My grandmother devoted decades to genealogy research – mostly concentrating on Texas, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Missouri. However, since she moved to Louisiana in her late 20s and became friendly with other genealogy buffs in Terrebonne Parish, her files include stray Louisiana genealogy notes. I’ve been looking through her files to preserve them, and I keep finding Easter eggs.
Today, for example, I found a typed list of some of the graves in the “Catholic Graveyard – Gibson, Louisiana.” The list is typed on the kind of transparent paper I used in high school to write to my overseas pen pal in Sweden because it was light and cheap to mail. Now, I should caution that this list comes with a lot of unknowns. I don’t know who typed it. I don’t know who sharpened a pencil and made notes in the margins. I don’t know what the source was. What I do know is the list contains graves that aren’t in evidence today.
The Catholic Graveyard – Gibson, Louisiana is St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery along the bayou in the Terrebonne Parish village of Gibson. My grandparents from the other side of the family are buried there so I visit periodically to put plastic flowers on their graves.
Visiting the cemetery was one of the highlights of childhood visits to Gibson because we had to cross the bridge to reach it. The single-car bridge had a pedestrian bridge that hovered right above the water. It was metal, which rang like rain on a tin roof when you ran across it. Very satisfying to tiny feet – and we always walked to the cemetery. Gibson was fun in those days: a country store with gingerbread planks, a post office with a rows of gleaming postal boxes, a circular library and the cemetery.
I know just about every grave in that cemetery because I spent a lot of time studying them while Granny whitewashed my grandfather’s grave. I’ve never seen the Schmitt plot.
Joseph Schmitt married Lizzie Templet, who was the baby sister of my great-great grandmother. Joseph worked at the lumber mill in Gibson. Lizzie busied herself having six children. Lizzie’s life wasn’t a long one. She died age 42 in Gibson. Her youngest would have been 12. Joseph died a few years later.
Like I said, there is no Schmitt plot in the Gibson cemetery. Except – according to the notes in my grandmother’s files – there once was an enclosed plot for them. I’m not certain what’s meant by an enclosed plot. But apparently, Joe, Lizzie, sons Ed and Louis and daughter Julia and her husband are all buried in it.
Here’s the thing: Markers aren’t permanent. They have to be maintained. It’s possible I’ve walked past the Schmitt graves without realizing it because the markers are unreadable or the caretaker knocked a mower into them.
Never rely just on markers when doing genealogy research. Look at burial records if they exist. Study old genealogy magazines for grave lists. Sometimes, families couldn’t afford a marker. Other times, markers disappear.
Certainly, the next time I’m in Gibson, I’ll look for an “enclosed plot” with unreadable or missing markers. I’d like to leave some flowers for my vanished relatives.