The other side of the family

The Creekmore family in 1949?

Ready for a confession? Here it is: I’m only half Cajun.

My mom’s family has lived in Louisiana for generations. My dad’s family lived in Louisiana now and then but mostly resided in Texas and Arizona. In fact my grandmother’s nickname in high school was “Texas” during the brief time her family lived in California.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the Other Side of the Family (the Texas/Arizona side). I don’t normally do so because my grandmother did tremendous work on this. But photos need to be scanned in and uploaded to Ancestry to help others.

The back of the photo above rather helpfully – and unhelpfully – says Lufkin, 1949. I say helpfully because that suggests this is a Creekmore family reunion. Unhelpfully because I haven’t a clue who the majority of these people are.

I can identify exactly two people: my great-grandparents (and, frankly, I’m not positive that’s my great grandfather). Here they are:

The rest are a mystery. While I’m at it, I’ll share other Creekmore family photos in case they’re helpful to someone.

This is the E.M. Creekmore family. The back of the photo says Pete is holding Cissy and Ned is standing with Cindy:

The one above is simply identified as Anelle – and now I’m wondering if that was Anelle and not my grandmother in the 1949 photo.

Here’s Dick, Johnny and Ned Creekmore (and I may have Dick and Ned reversed). These were my great grandfather’s brothers:

And, finally, I’ll post a few pictures of my great grandfather’s mother, Alma Louise Yarbrough, who married Milo Creekmore.

Here she is age 20:

Here she in the 1950s. I believe this was taken at my grandmother’s wedding:

Here she is with her sister, other relatives and a friend. Flora Etta was her only full-blooded sister. She also had a half sister named Maggie. Dink and Bill were Maggie’s daughters.

The other side of the family

Wedding bells for Rex and Paula

I can’t help but smile looking at these photos. I’ve seen them many times, but I came across them again while scanning in family photos.

These are my grandparents on their wedding day.

Looking at these, I realized for the first time that my grandmother had a going away outfit, which meant extra work for her mother. I’ll explain.

That’s the happy couple – Rex and Paula – in the photo above with my grandmother’s parents. My great-grandmother (I was lucky enough to know her) had such a loving heart. Were it not for her, these photos wouldn’t exist.

My grandmother also has a loving heart, but she’s extremely practical. When her shoes got scuffed, she colored in the scuff marks with a marker rather than buy a new pair. When we got her a Keurig, she tested to see how many times she could reuse the K-cups before noticing an unmanageable difference in her cup of coffee. I laughed when I learned recently how much my young niece loves tuna fish. Tuna is a family favorite. It’s cheap!

So, when it came time for her wedding, my grandmother would’ve been fine getting married by the justice of the peace. Her mother wouldn’t hear of it.

My great grandmother wasn’t frivolous. She grew up during the depression living on sweet potatoes from a neighbor’s field. But she was sentimental when it mattered.

She put together this wedding on a shoestring budget since money was always tight. How did she do it? She enlisted her neighbors to help sew the wedding outfits: bride’s dress, bridesmaids’ dresses and my grandmother’s going away outfit in just a few weeks. Time was critical because my grandfather had to get married while on military leave.

It was really important to my great grandmother that her daughter’s wedding day be special. The photos burst with happiness, don’t they?

And there are such sweet touches. The flowers aren’t plentiful but they’re beautiful. The photos don’t fill a huge album, but some of them are obviously professional.

Above are more members of my grandmother’s family: Her aunt, her grandmother, her sisters and her beloved cousin. It looks like her sister, my Aunt Daphne, caught the bouquet.

Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Sean Astin

I should probably clarify: Sean Astin is not free. He’s the keynote speaker on March 4 at Family Seaarch’s Roots Tech conference. And you can tune in for free!

Given his wild family history (he had to take a DNA test to figure out which of three famous contenders was his biological father; his mother, Patty Duke, wasn’t accepting of the results), I’m expecting a great speech. Plus, I’ve been a fan since the “Goonies” and may have ugly cried on the couch during a fateful scene in “Stranger Things.”

So, I am super excited.

Roots Tech offers a lot of goodies and no booby traps (get it?).

The 2023 calendar is crammed with workshops on DNA, research tools and oddities (my favorite). For example, even though I can’t claim any ancestry in Denmark, I will most likely tune into a Danish census webinar just because the title – “Counting Peasants” – grabbed me.

You’ll also learn how to figure out if you’re related to royalty, navigate adoption reunions, use manuscript collections and more. The fun starts Thursday, March 2, at

Here’s a little calendar of events that might be of particular interest to those researching in Louisiana:

March 2, 9 a.m. CST: Antebellum Emancipations and Free People of Color

March 2, 10:30 a.m. CST: FamilySearch: Finding What You Need and What You Didn’t Know You Wanted

March 2, 2:30 p.m. CST: State and County Courts

March 3, 10:30 a.m. CST: Digging into Death Certification Data to Uncover Family History and Family Health Information Treasures: A Physician’s Perspective

March 3, 10:30 a.m. CST: Using Manuscript Collections

See you in “Counting Peasants!”

St. Mary Parish Genealogy

The Auntie Mame of the Joret family

Much like Mame Dennis, Frank Joret lived. Unfortunately, that living led him to the dog track before he died, broke, at age 48.

Frank was part of the Joret family of Morgan City. The Jorets were very fond of the name August, so much so that the founding parents of the Joret line in Louisiana – Auguste Charles Joret and Philonise Julienne Boudreaux – counted an Auguste, an August and and an Augustine among their children. It must have been confusing growing up in their house.

Frank was their great grandchild through their son August (not to be confused with Auguste). He was the only child of Clovis Joret and Eliza Barlotte. Naturally, Frank’s full name was Francois Augustin Joret.

In 1903, Frank left Morgan City and moved to New Orleans, where he studied business. He dabbled in running a cigar shop, but that didn’t seem to last long.

Frank’s greatest talent seemed to be making friends. He became a ticket seller at a boxing arena and started playing cards with the manager. Soon, Frank was running the arena.

I have to confess that I’ve never loved boxing. So violent! Frank’s life story plunged me into the boxing world of the 1910s and 1920s – a world inhabited by men who traveled the country accepting money from promoters like Frank to step into the ring and fight. The boxers – now long forgotten – were lightening-quick legends whose stars faded fast. Newspapermen flocked to the fights like schoolchildren gathering around a playground squabble.

Frank was the ringmaster who made the circus happen, and local newspapers seemed to talk to him as often as they talked to the mayor. They quoted him at length on the fights, the weather and the flu. Because his fights were held in an open air arena, he often had to call off scheduled boxing matches due to rain. The flu also was a concern in 1918, forcing Frank to cancel a match that threatened to draw too big a crowd.

It was a thrilling but completely transactional business. If a fight happened, the money rained down. If it rained, Frank’s pockets were empty.

Frank also had to contend with problematic fighters like New York boxer Frank Carbone. Poor Carbone. His name is misspelled on the publicity photo below and he was terrified of 3/4 of a pound.

In 1924, Carbone came to New Orleans for a fight arranged by Frank. Carbone balked, however, at stepping into the ring. This didn’t set well with Frank since he’d paid Carbone’s travel expenses and sold tickets to a 15-round bout.

Frank sent the police to Carbone’s hotel to arrest him for breach of contract. Carbone argued that his opponent was over the weight limit by 3/4 of a pound, which negated the fight.

Another famous boxer who stepped into Frank’s ring was Bob Sage (above) of Detroit, who boxed to pay his way through law school. Sage made it to the eighth round before breaking two fingers and ending the fight. Bob eventually did get that law degree and became a judge. Unfortunately, he lost his temper during a dispute over a business deal decades later shot two men dead in his chambers and drowned himself in a river. If only he’d challenged them to a boxing match instead.

For Frank, the early days as a boxing promoter were probably the highlight of his life.

Eventually, boxing became less profitable, forcing Frank to turn to working at the dog track. A few years later, tuberculosis started troubling him. Still, Frank remained as popular as ever.

Friends from the boxing world rallied around him when the news emerged that he was dying in the tuberculosis ward at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Plans were made for a benefit to raise money. Instead, they ended up accompanying his body on a train to Morgan City, where Frank’s boyhood friends greeted him.

Frank was buried next to his mother and father after his friends decided that’s where he should be laid to rest. He never married. He was too busy living.

Genealogy tools

We love a parade

I went to the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade (it’s a Baton Rouge thing) Saturday and was somehow talked into adding rum shots to my giant daiquiri. Let’s just say that I had a marvelous time and came home, ate a baked potato and went to bed while the sun was still up. I didn’t wake up until the next day.

So, I laughed when I came across this postcard while scanning in old family photos. Apparently we love a parade so much that this postcard from April 1918 is carefully saved amongst the portraits of long forgotten babies.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, This is the 36th Infantry Division who fought bravely in World War I. Because they mobilized at Camp Bowie near Fort Worth, they were called the Texas Division. They later even had T patches for their uniforms.

It looks like the entire town turned out to cheer them.

Historic postcards are a useful way to get a glimpse of the past. Our ancestors bought them to remember places and events. Until cameras became commonplace, postcards were a nice memento.

I love so much about this postcard, from the different flags to the spectators perched on rooftops.


Genealogy tools, New Orleans

The secret recipe for easily researching Louisiana death records

Searching death records in Louisiana used to be rather frustrating.

In days of olde, your only resource was the Secretary of State’s Office for records old enough to be released to the general public. True, the state helpfully put together online indexes, but you still had to request the death certificates by mail or drive to the State Archives in Baton Rouge and laboriously find records on microfilm.

Fortunately for those of us who have an irrational fear of microfilm readers (I’m raising my hand here), there’s an easier way. Best of all, you don’t have to live in Louisiana to utilize it although it might require a tank of gas.

The Church of Latter Day Saints has death records for every parish in Louisiana. Now, curb your enthusiasm for a moment.

If your great-great grandfather died in Louisiana but outside New Orleans in 1840, you’re out of luck. Only New Orleans and the adjoining Jefferson Parish started keeping records before 1911. And, if I’m being honest, most parishes (outside Orleans and Jefferson) weren’t good at insisting on death certificates until closer to the 1920s.

Not to curb your enthusiasm any further, but I should point out that I’ve yet to find death certificates for my great-great grandparents John S. Hebert and Rosalie Penisson even though they died in the 1920s. My guess is the family called a priest instead of a doctor because their deaths are dutifully recorded in church records. But it also could have been that the doctor just couldn’t be bothered.

Dr. B. A. Taber – the register of vital statistics for the town of Jennings – even made a joke about filling out death certificates in 1913 (see newspaper clipping below). Do you get the sense that he wasn’t keen on paperwork?

Here’s what the Church of Latter Day Saints has:

And .- just like the Secretary of State records – they’re searchable. Here’s the difference. The certificates at the Church of Latter Day Saints have been digitalized.

When you find a certificate you’d like to view in the Church of Latter Day Saints’ index, you can view early Orleans records with the click of your mouse from the comfort of your home. For other death records, you can view with the click of a mouse at a Family History Center. No microfilm!

There are Family History Centers across the globe and across the U.S. The pandemic’s made researching a little tricky in Baton Rouge. The center is currently closed although I’ve been able to email a church member and make arrangements to spend a few hours on a Saturday happily researching. Take my advice and call or email ahead.

The Church of Latter Day Saints has done a tremendous job of collecting records and making them accessible. You don’t have to be a member of the church to research their records. When I was a teen, my Southern Baptist grandmother took me, her Catholic granddaughter, to a Family History Center in Arizona. I’ve been a fan of their work ever since.

Happy searching!


Is Davy Crockett’s wife buried in the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase?

We took a little trip to Shreveport this weekend for my youngest godchild’s first birthday. As always, we packed a lot in.

We toured Bossier City in search of my teenage haunts (movie theater is deserted; mall isn’t far behind). We ate in an acclaimed Chinese restaurant that bizarrely is in a seedy motel (rooms may very well be rented by the hour). We introduced my dad to “King of Queens” and snuggled with his new puppy. We showered my 1-year-old godchild with love and gifts. He returned the favor by puckering up his face and screaming whenever he felt in danger of being picked up and cuddled by anyone but his mom (although he did seem delighted with the bicycle we brought him). Eventually, we wound up his sister and brother into a kolache-fueled frenzy of high pitched giggles and took our departure.

There are three major cities between Shreveport and Baton Rouge: Natchitoches, Alexandria and Lafayette. We got off the interstate in Natchitoches, ate lunch alongside the river and did some quick exploring, which brought us to the American Cemetery.

According to the city of Natchitoches, the American Cemetery is the oldest graveyard in the Louisiana Purchase and contains the remains of “war heroes and villains, doctors, politicians, educators, a former mayor who was murdered and a plantation owner who had numerous children with a slave whom he set free by the time of his death.”

It sits not far from the Cane River in a neighborhood of graceful homes, inns and fraternity houses. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed. I only saw fairly new graves. Then I peeked through the trees and saw the fenced enclosures of older family plots.

First, a few fun facts.

  • If you’re a fan of the movie “Steel Magnolias,” Shelby’s funeral was filmed at the American Cemetery. Sally Fields’ hair never looked better.
  • The cemetery is near Fort St. Jean Baptiste, the French outpost that began as two huts alongside an Indian village and grew into a major trade center that formed the foundation for the town of Natchitoches.
  • Supposedly, Davy Crockett’s wife is buried in the cemetery.

That brings me to the Crockett family. I took the long route, didn’t I?

As anyone with a drop of Texas blood knows, Davy Crockett was a frontiersman who died at the Alamo in 1836. More than a century later, he vaulted from folk hero to pop star when Disney put a raccoon on his head and built a TV series about him. Kids preparing to go back to school in the 1950s could buy lots of Davy Crockett merchandise, including rings and balloons. Membership in the Davy Crockett Club was complimentary.

What I didn’t know was much about his family other than vaguely remembering he came from Tennessee pioneer stock.

Crockett married Polly Finley in 1803. They had three children before she died in 1815. His next wife was a widow named Elizabeth Patton. They formed a blended family of his three kids, her two kids and their own three kids.

As far as I knew, Crockett left the wives and children behind in Tennessee when he went on his fame-making adventures: fighting the Creek Indians in Alabama, serving alongside Andrew Jackson in Florida and making his last standoff in Texas. When did he find time to collect a wife from Tennessee and settle with her long enough in Louisiana for her to die and be buried? Although, if he managed to kill himself a bear when he was only 3 …

According to Find A Grave, Polly died in Tennessee, where she’s buried in a cemetery that carries her name. Elizabeth is supposedly buried in Acton, Texas, with several of her children.

What’s clear is that Crockett did spend time in Natchitoches. “The Shreveport Journal” – a now defunct newspaper – recounted his visit in 1955 (spending a great deal of time on the question of whether a trip to Natchitoches would have taken him through Shreveport). Once that TV show hit the air in the 1950s, everyone wanted a piece of Davy Crockett.

In 1836, Crockett – who zigzagged between adventures and politics – was smarting from losing an election when he set out from Tennessee intent on redeeming himself in Texas. It was winter and so cold that the thermometer stood somewhat below the freezing point. His journal details what he had with him: a clean hunting shirt, a fox skin cap with the tail hanging behind and his rifle Betsy. He clearly states that he left his wife and children in Tennessee.

Here’s the supposed travel route: Crockett left Tennessee and headed to Little Rock for some speechmaking. After renting a horse, he rode to Fulton, where he boarded a steamer. If he stayed in Shreveport at all, it was likely aboard the steamer or at the city’s only hotel. From there, he arrived in Natchitoches, where he stayed for two days before continuing on to Texas.

Crockett wrote about Natchitoches, which he reckoned boasted 800 residents. He took note of the houses, which all seemed to be on one street parallel to the river. He wrote about securing a horse for the journey into Texas. At no time did he mention burying a wife. And, if you’ll remember, he was on the way to his own death.

I’ve tried to figure out where the legend started. Was it a granddaughter who’s buried in the cemetery? I had no luck in finding the answer.

As consolation, I’ll leave you with the scene from a Davy Crockett-themed birthday party in 1955. My favorite part is the coon skin cap birthday cake, complete with a long tail. This party took place in Cloutierville, which is just down the road from Natchitoches.

Military Records

Concordia Parish’s World War II Casualties

I don’t write much about Concordia Parish, which is a shame considering the Stark branch of my tree spent considerable time there.

So, when I saw a list of World War II casualties sorted by parish on the National Archives’ website, I decided to see if I could tell the stories of the Concordia Parish boys who went off to war and never returned home. There were only a dozen. Excuse me while I dive into newspaper archives.

Side note: Wondering about those acronyms in the list of the dead? So was I! Here’s a quick explanation:

DNB: Died non-battle

DOW: Died of Wounds Received in Action

FOD: Foreign object damage

KIA: Killed in action

Moss, ferns, palmettos and flowers decorated the stage at Waterproof High School in 1938 when the sheriff awarded high school diplomas. John Abel should have been among the 18 seniors laughing as “Aline Jeannette delighted the class with a few ‘Memories of the Class of ’38,'” but he skipped his high school graduation. He’d left Waterproof after exams for a job.

In 1940, when he filled out his draft card, he was working at Planters Supply Co. in Ferriday. Just a year later, he was in the Army and trained in California and Texas before joining the fight overseas.

The first word his family received was that he was missing after being shot down in the skies over Berlin. Three months later, the Army confirmed his death. Abel was buried, age 26, in Natchez.

The eulogy written by the “Tensas Gazette” when Robert D. Calhoun Jr. died in France is a tribute to the closeness of small towns.

“We have known him throughout the days of his fine, young life, and our grief over his sacrifice to the ravages of war overwhelms us beyond the power of expression,” the newspaper wrote.

Certainly, Calhoun seemed to have been a shining star, a credit to a family well versed in success. His father was a lawyer, an author and the parish treasurer. His grandfather was a judge.

Young Calhoun attended LSU and got a job with the English department at a Georgia university. In 1942, he joined the first invading forces in North Africa. A sniper’s bullet killed him in France just two years later. The War Department sent his mother a telegram breaking the news.

Calhoun left behind a wife and a baby son.

James Culpepper was a doctor’s son who grew up in Concordia Parish and found work in the wholesale grocery industry. He married Dora Nelson in 1940, took a short honeymoon and settled in Ferriday.

He would die on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. Judging by his death date, he was likely among the first casualties of the Battle of Peleliu. The island of Peleliu was occupied in 1944 by thousands of Japanese soldiers, who’d boobytrapped the beaches with mines and explosives. Complicating matters even further, it was extremely hot that September when the invasion started. Landing on the beaches, U.S. troops faced mines, explosives, heavy gunfire and heat exhaustion if they were to succeed in overtaking the airfield that was their ultimate destination.

His mother’s obituary said Culpepper died in the beachhead landing invasion. He’s buried in the Manila American Cemetery.

Sidney, I’m confused. Why are you listed as a Concordia Parish resident when you’re buried in Jefferson Parish? Even more baffling, Dardar is a south Louisiana name and you seem to have lived in Jefferson Parish most of your life.

I think this one’s a mistake unless there’s a Concordia Parish connection I’m missing.

David Dixson is buried in the same French military cemetery as my great uncle. Also like my great uncle, he was awarded the Purple Heart.

Sadly, I could find very little about David – just a scant mention in the newspaper of his death in 1945.

Details were scarce when the War Department notified the Fairbanks family of Ferriday that their son had been killed in action in 1944.

Clay Fairbanks had been a high school football star, known for his enthusiasm and personality. Although he grew up in Concordia Parish, he was born in New Orleans. His parents named him Henry Clay Whittaker although he seemed to go by Clay or C. W. He joined the Army in 1942 and achieved the rank of sergeant.

A few weeks after his death, more details emerged. He’d died of a heart attack in Hawaii.

There’s an unhappy footnote to this story. His father, who worked as a railway conductor, died just a few months later after being struck by a moving train.

George S. Heyen and A. J. Hickingbottom are a mystery. I’ll try to come back to them.

Just a few days before his death in 1945, Harry Hodge received a certificate for bravery. After his death, he posthumously received the Purple Heart.

He died in action against the enemy in Germany, according to the local newspaper.

Harry came from a fairly prominent family. His mother’s cousin was a congressman. His grandfather was a civil engineer.

His parents, Harry Sr. and Betty Dickson, married in 1910. They had three sons and a daughter before Harry Sr. died age 53 in 1924. Harry Jr. would’ve been just 13 at the time.

In 1940, Harry was living with his mother’s sister, who was married to a doctor, on Sycamore Street in Vidalia. It was a large household filled with extended family. Harry was working as a rodman.

Alas, James W. Johnson is a mystery for now.

I had to look up the town of New Era. It’s on the western edge of Concordia Parish.

New Era is where Vernon Reeves’ parents were living when he enlisted into the Army in 1940. Vernon came from a huge family. His sister Hattie would later name her son Vernon.

Vernon died a prisoner of war in Italy. While I don’t know the details, I feel certain that he died a hero. According to his grave listing, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the Prisoner of War Medal.

Sam Turner is another mystery.

St. Mary Parish Genealogy, Templet family

Killed on her way to church

See Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City? That was Cordelia Dantin Budge LeBlanc’s destination the morning of June 22, 1958.

The church really wasn’t a long walk from her Railroad Avenue home. She just had to cross the railroad tracks. There’s even a small flight of concrete steps to help pedestrians navigate the descent from the raised track to the street in front of the church. It was on this flight of steps that Cordelia was found.

Whether she fell trying to rush across the tracks to avoid a train or was actually hit by a train is unclear. No one seems to have witnessed the accident. What’s clear is her injuries were extensive: broken ribs, broken arm, brain concussion and internal injuries. She lingered for a few days before dying just a few months shy of her 82nd birthday.

Born a Dantin, Cordilia spent her early years in Thibodaux but most of her life in Morgan City. Her parents were Theophile Dantin and Irene Templet. Widowed in 1918 when her husband died of the Spanish flu, she seems to have always lived near the church she was trying to attend when she died.