Benoit Family, lafourche parish

Where’d you go, Joe?

The headline is a bit tongue-in-cheek. My ancestor Joe Benoit is most certainly dead unless he’s defied the statistics and is currently 176 years old. Hey, anything’s possible.

I can’t find a single piece of paper showing me when Joe died.

A few things about Joe. He was christened Joseph Alfred Benoit, but he always seemed to go by Joseph or Joe. He was a twin. He and his twin sister, Marie Adelina Josephine Benoit, were the cabooses in the family of Alexis Celestin Benoit and Marie Adelaides Clement Benoit. Their mother was 39 when they were born.

Two of Joe’s older brothers were murdered. Sylvain was shot to death in 1868 on the main street of Houma by a stranger. Paulin was stabbed to death when a fight at a party got out of hand just a year later.

In the fight that killed his brother, Joe’s ribs were bruised.

Joe was present when Paulin died but was too ill to testify at the inquest. Apparently he also got involved in the fight that night. So, I picture him as a bit scrappy and hot headed.

The marriage record of Joseph Benoit and Felicia Bergeron.

In 1872, Joe married Marie Felicia Bergeron. Their daughter Eugenie was my great grandmother. She died of breast cancer – a disease that continues to plague her descendants. I don’t have many family stories about Eugenie’s family because she died relatively young. All I really know is that she met my great grandfather when she came to help her sister with a baby. Stories about her parents are nonexistent.

Here are Joe and Felicia in 1910 when their youngest child, Cleonise, still was at home. Cleonise was named for Felicia’s mother.

The last mention of Joe is on the 1910 census, when he and Felicia were living with their eldest son in Lafourche Parish. He spoke French. At age 60, he was still working on a sugar farm. He was not able to read or write.

Then, poof, Joe disappeared. Now, in all fairness, Felicia disappeared as well. There’s no mention of either on the 1920 census. But their son filled out a death certificate when Felicia died in 1927. I can’t find a death certificate for Joe.

I called the church archives in Thibodaux for help. Felicia’s death certificate says she was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Thibodaux (I was born at St. Joseph hospital – now closed – which overlooked that cemetery). I thought there might be a mention of who else is buried in Felicia’s plot. Except … there’s no burial record for Felicia much less Joe. The archivist explained to me that priests are really good at recording baptisms and marriages but not always good at recording funerals. A funeral means your story is over. Apparently priests tend to lose interest – or maybe they figure you’re safely in God’s hands now.

The archivist suggested I look in newspaper archives. I’ve done this before, but I dutifully looked again.

Here’s a “slightly demented” Joseph Benoit who disappeared in 1903. He lived on the East Coast so this is probably not my Joe. Thank goodness! We have enough to contend with due to the breast cancer gene. We don’t need to add “slightly demented” to the mix.

Here’s a Joseph Benoit who accidentally killed himself in 1906. The age is about right, but I don’t think my Joe moved to Quebec and joined a railroad gang.

Now adding “Louisiana” to my filters. There are a lot of articles about a Joseph Benoit in Opelousas. Again, I don’t think this is my Joe.

Here’s an article about a fight involving Paulin and Joseph Benoit. Wait, the two of them fought one man? That hardly seems fair although they don’t seem to have been good at fighting. Paulin was killed; Joseph was seriously injured. Yep, this is my Joe.

Now, this is interesting. This appears to be a list of church contributions from Thibodaux in 1921. Could this be my Joe? Could it be a contribution made in his memory?

I found a Joseph Benoit chosen for jury duty in 1912. Probably my Joe. Courts love picking us for jury duty.

Sadly, I can find no mention of a death. This is the rub of genealogy. You can’t tie up every loose end. Presumably, Joe is dead. His story is over – or maybe he’s the oldest living person.

1 thought on “Where’d you go, Joe?”

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