Penisson Family

The Penissons

The Penissons are legendary in my family for two reasons. First, they weren’t Cajuns (they emigrated from France long after the Cajuns arrived). Second, they had a little money.

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Jean Baptiste Etienne Penisson

Here’s my great-great-great grandfather, Jean Baptiste Etienne Penisson. He married Henriette Nina Boudreaux and had 11 children. Their daughter, Marie Rosalie, was my great-great grandmother.

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Etienne Benjamin Penisson and Rosalie Trahan

This is supposedly a portrait of Jean Baptiste Etienne’s parents, Etienne Benjamin and Rosalie Trahan Penisson. I say supposedly because Etienne Benjamin died in 1856. I am not an expert on the history of photography in America. However, you have to remember that the Penissons lived in Bayou L’Ourse,  a small community between Morgan City and Thibodaux. I’m not certain how they would have gotten their picture taken in the early, early days of photography. It’s possible, though. Maybe they managed to get to New Orleans.

Etienne Benjamin paid cash for 303 acres of land in 1844. The land was in Assumption Parish. At this point, I have to rely on oral history courtesy of my late grandmother. According to her, my great-great grandparents, Jean Severin Hebert and Marie Rosalie Penisson, got a section of this land. They lived in the Big House, which eventually went to my great-grandfather, Jean Jules Hebert. I don’t know if Jean Severin and Marie Rosalie built this house or inherited it. I don’t even know how many rooms it had – although I’m sure it was a standard bayou house, built on pilings with one room flowing directly into the next. Regardless, it burned when my great-grandfather was married and living in it. He moved across the bayou and rented a house. Eventually (after my great-grandmother died), he moved back across the bayou to the family land and lived in what amounted to a shack until he moved into a nursing home.

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This couple is described on Ancestry as a young Etienne Benjamin Penisson and Rosalie Trahan. I’m confident this picture was mislabeled.

The family money had run out, probably after the Civil War. However, the family held onto the land. I don’t know who owns it today. I can tell you where it is because we visited it often when I was a child. At one point, my mother’s childhood home shared the land with her uncle’s house. My mother’s home is long gone, but Uncle Howard’s home was still there last I visited.

9 thoughts on “The Penissons”

  1. Hello there-
    My name is Tony Lauricella. I’m from Gretna, La but live in NYC. My grandfather was Robert Pennison. Son of Auguste Honore Penisson who was the son of Etienne Penisson(jr?) I have a genealogy book from my family: The Penisson Family France to Louisiana. I just googled Etienne’s name and found your site. Just saying hello.

      1. I am part of the Pennison family that came to Texas in 1918. I would love to see or copy the book y’all are referring to. My father was Robert Alexander and my Grandfather was August Joseph Pennison.

  2. My mom’s sister Mable, married Harold Pennison from a town west of Morgan City area.
    Harold’s father or maybe Harold himself is depicted as the statue of the man standing up in the perouq boat in that park next to the Civic Center in Morgan City

  3. I am a descendant of Etienne Penisson (d. 1856) too; through his daughter Mary Celeste (b. 1825) who married Salvadore Jose Font. I am trying to find the source of Etienne’s name being Etienne Benjamin. Is there a document or record that confirms that name? Thanks for any help. Pam

    1. Hi, Pam. Always nice to meet another cousin! A distant relative, who’s now deceased, paid a genealogist in the 1980s to pull his baptismal record in France. She recorded in a self-published book: “Etienne Benjamin Penisson, born 5 June 1777; baptized 6 June 1777 at Quirouard, France.” Unfortunately, she didn’t include an actual copy of the baptismal record in the book. I Googled Quirouard and didn’t find any such town. Etienne’s one-time marker, which probably was put up to replace a tomb that got destroyed, said he was born in Nantes. I looked through the Nantes baptismal records and found a Nicolas Penisson but no Etienne. Curiously, my distant cousin’s book says a sister born after Etienne was born at sea while later siblings were born at La Plaine-Sur-Mer. I’ll keep looking if you want to look as well. This website, https://french-genealogy.typepad.com/genealogie/, contains useful links to digital archives.

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