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.

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.

Penisson Family, St. Mary Parish Genealogy, Succession Records, Uncategorized

In 1883, the kids weren’t alright

When Etienne Bourgeois died in 1879, he left a young family behind: his wife, Marie Landry, their 3-year-old son, Alexis Etienne, and their 1-year-old daughter, Leonie. Marie quickly remarried, but life in the 1800s could be cruel. By 1883, Alexis Etienne and Leonie were orphans.

It was the district attorney for St. Mary Parish who went to court and reported that the children “were without proper care or moral training.” Worse, their mother’s sister, Victoria, was mistreating them and usurping their inheritance. The district attorney’s recommendation was that Etienne’s property and belongings be sold to pay for the children’s care at a Catholic asylum in New Orleans.

The saga is contained in St. Mary Parish’s probate records, proving once again just how interesting dusty old court records can be. You’ll also find a list of every looking glass, mattress and lamp Etienne owned because it all had to be sold for the children’s benefit.

What’s interesting is that the children’s mother remarried before swiftly dying. I don’t know why her second husband’s family didn’t take charge of the children. Maybe Aunt Victoria – who was helping herself to their inheritance – wouldn’t allow it.

Regardless, the court records shows that the district attorney was successful in placing the children in St. Mary’s Catholic Asylum in New Orleans. The proceeds from the estate sale were to be used for their schooling, board, tuition and the upkeep of property that wasn’t sold.

Curious what became of the children? Alexis became a steam engineer and settled in Morgan City with his wife and their two girls. Leonie – later known as Leonide – stayed in the New Orleans area, raised a large family and died just two months shy of her 97th birthday.

In the end, the kids were alright.

St. Mary Parish Genealogy, Succession Records

A dustup over the cost of postage

How much could postage have possibly cost in 1881?

Sometimes you stumble across something funny when you dust off court records from more than 100 years ago. Case in point: A century-old squabble over the cost of postage.

Severin Dupuis died in 1879 from yellow fever. The disease also claimed his 19-year-old daughter, Amelia, for whom the town of Amelia was named. Because Severin left behind children and property, his widow filed a succession to divvy up the possessions.

Two years after Severin’s death, the estate still was being wrapped up. And someone – presumably a clerk with a sense of humor – stuck a rather pointed note about how much postage the case was consuming in the court record.

“Don’t talk to me any more about postage stamps,” the widow’s attorney, S. Lanaux, wrote someone named Placide (I would assume this was another attorney). “I only follow your good example.”

I didn’t quite understand what the argument was. I turned to the U.S. Postal Museum for help and learned that Congress authorized “postage due stamps” in 1879. Basically, the authorization allowed the Post Office to collect the cost of postage from the recipient of mail.

Whenever Lanaux picked up correspondence from Placide at the Post Office, he had to pay the postage due on it before he was allowed to take the letter. The same went for Placide.

Like any good attorney, Lanaux offered a compromise.

“If you promise me not to get mad and curse and beat your head against the court house pillars, I will send you in a day or so one dollars worth of postage stamps to stamp my letters with hereafter,” Mr. Lanaux wrote.

Aucoin family, St. Mary Parish Genealogy

A questionable death in St. Mary Parish

I came across this record in the coroner’s book at the St. Mary Parish Courthouse, and I had so many questions.

At first I thought the Valentine Aucoin mentioned was Jean Baptiste Valery Aucoin. However, he died in 1879 during the yellow fever epidemic.

Why was the coroner called to this Valentine Aucoin’s death? It seems clear that Valentine met with an accident since the coroner had to decide whether to assign fault.

Since no inquest was held, we’ll probably never know how Valentine came to die … or will we?

Fortunately, I’m stubborn. I slogged through old newspapers in search of an answer and finally found it in the July 3, 1883, edition of the Daily Picayune.

Some people put together jigsaw puzzles. Other people read newspapers to solve the deaths of people who’ve been dead for more than a century.

Tucked between a rice report and a hanging is news of Valentine Aucoin’s death. Apparently he died of heart disease. So, why was the coroner called?

The Donaldsonville Chief provided more details.

Aha. He took chloroform to relieve pain and died of an overdose. That explains the coroner.

Now to who Valentine was. If he was 61 in 1883, he was born about 1822. Don’t you love that he was considered aged? Bruce Springsteen is still rocking at 73 – and I don’t mean in a chair.

Louis Jean Aucoin and his wife, Victoire Helene Arsement, had a son named Valentine who died as a teenager in 1815. I wondered if one of that Valentine Aucoin’s brothers named a son in his honor.

And, eureka!

Valentine’s brother, Louis Ambroise, had a son named Valentine who is about the right age. Naturally, there’s a complication.

I have Valentine marrying Marie Mathilde Verret in 1844 and having three sons and a daughter. Yet, Valentine Aucoin was living as a bachelor in Morgan City on the 1870 census when he should’ve been living with his wife and kids.

My theory is that Valentine never married, worked as a carpenter and died from inhaling too much chloroform – probably in a Morgan City boarding house. His brother Valsin – older by a year – is probably the one who married Marie Mathilde. Who knows.

Isn’t genealogy fun?

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.


St. Mary Parish Genealogy, Templet family

The Templet brothers go all Cain and Abel

Genealogy isn’t for the faint of heart because sometimes you find out your relatives were a little trashy.

Pierre and Jean Templet were the sons of Norbert Templet and Marguerite Augustine Landry. Their mom died when they were young, and they disappeared from census records. I assumed that they, too, died young until I came across a spectacular argument between them in court records.

It seems that Jean shot and killed Pierre’s hogs. I can post the entire court record if anyone’s interested. There were a lot of witnesses against Jean, and he was found guilty and ordered to pay his brother the hogs’ value.

I bet holidays were fun at the Templet house after that.

Genealogy tools, St. Mary Parish Genealogy

Free Stuff Friday

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 10.56.30 AM.pngI don’t know if this is a thing so I’m starting Free Stuff Friday – as in free genealogy tools on the Internet. Because if it’s not a thing, it should be!

Maybe you don’t go to the public library because you just download books to your Kindle (I tend to roll up to the library drive though myself). What you should know is that libraries have evolved from the days when you’d sit in a dark room and scroll through census records on microfilm.

Libraries now have tons of digital resources – and it’s all free if you don’t count the taxpayer dollars you pay.

Take, for example, the St. Mary Parish Library in Louisiana. You can find countless issues of the St. Mary and Franklin Banner-Tribune newspaper online. They’re even searchable. Here’s the link: 

But there’s more!

From the comfort of your home, you can look at civil war survivors’ schedules published in 1890. These records capture Union veterans.





Aucoin family, St. Mary Parish Genealogy

An Aucoin buried in Antarctica?

I was looking through Ancestry hints when I came across this:

Screen Shot 2019-08-25 at 11.40.09 AM.png

Consider me curious. Definitely curious.

Antarctica? Can you even be buried in Antarctica? I’m diving in.

First of all, the photo doesn’t go with the burial. I don’t know who the Rices were.

Screen Shot 2019-08-25 at 11.52.08 AM.png

But there is a Whalers Bay Cemetery on Deception Island. It’s the final resting place for whalers and men lost at sea in the area. Today, there are only two markers because a volcano buried the cemetery in ash back in 1969.

Those two markers belong to men from Norway. Neither of them was Joseph Aucoin.

A newspaper database search was no help. Google didn’t help either.

File this one under unsolved.