Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: New Orleans edition

While on my honeymoon in October, I managed to sneak in a little genealogy (yes, I am incorrigible :) ). The New Orleans tour bus stopped for ONLY 10 minutes at St. Louis Cemetery #3. (Horrors!) So I took some photos in the limited time I had, and here are some of them. I am not related to any of these people, but thought I would document some while I was there in case it helps someone else. I will eventually contribute the info to Find a Grave or another online repository.

Some of the wall vaults [at left, above] at St. Louis #3, which opened in 1854, are in rather a state of disrepair, and signs concerning renovations have been posted by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which operates the Catholic cemetery. [Please note that I had only a few minutes in the cemetery and saw only the wall vaults nearest the entrance. I have no info on other parts of the cemetery. Tombs in the front part of the cemetery looked like they were in mostly good repair.]

From what I understand, in the past, families have owned burial plots in New Orleans cemeteries, much like owning any other piece of property. Unfortunately, the ownership info may not be communicated to other family members, younger generations move away, and the burial places may then suffer from neglect. According to an an archdiocese official quoted in this 2008 USA Today article, after 50 years of "no activity" [no burials? no correspondence from owners? no signs of upkeep?], the archdiocese may post a public notice for one year, then restore and sell a plot if no descendants of the tomb owners are found. The remains in the ceded tomb, I presume, are relocated and their location noted in cemetery records. New tombs built in New Orleans Catholic cemeteries require a one-time fee for perpetual care.

A notre fils cheri, René Bertonière, décédé le 2 Avril 1870, à l'age de 11 mois et demi./To our dear son René Bertonière, [who] died 2 April 1870, at the age of 11 1/2 months.

If you have relatives buried here in the older wall-vault section near the cemetery entrance, or suspect you do, you may want to check Find a Grave, the Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans volumes or other sources (see the bottom of this post for more) to see if your relatives are listed, and perhaps call the archdiocese for more info. If you wish to take over an ancestral tomb, however, fees for renovation and/or perpetual care can be rather expensive. [And I'm not sure that's even possible unless you are a legal heir of the deceased; I assume property laws as well as cemetery laws/ordinances govern this kind of thing.]

I'm not sure if the laws vary from parish to parish (Louisiana's version of counties) or city to city in Louisiana, or if there are statewide policies about control of neglected gravesites. I'd appreciate more info from readers. I do know there was controversy over the deeds to gravesites being "repossessed" in St. Martinville a few years ago, where a similar law applied.

By using software to crop the photos & adjust the saturation and contrast, I can make out a few names here and there. In the section pictured above, names and surnames include: Pierre Mallet and Marie Estelle Mallet, Gonzales, the G. Villeneuve family, George Victor Durand or Duband, Barry or Harry F. Ratwall?, Fenasci, Houlne, and Ernest Turpin.

While some marble markers are bolted to what appears to be cement or plaster-covered brick wall vaults, others are not. Either the material adhering the marble to the vault has eroded or the marker has just fallen in some cases, breaking on the ground and taking with it valuable genealogical information. The archdiocese may have the marker info in its records, but it still makes me sad to see broken markers.

Names or surnames on this wall that I can decipher from the photo above include: Louis Talazac?, Gostino Biagini, Angelina Guil_ _, Edler family, Louise Edler, the Charles Vautier family, Louis C. Vautier, Harold F. Lesslie, and Pearl Amelie Cenbrun Lesslie. Note there is a sign here regarding renovations.

Section of wall vaults with archdiocese sign. Here repose the Francisco Esteva family; Katy Schleiniger, William Schleiniger, and Mary Butsch?; and the Lalosevich family.

In multicultural New Orleans, here we have the probably French-German Auguste Kitzinger next to Italians Ginotti F. Ferruccio (born in Rome, his marker states) and a Zambella, who in turn were laid to rest next to the undoubtedly Irish John C. Murphy and possible wife Maud L. Murphy, who are neighbors to C. Booth, who perhaps has English roots.

This broken marker is for Miguel F. Cross, who died in 1919 at age 18? years, and ----el Cross, who was born in 1866? and died 6 May 1868.

For further research:
You can find more info on New Orleans burial records available at the New Orleans Public Library here, or about St. Louis Cemetery #3 and other NOLA cemetery records available through LDS (Mormon) family history centers at the LDS library catalog online. You can find many photos of St. Louis #3 and other cemeteries at the New Orleans Cemeteries website and at Wikimedia Commons. Additionally, Save Our Cemeteries is a group doing wonderful preservation work in New Orleans, including tomb restorations at St. Louis Cemetery #1 and #2, and Lafayette Cemetery #1.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: My Newest Treasure

My most recent "treasure" acquisition is also a convenient excuse for blogging only sporadically until now: it's my wedding gown, which I donned October 10 to marry my longtime sweetie. (I would also consider him my latest "treasure," but I'm not sure he's ready for blog stardom. :) )

Wedding gown in ivory with champagne lace and sash; furry genealogy assistant Roux.

Genealogy hounds will no doubt be amused to hear that we are 7th cousins once removed, our common ancestor being a Stevenson born about 1700, probably in Scotland (father to James and William of N. Ireland & the Carolinas). Some online trees have the ancestor as Henry Stephenson, b. 1698 in Roxburghshire, Scotland, but I don't know if this actually has been proven, and I haven't been investigating the Stevenson trail lately.

Wedding gown, back view.

We'd been dating 10 years before I even discovered we were related. I decided to visit his mom's online tree one day, spotted a familiar surname, and before you knew it, we were "kissing cousins"! Of course, at the 7th-cousin level, there's not really much "ick" factor to worry about, as we'd have only a speck of genetic heritage in common.

Bodice detail

Still, it makes a good story, doesn't it? His parents and siblings always made me feel like part of their family; little did we know, I already was! :)

Train and sash detail.

All text and images copyright 2009 by the author.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day and the Hall family

Originally posted in 2009; worth a repost.  To all our veterans out there, thank you for your service.

For Veterans Day, I'd like to salute my dad, his four brothers and one of his sisters for their service to our country. All five of the Hall brothers of Sulphur, Louisiana, served in the U.S. Navy. How they felt about their sister serving as an Army nurse, I'm not sure, but I'll have to pose that question at the next family gathering!

My late dad, George Hall, served as a fighter pilot in World War II in the South Pacific.

George Hall, c. 1944. Photo privately held by author.

He originally trained on dive bombers, but switched to fighters when he heard more fighter pilots were needed. He flew an F6F Hellcat from the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in 1945, and years later, was still thrilled to see and discuss planes he trained in or flew in the war. Kudos to our family friend who recorded Dad's reminiscences a couple of years ago on DVD.

(By the way, Thanksgiving gatherings are a great time to record family memories! See the StoryCorps website for ideas.)

Dad was following in his older brother Bob's footsteps by joining the Navy. Robert Lee Hall (1920-2003) was a baker and petty officer on the troop ship APA 117 Haskell during World War II, and later on the aircraft carrier USS Boxer. He helped set up bakeries on ships and on various Pacific islands, including New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and islands in the Samoas and Fijis.

Robert Lee Hall, 1940s. Photo privately held by author.

Uncle Bob told his hometown paper 50 years later, "I remember the terrible heat below deck in the ships' kitchens and also in the tropical island kitchens. And sailors. I got so tired of seeing sailors, day after day, year after year, for the six years I was in service." The monotony was no doubt alleviated when my aunt Martha Burch, as his fiancée, took a troop ship to meet Uncle Bob in the Samoas, where they married and lived for a time.

John Bunyon Hall (1923-2008) was the third Hall brother to serve in the South Pacific during WW II. He worked in the torpedo parts room aboard the sub tender USS Fulton. He was part of a gunner's crew that shot down two attacking enemy planes during the Battle of Saipan.

John Bunyan Hall, 1940s. Photo privately held & digitally edited by author.

Two other living uncles served in the Navy after World War II, and one of my aunts was an Army nurse.  To respect their privacy, I won't name them here but will just say how proud we all are of all our relatives who have served in the military! Happy Veterans Day!

Explore your family's military history.  Talk to relatives, find out more about requesting military personnel files here and check out free records available at familysearch.org, for a good start.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Hurricane evacuation route sign, Sulphur, LA, Feb. 2009. Digital photo by the author.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Tombstone Trekking Tips Edition

(Yes, it's Wednesday now. Better late than never!)

Tip #1:
If a cousin offers to take you to a cemetery, go! Don't worry that you don't have "enough" time to spend there or don't have all your genealogy info with you, just GO.

I was in Scott, LA, in February, visiting recently-discovered second cousins after a mutual cousin's funeral. One of them offered to show me where her grandfather (my great-uncle) and grandmother were buried. It was late in the day, and I didn't have all my info with me, but I went anyway and took my camera. Here are my great-uncle and great-aunt's graves.

Mrs. Euclide (Eugenie Légère) Légère, Nov. 6, 1863 - Feb. 13, 1939
Euclide Légère, Sept. 22, 1863 - Jan. 16, 1949
Sts. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Scott, LA, Feb. 2009.
[Note: Hebert's Southwest Louisiana Records gives Eugenie's birth as 15 Nov. 1862 and Euclide's as Sept. 22, 1862. These years are probably correct; it's possible that Eugenie was baptized on Nov. 15. I need to follow up on this.]

(Tip #1a: Tombstones aren't always correct.)

Serendipity then rewarded me--or perhaps it was our dearly departed cousin smiling down on us. As I looked up from the Légères' gravesite, I spotted another familiar name: McBride. I walked over and found the grave of my great-great grandmother, Melasie Hollier McBride! I didn't even know she was buried in Scott! (See Tip #1.)

Mrs. Wm. McBride, née Melasie Hollier, Dec. 11, 1825 - Aug. 19, 1925
Sts. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Scott, LA, Feb. 2009.
[Note: Southwest Louisiana Records gives her birth as Dec. 11, 1830. See Tip #1a.]

Tip #2: Look on both sides of the headstone.

I made time for another brief visit to Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery before I left Louisiana. This time, I happened to approach my great-great grandmother's grave from the opposite side, and found two great-uncles who were buried with Melasie. She was their grandmother, and their names were listed on the reverse of her headstone, which I neglected to investigate on my first visit. And no, I didn't know they were buried in Scott, either! [It was a last-minute trip, and I hadn't expected to have any genealogy time.]

Fabian [or Fabien] Légère, Dec. 1, 1896 - Dec. 5, 1916
Henry [Joseph Henri, a.k.a. "Pete"] Stemmans [or Stemmann], Oct. 4, 1877 - Oct. 17, 1942
Reverse of headstone for Melasie Hollier McBride, their grandmother.
Sts. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Scott, LA, Feb. 2009.

Both were sons of Marie Octavie "Tavie" McBride, who married Cyprien Stemmann, and then Constant Légère. Euclide Légère of the top photo in this post became Tavie's stepson.
[Note: Southwest Louisiana Records gives Fabian's birth as Dec. 1, 1895.]

More Tombstone Tips to come -- learning the hard way so you don't have to!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Cross Roads Basketball Team, Rural Champions, by Langdon Photo, Claiborne Parish, LA, 1924. Digital scan of original photograph owned by author's family, slightly edited & enlarged.

I have no idea who these men are, but maybe someone else will know. My grandmother, Edna Maud Pate Stevenson, a teacher, was coach of the girls' team the same year. Crossroads or Cross Roads is a community near Athens, in Northwest Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Edna Maud Pate, Natchitoches, La., c. 1921.  Scan of photo privately held by Liz Hall Morgan.

A belated birthday & St. Patrick's Day salute to my maternal grandmother, Edna Maud Pate Stevenson. She was born on St. Paddy's, her favorite color was green, and she died her hair back to its natural red until she died just before her 90th birthday, in 1986. A true (part-)Irish lassie for the ages.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Barn adjacent to St. Peter Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Carencro, LA, Nov. 2007. Digital photo by author.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

Rusted Cross, St. Peter Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Carencro, LA, Nov. 2007. Digital photo by author.

This cross sits in front of a Civil War headstone for Valerien Prejean, so it probably marks the grave of a Prejean family member. I recently uploaded 70+ photos taken in the same cemetery to the Find A Grave website. Some of my Legere relatives and allied families are buried there, in the heart of "Cajun Country" near Lafayette, LA.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grandma Elia's French New Testament

This post was composed for the 13th Edition of the "Cabinet of Curiosities," hosted at Walking the Berkshires.

I suppose it's fitting that my first post about my family be about Elia Legere Hall, my paternal grandmother. She represents the link to my Legere family, my nearest Cajun French ancestors, and the ethnic group with which I most identify, having grown up in Southwest Louisiana. Unfortunately, both she and my paternal grandfather died before I was born, so they are also subjects of my unending curiosity. "What were their personalities like?" "What were their lives like?" "Why did they do the things they did?" are questions I've often asked relatives.

This artifact, a French New Testament, brings me immediately to a thorny subject -- religion -- and it raises as many questions as it answers. The French New Testament was given to my bilingual grandmother in 1935, presumably by a clergyman, and my father gave it to me in 2007.

In September, 1918, Elia Legere was a 29-year-old Catholic Cajun woman who lived with her parents near Scott, Louisiana, taught catechism and kept the account books for her father's farm. Then she met Robert Bunyan Hall, an Irish Protestant brick mason at least 11 years her senior, of mysterious background from Virginia, who previously was known only to her brother-in-law, and then merely as a fishing buddy.

Six weeks or so later, they were married and living in Southeast Texas, Elia no longer teaching catechism or even allowed by her new husband Robert to practice Catholicism. He wasn't having any "idols" in his house, he said, about the accoutrements of rosary and crucifix. Needless to say, Elia's parents were not thrilled, and she probably wasn't, either.

(Left, L-R:) Ovilia Legere Guidry, Elia Legere Hall, Robert Bunyan Hall, Gerome Guidry, c. 1918, near Orange, Texas.

Why would Elia change her life so dramatically? Perhaps at 29, she was despairing of gaining permanent status as an old maid, taking care of her father's farm instead of children and a husband. Perhaps Robert had his charms, despite his faults. They did seem to have affection for one another, it's said, and Grandpa reportedly demanded great respect for Grandma from their children.

Elia did manage to bring religion to her children, and back into her own life, by attending a presumably Robert-sanctioned local Baptist church. Despite her husband's opinions, she did find a way to continue something important to her. For that, I admire her. And she eventually mended fences with her parents, though I'm not sure things were ever exactly the same. My dad said just the other day that the Legeres "never had much use for Daddy." We laughed, though, at the thought that Grandpa probably didn't have much use for them, either, though our Legere relatives are certainly close to our own hearts.

(Left) Bible inscription page

Interestingly, a page of the Bible is turned down, marking I Corinthians, Chapter 7. My dad says he didn't dog-ear the page, and he's the only one besides Grandma, I think, who would have read this Bible. The chapter speaks about problems in marriage; could Elia have taken comfort in scripture during rough times? Perhaps. Robert and Elia's marriage lasted 34 years, until his death in 1952.

I have a feeling this blog may bring up as many questions as it answers; after writing this, I want to talk to more relatives about Robert & Elia. Was she swept off her feet when she left her family for a non-Cajun Protestant? Did he attend church? Was it important to him, or was it important only that Elia not be Catholic? Was she ever accepted by her parents again? Why did Dad think the Legeres "didn't have much use" for Robert?

I have more interviewing to do, it seems ...

My Big Fat Experiment

Welcome to my blog. Its long title is derived from the (private) online family tree I similarly dubbed in a lighthearted spirit. I hope to use this family history & genealogy chronicle in the same lighthearted, yet thoughtful, manner to explore my rich Louisiana (and beyond) heritage, preserve family stories, and share my ongoing research with family members and other readers. I hope you enjoy the journey.