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.