In 1935, when someone cataloged the graves in St. Andrew’s Cemetery in Amelia, my great-grandmother didn’t make the list even though she died in 1917.
There’s a reason for that. Isabelle didn’t get a marker until 1969, when her brother died. It was a nice thought to include her, but my granny was dismayed when she looked at the marker. She knew she was 4 – not 5 – when her mother died. Isabelle died in August 1917, not July 1918. Oh, well. At least there’s a marker for her in the little cemetery along the bayou in St. Mary Parish.
The 1935 list of graves is valuable because graves deteriorate over time. Sometimes they become unreadable. Other times, the maintenance man knocks them with the weedeater. Stuff happens.
The list also is valuable because it’s annotated. That means someone added genealogy notes about the dead: who their parents were, who their spouses were, where they were born. These were just what little tidbits they knew.
So, think about stretching beyond findagrave. Look on usgenweb for cemetery lists or thumb through old genealogy periodicals. Often, you’ll find annotated cemetery lists made by people who are long gone themselves.
You know you’re in for a sad tale when the next of kin on a document is the sheriff. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
My granny’s grandfather was Joseph Cordilier Gautreaux (or Gauthreaux). I don’t know much about Cordilier other than that he married at 21 and there was friction between him and the children from his wife’s first marriage. He was a good 13 years younger than his bride.
He worked as a swamper, carpenter and grocery store deliveryman. Death was a constant presence in his life. He outlived all three of his children, his wife and his parents, leaving it to the stepchildren to care for him in his final years. From family stories, it doesn’t sound like they were happy about it.
Cordilier’s sister had it no better. Marie Adrienne was the last of Desire and Heleine Gautreaux’s children. She was only two when her mother died (probably in childbirth). She went to live with one of her mother’s relatives. Since they had no children of their own, you’d think they would dote on her. And maybe they did.
Somehow, though, Adrienne ended up in a mental hospital, where she died in 1955. She had been there at least 15 years since she’s listed as an inmate on the 1940 census. I was curious what brought her there so I pulled the interdiction records.
An interdiction is the legal process for committing someone to a mental health facility. For some reason, these records usually are indexed with the probate records in Louisiana. It was not uncommon to be interdicted during the early 1900s.
Adrienne was interdicted in 1936 for “manic depressive insanity” and “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” According to the doctors who examined her, she heard voices threatening to blow up her home and wouldn’t spend any money on food or warmth. Her stinginess extended to her husband, Oleus Landry.
Oleus, by the way, also died at the mental hospital in Jackson. That’s right. Husband and wife were packed off to the mental hospital on the same day in 1936. The orders were signed just three days after Adrienne’s 65th birthday.
Oleus was deaf, partially blind, suffered from a lung ailment and feared running out of money to live on. Again, it was the 1930s so the U.S. was in the midst of the Great Depression. A lot of people were experiencing economic stress.
Maybe Oleus and Adrienne were content in the mental hospital. They didn’t have to worry about providing for themselves. They had no children so it was just the two of them against the world.
What’s sad to me is something listed on both interdiction forms. For nearest friend or relative, the sheriff is listed. All of Adrienne’s sisters and brothers were dead by this point. Of the five children Desire and Heleine Gautreaux brought into the world, Adrienne had the longest life. And probably the unhappiest.