Cemeteries, Genealogy tools

Place of burial: hospital cemetery

Poor Edna Vining.

The listing of “hospital cemetery” as the place of burial is a major clue to where she died. Ordinary hospitals don’t have a hospital – as convenient as that would be. Edna died in Jackson, Louisiana, which is home to the East Louisiana State Hospital. To this day, it tends to the mentally ill.

I don’t know when the decision was made to create a cemetery for the hospital. It probably didn’t take long to decide one was needed. The dead have to be buried, even if their family doesn’t have the resources or the care to do it.

Edna died of tuberculosis just three days after Christmas 1913. She did indeed die at the mental hospital in Jackson, Louisiana. If the scant information on her death certificate is to be believed, she’d been there two years and no one knew much about her other than her name.

I came across her death certificate while researching the Vining family. Vining is an unusual name that came into my family tree when Evy Vining married my granny’s aunt.

Edna Vining likely wasn’t related to Evy Vining, but her death certificate pulled me in.

Being sick over Christmas is bad enough. Dying of tuberculosis is even worse. And the person filling out Edna’s death certificate didn’t know her age, her parents’ names or even her usual place of residence other than a vague reference to East Feliciana Parish.

The day after her death, Edna was buried in the hospital cemetery.

In Edna’s time, it was called the insane asylum although I don’t believe it was unusual to be placed there because of a tuberculosis diagnosis.

The census taker recorded Edna at the insane asylum in 1910. She was 35 at the time and married. She would’ve been around 38 when she died a few years later. Curiously, the census taker recorded her name as Etna – not Edna.

And that’s all I know about Edna or Etna. Her road ended at an insane asylum in a small town.

Genealogy tools

The 1950 census is here!

My grandfather Rex Millhollon was an 18-year-old college student in 1950.

Get out your poodle skirts and hula hoops! The 1950 Census is here!!!

I’ve yet to find my Hebert grandparents on the bayou in Assumption Parish, but I did find my Texas-born grandfather at Tarleton State College in Erath, Texas. They even spelled his last name right, which is a small miracle.

Here’s the handy dandy link to find your own relatives: https://1950census.archives.gov/

Genealogy tools, Murder and mayhem

Louisiana marriage records

Mary Minter with her mother in court.

My favorite true crime story involves Mary Miles Minter, a Louisiana-born silent film star whose career was ruined when her nightie was found in the cottage of a much older, murdered director. Rumors soon flew that not-so-innocent Mary’s mother, Charlotte Shelby (real name Lily Pearl Miles), murdered the director because her cash cow daughter was infatuated with him and the romance was too tawdry for early Hollywood. The murder’s never been solved. But, I ask you: Would you go to the trouble of killing a man and then leave your daughter’s nightie behind at the scene?

What does this have to do with genealogy, you ask? Well, I’ve always been fascinated with Mary and her tragic story. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book about her, prompting me to research her family tree. Familysearch.org has a collection of Louisiana marriage records. I thought I would find a record for Mary’s parents. No such luck. I looked for her grandparents. No luck. I searched for her cousin. Luck.

This is a nice collection of records because you can search it electronically and – in some cases – see a scanned copy of the register. But I would caution that I believe there are gaps in the records.

This brings me to an important point about online records. Often, they’re indexed by volunteers. If you don’t find your grandparents’ marriage record in there, don’t panic. Your grandparents didn’t necessarily lie and live in sin. The indexer could have horribly mangled the spelling of their names. A collection of records could have been on someone’s desk at the courthouse instead of on the shelf with the rest of the records the day they were scanned. Anything could’ve happened. It’s always best to go to the original source and take a look.

Here’s the handy dandy link: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1807364

And here’s the marriage record for Mary’s cousin, Hazel. She got married in 1912, which was the same year Mary made her first film. It was under her married name that Hazel would get into a lengthy court battle with Mary mother’s over the family plantation. But that’s a story for another day.

Genealogy tools

Funeral notices in the days before obits

I recently started organizing the photos on my iPhone because there are a lot of them. In fact, there are so many that I don’t want to admit how many there are (11,131 but don’t judge me). The good news is I now have a genealogy folder, which makes it easier for me to post the photos I’ve taken of records and other documents.

The image above is a photo I snapped of a funeral notice. These used to be posted in shop windows in the closest shopping town (where you’d go to pick up groceries, etc.) when someone died. They were the 1800s’ version of an obituary or an online death announcement.

As you can see, the one above is in French. This was very common for south Louisiana. My grandmother was fluent in Cajun French. It was her only language until she went to school and learned English.

I read just enough French to know the notice tells when Mrs. Hubert Aucoin died and when her funeral will be. Helpfully, the notice also tells us how old she was when she died at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Thankfully, some people held onto these fragile pieces of paper and saved them. Even more thankfully, some of these notices ended up in libraries.

There are two bound collections of death notices for parts of south Louisiana:

  1. “Death notices, 1867-1954, Assumption Parish” by Audrey Westerman.

2. “Death notices, 1859-1961, Thibodaux and vicinity.”

You can find these in some Louisiana libraries. Nicholls University also has a few collections containing death notices: https://nichollsarchives.libraryhost.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&op%5B%5D=&q%5B%5D=death+notices&limit=&field%5B%5D=&from_year%5B%5D=&to_year%5B%5D=&commit=Search

Genealogy tools

Free Stuff Friday: Bigamy in New Orleans and other tales of woe

Don’t you hate it when you go to the trouble of getting a marriage license from the justice of the peace, stand before a minister of the Gospel and enter into the bonds of matrimony only to find out later that your bride was already married?

That was James McDonald’s complaint in 1879, when he filed for his marriage to Virginia Frances Wall to be nullified in New Orleans. They’d been married for 10 years when Mr. McDonald discovered that Mrs. McDonald had forgotten to mention that she was actually the lawful wife of Drury W. Wall of Amite County, Miss. Mr. McDonald immediately ceased to cohabit with his wife and they “since remained as strangers to each other.”

I have so many questions. Did no one in Mrs. McDonald’s family think to mention the husband back in Mississippi? Where in the world was Mr. Wall for 10 years? Do you have to file for a nullification if your marriage is invalid because of bigamy? Finally, it took Mr. McDonald TEN YEARS to find out about the first husband?

Sadly, early New Orleans divorce records can be scant on details. Mrs. McDonald responded that she divorced Mr. Wall in Mississippi. And it does appear that Mr. Wall remarried and had children so let’s hope that was true. However, I don’t know if the McDonalds patched things up or continued to remain as strangers to each other.

I do know this: New Orleans’ divorce records from 1846 to 1880 are fascinating reading.

For example, I know now that an “assignation house” is a brothel.

Dive in: https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007670630?i=831&cat=430518

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, lafourche parish

Twinning at the Thibodaux library

I came across these images in the Louisiana Digital Library and thought I’d share. The library is kind of a hodgepodge of postcards, letters and photos.

This is Shirley and Charlotte Folse, who apparently loved the local library. They were among the first patrons of Thibodaux’s library when it opened in the 1940s. Aren’t they cute?

The Louisiana library system brought them back when they were teenagers for another publicity shoot.

You never know what you might find in the digital library: https://louisianadigitallibrary.org/

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

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: https://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/map/map.html#LA