I cannot find any records.

A few years later, Carmen was retrieved from the baby home by her father, who could not prove parentage to Howard, so he remained there until 1913. With unbelievable luck and coincidences, we found his orphanage records in Portland. Census records have him living with Louella and Lewis S. Parrett in Portland in 1920, though we know for a fact that he joined the military by faking his age circa 1920.

The 1920 and 1930 Census for Portland shows Louella Parrett living with Lewis S. Parrett.

Louella Parrett died as Lula Parrett in May of 1930 at age 47 in Portland of heart disease. The death record states that she had been in the United States for 25 years.

Rumors from daughter Carmen, and grandson, Howard West Jr., claim Louella came from wealthy family in Canada but was disowned for being a “bad girl”.

We’d love to trace Louella Brunner Pinder Moorhause Parrett, our mystery ancestor. Any help would be appreciated.

Updated 2016

Research now has led us to Lula Bell Pinder born in Ontario, Canada. We’ve also discovered a first marriage with a much older man in Detroit, John G. Breithart, who then vanishes without a trace as far as my research has shown. They marry in 1902 in Detroit, then marries Clyde Morehouse in Washington State in 1907, and somewhere in between, meets Walter E. West and makes Howard W. West Sr., where, we’re not sure but Canada, Lansing, Michigan, or Washington State are the likely points of conception.

The more I learn about Louella/Lula Bell Pinder, the more the mystery. Currently, with her “second” husband, Clyde, dying of TB, it maybe that she abandoned her children in Portland, Oregon, because she had to go to a TB sanitarium, not the crazy farm as the family stories tell. Without money, many children were abandoned to the state and church to be cared for in case their parents didn’t recover from this highly contagious and terrible disease.

I keep looking. Thanks for the help and keeping those tips coming!

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Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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17 Responses to Soap Opera Life: Lula Bell Louella Brunner Pinder Parrett, Mystery Ancestor

  1. Pingback: Family History » Multnomah County, Oregon, Marriage Indexes Online

  2. Sharon says:

    Not to complicate matters but my relative David Brawner was married to a Lulu/Lula Ross. The Brunner could be Brawner. David died in 1915 and was shown as a widow so I don’t think your Lula Brunner is my Lula Branwer.

  3. Unfortunately, this doesn’t add up for my Lula/Lulu/Louelle Brunner. She was a Parrett by 1915.

    Our Lula remains a huge mystery.

  4. Pingback: Family History - Uncovering the Myths and Truths in Our Family Tree

  5. Liz says:


    I’m in the UK and if Brunner was Louella’s real maiden name, then it’s a fairly unusual name here. It seems to orginate in Warwickshire/Birmingham and does appear on some emigration records. I guess you could try going back to her father/mother that way? Maybe search for death records of Brunners in Canada?

    Good Luck it sounds like you’re going to need it!

  6. Thanks. Yes, Canada and England are the parent’s birth places on her death certificate. It will take some digging, indeed.

  7. Liz says:

    If you need any help in the UK let me know and I can do some searches for you. Just drop me a mail with names and a rough location and I can have a look for you, no problem.

  8. Thank you for your kind offer. I may take you up on that as I get more specific information.

    • david pinder says:

      Hi – it is a small world. I think I have link for you. One of my father’s uncles was an Edgar Pinder who emigrated to Canada from Ravensthorpe in the West Riding of Yorkshire. We were told he became a lawyer and moved to live in Portland, Oregan(I have several pictures of him) and that he was also an accomplished organist. In the 1970s, whilst in the US on training, I went to Portland to try to find out if any relatives were traceable – but was told that, as he had become a US citizen at some point, they would release no details to me – I don’t know if they were just too busy. I don’t know if that helps you in your quest?
      Best wishes, David Pinder

  9. Liz says:

    It’s no problem I’m currently stuck on my husband great grandfather, apparently his family didn’t exist before 1853! So I sympathise 🙂

  10. MJ says:

    I have just received DNA results for my family Y-DNA (male line). Although we have the Surname “Poole”, the DNA match is perfect for a C.J.Parrett, age, location etc. unknown. I am trying to locate this person to see if there are any connections between our families and how they could have the same ancestor. My ancestor could have been an orphan whose “Poole” surname came with an adopting family. Anyone in this line had their Y-DNA tested?

  11. The Parrett in this family line is only one name and there was no blood relationship. We also know absolutely nothing about him or Louella, whom he married late in life. She is our blood kin and one of our big mysteries.

  12. david pinder says:

    good morning – I thought that I had found a family lead when I first saw your article. An uncle of my father emigrated to Portland Oregon sometime around the turn of the 2oth century. He went by the name of Edgar Pinder and is said to have been a lawyer of some sort (poss. DA) and to have played the organ in Portland cathedral. contact lost in 1930s or thereabouts. We have a photo of a smartly-dressed, stern looking chap with steel-rimmed glasses and shaven head, age mid to late 30s. I don’t think he fits into your timeframe though, or does he? It would be good if anyone else can help our search though, best wishes, David Pinder

  13. @david pinder:

    No Edgar Pinder in my records, but then, as noted, I have no records yet on the Pinders, so who knows. Let’s keep digging. 😀

  14. John Perrott says:

    I am the editor of the P*RR*TT Society quarterly magazine, ‘Family Notes’ and would like to use the details in your article in our magazine if you have no objections. The next issue is due 1 June 2008.

    Many thanks

    John Perrott

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  16. Pingback: Howard W. West Sr. Timeline | Family History

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