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:

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:

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

Early Louisiana, Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Parish Boundaries Through the Decades

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries may not sound like the coolest website in the world, but it’s actually pretty nifty.

Current county boundaries – in Louisiana we call them parishes because we’re tres French once you’re a few miles south of Alexandria – evolved over the years. You may think your ancestor always lived in a particular county or parish. But their county/parish probably was carved out of another county/parish.

Louisiana, for example, didn’t always have 64 parishes. After the Louisiana Purchase and statehood, we slowly started divvying up our boot. Before that, parts of Louisiana were known as the German Coast and Attakapas – terms that have largely been lost to time.

You can see Louisiana’s boundaries through the years by visiting the atlas:


Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Maude Reid’s Scrapbooks

I love the tags for this photo: portraits, mustaches, bus drivers and French Americans. Those sum up this picture of Joseph Cazeaux.

Joseph’s photograph is included in the Historic Photos of Southwest Louisiana in Louisiana Digital Library. The caption says he was a “peppery little driver of the bus from the depot to the town’s hostelries.”

The collection totals 5,000 photographs and documents McNeese State University, Lake Charles and Calcasieu (Lake Charles’ parish). It includes photos collected by public health nurse Maude Reid. In her spare time, Maude gathered photographs, newspaper clippings and other historical records. She pasted them into scrapbooks. Among her photographs was the picture of Joseph.

Thank goodness for amateur historians like Maude, who preserved slice-of-life moments in everyday America.

Here’s another picture captured by Maude. I assume this is a mother with her children. Because they didn’t speak English (probably spoke French), Maude couldn’t find out.

You can tell this photograph was pasted into a scrapbook.

Maude also took pictures of homes, like this one that once stood at 527 Pujo Street in Lake Charles. She snapped this shortly before the house was demolished. It belonged to Mr. and Mrs. S. Arthur Knapp. I looked on Google maps. The lot is vacant with a single surviving tree.

Here’s a baptism in the Calcasieu River. Notice the women’s white dresses.

I love this image of children saying grace at the First Ward School (principal was Mary Belle Williamson), probably because one little girl appears to be peeking at what the other children are doing instead of concentrating on her prayers. I tend to be a little over curious myself.

Here’s Sonya Davidson playing ball.

Finally, here’s Maude at age 3.

In addition to being quite the amateur photographer and scrapbooker, Maude was Calcasieu Parish’s first public health nurse. She established clinics that served the parish’s poor, allowing her to come across the scenes she photographed.

To visit her collection, go to and type her name in the search engine. Enjoy!

Genealogy tools

The most fabulous name in your family tree

There are a lot of unusual names in my family tree, but the winner for the most ridiculous name is probably America Ann Cone Long. Can you imagine going through life with a name like that? You’re Miss America without the swimsuit competition.

Imagine my shock when I discovered my America Ann wasn’t the only America Ann born about that time in Georgia. She wasn’t even the only America Ann Cone born about that time in Georgia. The name must have been trending at the time.

Technically, by the way, if you’re named America then you’re named for Amerigo Vespucci. He’s the guy for whom America is named. Today, America is the 777th most popular girl’s name in the U.S.

It got me to thinking … What’s the most unusual name in your family tree?

Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Yearbooks!

Airline High School 1965 yearbook

Remember yearbooks? Remember getting out of class early on Yearbook Day so you could receive your yearbook, flip through the pages and try to think of witty things to write in your friends’ yearbooks? Those were the days.

The Bossier Parish History Center has a small collection of yearbooks online. For now, the collection is limited to Airline High School. Hopefully, it will grow to include my alma mater, the much better Parkway High School. 🙂

Check it out:

Genealogy tools

Tracking down your great grandfather’s obituary

For one week – or maybe it was one day – as a small child, I ran a neighborhood newspaper. It was a pretty sketchy operation given the materials at my disposal. The newspaper office was in a giant cardboard box. The newspaper itself consisted mostly of crayon drawings on construction paper. My friend Hillary and I dutifully created a masthead. Unfortunately, we had a heck of a time selling subscriptions to our friends, and the enterprise soon folded. Or maybe it rained and the office was destroyed. Who can remember all these years later?

I tell you this story because I’m not the first person to launch a newspaper with no real business plan. It’s amazing to me how many newspapers used to exist in a single town. At some point, we whittled them down to the afternoon and morning papers. Now, it’s mostly just the morning papers.

If you’re looking for your great grandfather’s death date, one of your first chores should be to figure out the closest town that had a newspaper. Don’t just look for newspapers that still print to this day. Look for newspapers that printed at the time your great grandfather died. You don’t know what his reading preference was. Don’t assume.

The Library of Congress has a great list of newspapers that can help you: You can even narrow it down by state and then county/parish.

You’ll be surprised by the wealth of newsprint that used to exist. Think about it. People didn’t always have television or even a telephone. They read to get their news.

Take the “Louisiana Sugar Bowl” as an example. This newspaper printed from 1870 to 1884 to promote agriculture in Louisiana. Really, though, it printed a hodgepodge of news. It’s tough collecting enough news to fill an entire piece of construction paper, er newspaper. You get creative.

I was intrigued by reports of a rash of robberies in 1871 that struck Terrebonne Parish. Here’s the clip:

A boarding house ad interested me because it also announced a marriage. The former Mrs. Aucoin at some point became Mrs. J. J. Comaux.

Happy hunting!

Cemeteries, Gautreaux family, Genealogy tools, St. Mary Parish Genealogy

Free Stuff Friday: St. Andrew’s Cemetery in Amelia

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.


Genealogy tools

Diocese of Baton Rouge Records on Kindle

If your ancestors were Catholic and lived in south Louisiana, then you’re familiar with these red volumes. The Diocese of Baton Rouge published records for East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, St. James, Iberville, Assumption and Ascension parishes. The volumes cover 1707 to 1905.

I own many, but not all of them. Every big branch of the public library in Louisiana owns this set of books. It’s within these pages that I discovered my great-grandmother’s middle name: Emilie.

These books contain baptisms, burials and marriage records. The first few books span decades. With the population explosion leading up to 1900, the books covered fewer years. By 1901, baptisms alone were so voluminous that the diocese just covered them and left out burials and marriages.

A few years ago, the diocese began making some of the volumes available through Kindle. The criteria is how many hard copies of a volume the diocese has on hand. If the stack is dwindling, the volume is published through Kindle.

This makes these invaluable books available to those who live outside Louisiana and can’t access them at their local library or pay $35 per volume to own the hard copy.

You can buy a digital copy of:

Volume 2, 1770-1803

Volume 3, 1804-1819

Volume 4, 1820-1829 (available through Kindle Unlimited)

Volume 8, 1853-1857 (Kindle Unlimited)

Volume 9, 1858-1862

Volume 10, 1863-1867

Volume 11, 1868-1870

Volume 12, 1871-1873 (Kindle Unlimited)

Volume 13, 1874-1876

Baptisms, 1901-1905

Happy sleuthing!