Free Stuff Friday: Help make genealogy accessible

A few years ago, I started transcribing records for familysearch.org. Imagine my surprise when I found myself transcribing my great-great-aunt’s birth certificate. Not only was I helping other people, I was also helping my own family.

Transcribing makes genealogy more accessible by using volunteers to index records. Years ago, we looked at census records on microfilm and spent hours hunched over those machines looking for our ancestors. Now we can look at census records online and even search a digital index for names.

The Smithsonian Institute is looking for volunteers to help transcribe records. Among the projects is the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which was a federal agency that helped freed slaves and poor whites with shelter, food, clothing and fuel.

Records for Louisiana aren’t in the available list yet, but you can help with records for North Carolina and Tennessee. Here’s the handy dandy link: https://transcription.si.edu/

If you’d like to see the records for Louisiana, you can hop on over to familysearch.org. Carve out a few hours. There are nearly 100,000 images of records, and they’re not indexed. See: This is why transcribing is so important!

Aucoin family

The mystery of an orphan named Louis Aucoin

I stumbled across Louis Aucoin while researching the Aucoins who settled in New Orleans. Where he falls in the family tree is a mystery. To me, what little I know about him reads like a Charles Dickens’ novel.

His death certificate lists him as an “inmate” at St. Mary’s Orphan Boys’ Asylum. That just means he was in care.

Little Louis was 13 when he drowned in the Mississippi River. He died in June, which can be unbearably hot in Louisiana so perhaps he went swimming in search of relief from the heat. The newspaper article about his death is sparse.

What it does tell us is that the nuns at the orphanage took charge of his body. No doubt Louis ended up in a pauper’s grave. There’s no mention of family.

Children weren’t necessarily orphans when they ended up in an orphanage in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sometimes their parents just weren’t very responsible, and the orphanage became a place to deposit unsupervised children when extended family failed to step up. The Big Easy had temptations long before college kids started discovering Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

At one time, New Orleans teemed with orphanages. Here’s a list of some of them: http://www.storyvilledistrictnola.com/asylums_orphanages.html

St. Mary’s was an “immense brick pile” that consisted of an old plantation home, a yard for playing ball and niches that held statues of the saints. The Thanksgiving of the year little Louis died, 400 boys at the asylum dined on a donated roasted pig.

How Louis ended up in the asylum is unclear. The New Orleans Mayor’s Office kept records on the disposition of orphans. However, the online records end in the year 1889.

The records are a great resource. They detail who brought the child to the orphanage (sometimes it was a policeman) and the reasons why. Here’s one little boy who was sent to St. Mary’s in 1889:

Here’s the handy dandy link if you’d like to browse the books: https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/184965?availability=Family%20History%20Library

What perplexes me about Louis is the Aucoins who settled in New Orleans weren’t destitute or lacking in relations. I don’t know why Louis would’ve been placed in an orphanage, where 400 boys shared a single roasted pig for Thanksgiving dinner.

For now, I’m filing this under Unsolved Mystery.

Fun facts about Louisiana

The only person buried at the State Capitol

Huey facing the State Capitol he built for all of eternity.

The death of former Gov. Edwin Edwards (Louisiana’s only four-term governor) sparked a debate the other day. It was well known that Edwards wanted to be buried on the Capitol grounds. This was so well known that a political aide admitted to me that she walked the perimeter of the Capitol garden two nights in a row to see if a hole was being secretly dug. She expected one last fast one from our most colorful and controversial governor since it’s supposed to take an act of the Legislature to be buried at the Capitol. If you’re from Louisiana, you tend to expect shenanigans. I can’t explain it.

But back to the debate.

Huey Long – the political firecracker who built the State Capitol building and was gunned down in a marbled hallway there – actually is buried in the Capitol gardens. I thought his wife was placed beside him. My friend insisted it’s just Huey out there in the grounds. I looked it up – and, of course, she was right.

The Legislature passed a resolution to bury Huey outside his beloved State Capitol.

I’m not sure that most tourists realize there’s a grave amongst the neatly trimmed hedgerows and rolling hills of the Capitol gardens. The original marker now is in a museum. It was replaced by a towering monument with a statue of Huey looking at the State Capitol. It doesn’t look like a headstone.

Huey’s original marker.

By the way, there’s a crater in front of the statue that would make a great sledding hill if we got snow in Louisiana. Most Louisiana kids have slid down that hill on their bellies using a piece of cardboard. It’s great fun.

Back to Huey. He wasn’t governor in name when he was assassinated. But he was running the state as a U.S. senator with an eye on the White House. He died 30 hours after he was shot by a rather nerdy looking eye doctor in a Capitol hallway that used to lead to the Governor’s Office (now it’s where the Senate president and House speaker conduct business).

The day of his funeral was sweltering hot. Many among the 100,000-thick crowd fainted from the heat. The LSU band played. His widow wore black. His daughter wore white. From the grand Memorial Hall (wrongly called the Rotunda by most everyone), the heavy coffin was carried down the steps of the State Capitol to the Capitol gardens. It must have been a relief for the pallbearers to place it on a horse-drawn carriage for the rest of the journey to the grave. Huey’s family sat in folding chairs until the graveside service was over and they could escape the spectators to the privacy of a limo.

Here’s a newspaper account: “The sun beat down on trampled grass and dirt-caked concrete. Scraps of paper lay lifeless and hot in the windless air. It looked as though some great picnic party had encamped in the vast garden and now near dusk was straggling home. Huey Long was in his grave.”

He’s been there every since.

As I looked at the coverage of Edwin Edwards’ funeral, which was held over the weekend, I was struck by the similarities to the Long funeral. Both had a horse-drawn hearse, marching band and the difficult, final walk down the steps of the State Capitol to the Capitol gardens since both governors’ viewings were held in Memorial Hall. Edwards’ coffin didn’t stop at the gardens. It moved through and onto the Old State Capitol a few blocks away for his funeral service.

There is a rumor circulating in Louisiana right now. The speculation is that Edwin Edwards was cremated and his ashes quietly spread on the Capitol grounds to fulfill his supposed wish of wanting to be buried there. So maybe Huey’s no longer alone.

Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: New Orleans Missing Persons’ Cases

Reading through reports of people who went missing in the city of New Orleans between 1906 and 1925 is rather sobering. Most of the “missing” people are actually unidentified bodies. These are people who fell into the river or got hit by a car without any identification on them.

Then there’s Ida Henry, who fell from a ferry in 1908. She was wearing a black dress, a white shawl over her head and two rings. I don’t know if her body was ever found.

Someone put a notice in the newspaper offering an unnamed reward for the return of her body.

The fact that a report on Ida is contained in the Coroner’s Office’s Missing Person files makes me think they never found her body. I couldn’t find a death certificate for her.

And, really, that’s all I know about poor Ida. I don’t know if she jumped into the river or fell from the ferry. I don’t know if she left behind a husband and children. All I get is a glimpse of her with a shawl over her head and two rings on her fingers before the Mississippi River claimed her.

Here’s the link to the records: https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/186637?availability=Family%20History%20Library

Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Periodicals

Years ago, when researching the family tree coincided with the typewriter, our grandmothers did invaluable work pouring their research into periodicals. You’ve probably walked past rows of them at the library: Terrebonne Life Lines, St. Mary Links, New Orleans Genesis, etc.

I got frustrated in my early days of library research at having to flip through volume after volume in search of something that pertained to my family tree. Then I discovered an online index: http://www.acadian-cajun.com/accajind.htm

Happy day!

Here’s the handy dandy guide to the abbreviations for the periodicals:

The kind folks behind this website went through 21 periodicals and indexed 5,000 articles by subject matter. Wasn’t that very nice of them?

You’ll find insanity, burial, marriage records and more.


Genealogy tools


Our ancestors died of all sorts of nasty things. My ancestors were prone to apoplexy. I found this useful glossary of the most common diseases on the Orleans Parish’s Genweb site:

Apoplexy – Paralysis due to stroke

Brain Fever – Meningitis

Bright’s Disease – Chronic inflammatory disease of kidneys

Child bed fever – Infection following birth of a child

Cholera – Acute severe contagious diarrhea with intestinal lining sloughing

Cholera morbus – Characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, elevated temperature, etc. Could be appendicitis.

Congestive chills/ fever – Malaria

Consumption – Tuberculosis

Decrepitude – Feebleness due to old age

Dropsy – Edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease

Dropsy of the Brain – Encephalitis

Dysentery – Inflammation of colon with frequent passage of mucous and blood

Encephalitis – Swelling of brain; aka sleeping sickness

Falling sickness – Epilepsy

Flux – An excessive flow or discharge of fluid like hemorrhage or diarrhea

Grippe/grip – Influenza like symptoms

Jaundice – Condition caused by blockage of intestines

Lagrippe – Influenza

Lockjaw – Tetanus or infectious disease affecting the muscles of the neck and jaw. Untreated, it is fatal in 8 days

Lung fever – Pneumonia

Lung sickness – Tuberculosis

Meningitis – Inflation of brain or spinal cord

Nephrosis – Kidney degeneration

Nepritis – Inflammation of kidneys

Quinsy – Abscess behind tonsils

Small pox – Contagious disease with fever and blisters

Summer complaint – Diarrhea, usually in infants caused by spoiled milk

Tetanus – Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache and dizziness

Trench mouth – apathos ulcers or a virus disease

Thrush – Childhood disease characterized by spots on mouth, lips and throat

Tuberculosis – Bacterial infection that primarily attacks the lungs, but which may also affect the kidneys, bones, lymph nodes, and brain. Symptoms of TB include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, chills, and fatigue.

Typhus – Infectious fever characterized by high fever, headache, and dizziness

Winter fever – Pneumonia

Assumption Parish Genealogy

Frioux/Friou/Fryou for Friday

If your last name is Fryou, then it probably was once Frioux or Frio or Ferio. But it was never Frillot. Make sense?

One of the maddening things about genealogy is the spellings of names change. There’s a good reason for that. Literacy was once a privilege of the upper class. Chances are, your Cajun ancestor didn’t read or write. He had no clue how to spell his last name.

Take the Frioux family. The line started in Louisiana with Francois Frioux, who arrived in Louisiana in 1785 with his son Francois. Francois Sr.’s wife, Susanne, must have died in France before the journey across the ocean. The Spaniards – who were in charge of the colony at the time – gave Francois Sr. an axe, a hatchet, a shovel a meat cleaver and two hoes to help with his new life along Bayou Lafourche.

Onboard the same ship as the Frioux father and son was Isabelle Bourg, who would soon become Francois Sr.’s second wife. They would have two sons: Francois Filbert (called Filbert to make things less confusing) and Joseph Elie.

The three boys had lots of children. Over the years, the name Frioux evolved – probably because no one was quite sure how to spell it. Fryou, Frioux, Frio, Ferio all were used. There were also a lot of Frillots over in Acadiana, but they don’t appear to be related to the Fryou/Frioux/Frio family.

I’m including the succession index from the Assumption Parish courthouse just to show how the name evolved in a single parish.

Happy Friday!

Newspaper articles

Baking cakes in the 1880s

I have a jar of mincemeat that’s been sitting in my fridge since Christmas. Wondering what to do with it, I searched a newspaper database and found this cake recipe from the 1880s. I thought I’d share.

This is called a Swiss cake – and I love the pointers: Cream the butter and sugar with your hand for that body temperature touch, put in a quite hot oven (how did people cook before temperature dials) and test with a broom splint (the days before toothpicks). I can also flavor with any preferred flavoring – no measurements given on, say, adding cocoa powder. And I can add mincemeat!

Should I give it a whirl? What could possibly go wrong?

Thank you to the “Tensas Gazette” for this gem.

Assumption Parish Genealogy, Cemeteries, Uncategorized

Christ Episcopal Church in Napoleonville

I’ve driven past this church for years. It’s off a state highway that runs through Napoleonville. That little archway has always beckoned me. This weekend I finally pulled over and explored the world behind it.

Long weekends are made for rambles. This is Christ Episcopal, which was designed by an NYC architect. For some reason, he wanted it to have the feel of an English country church even though it’s in a Louisiana country town. This church was an English-speaking oasis in French-speaking Napoleonville.

A cemetery is at the back of the church. This lovely statue holds watch over the graves, all of them magnificent even though some are crumbling.

The church dates to 1853 and was built at a cost of $9,500. Time hasn’t always been kind to it. During the Civil War, Union soldiers used it as a barracks and later a stable. The stained glass became a target for shooting practice.

The creation of the church was a true collaboration by the Episcopal members of a largely Catholic community. Napoleonville was very Cajun in the 1850s, but a few residents weren’t Catholic and they wanted their own church. New Hampshire native Ebeneezer Eaton Kittredge donated a corner of his plantation for the church and cemetery. Col. William Whitmell Pugh supplied the cypress and bricks. George Ament oversaw the construction and is buried in the church cemetery.

The original congregation numbered just 21 members. Not all were Episcopalian. Some were Catholics who wanted to participate in “so great a good.” Let’s face it: They were probably curious.

After the war, the congregation pulled together once again. They held church services in the courthouse down the road while rebuilding their ruin of a church.

The church would later be struck by lightning and ravaged by other acts of nature. Still, it endured.

At times, the church has been a bit of a hotbed for controversy. One clergyman, Quincy Ewing, embraced women’s suffrage and the equality of black people during the early 1900s. Enraged by a sermon on women’s suffrage, U.S. Sen. Walter Guion stormed out and quit the church. Ewing survived the controversy, largely because his family donated the land for the church.

Today, Christ Episcopal is one of the oldest Episcopal churches west of the Mississippi River. The grounds were quiet when we visited. We ignored the “private property” sign, kept to the pathways and respected the serene beauty. Hopefully, we didn’t offend.

Templet family, terrebonne parish

Lizzie Templet Schmitt

100 years after she died, there’s still a marker for Lizzie.

I went to Gibson today to spruce up my grandparents’ graves. While there, I walked the small cemetery to see if I could find Lizzie Schmitt/Schmidt’s grave.

Lizzie was the baby sister of my granny’s great grandmother, Anaise Templet Giroir. After her mother died when she was just a baby, she rotated among the relatives before marrying and settling in Gibson. It took me a bit to prove she was Anaise’s sister. My guess is their mother died in childbirth having Lizzie and the family didn’t get around to baptizing Lizzie.

I’d never seen her grave in the Gibson cemetery, but an old catalog of the graves showed markers for her, her husband and at least some of their children.

The Schmitt family plot

Using the mention of the graves being in their own enclosure as a guide, I studied the cemetery and soon came across a row of graves squared off by a low border of bricks. None of the graves were readable, which would be why I didn’t remember coming across Lizzie.

I went down the little line of markers and noticed one had a nameplate. It read Mrs. Jos. Schmitt. That would be Lizzie. I’d probably seen it before I knew her married name and it hadn’t registered.

I stuck some white flowers in the ground next to her marker. It’s sad when markers get neglected and forgotten.

Am I the only one who carries extra flowers to the cemetery?