Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Calcasieu Parish Courthouse - Lake Charles, LA

The Calcasieu Parish Courthouse is located in downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana, at
Calcasieu Parish Courthouse - 1000 Ryan Street
1000 Ryan Street.  It’s a beautiful court building, as described to me with a green colored dome.  I got into Lake Charles early, and found some free off street parking at the northeast corner of Pujo and Bilbo Streets (across the street from the Calcasieu Parish Public Library - 411 Pujo Street).

My former life as a Police Detective found me in court buildings all of the time.  I've discovered there is a certain flow to government buildings, and courthouses in particular.  Go against the gain and you will find yourself getting stuck.  Being patient, polite, and professional (dressing the part also helps) will literally open doors.  

As with any other on-site research, I'd done my homework well ahead of time.  Today I was after a civil case from 1932.  Calling ahead of time, and following up by email, I learned that many case files are housed off-site.  If the file I was interested in was off-site, archives staff would need to pull it back before my arrival.  Luckily, mine was kept on-site (microfilm).  Doing my homework ahead of time also gave me the name of a point of contact.  Weeks before my flight from California to Louisiana, I had already spoken with a very helpful (and very knowledgeable) staff person and explained the main reason for my cross county flight was to make a copy of this file.  I was assured the film would be waiting for me on the date we had set.  Again, there is a flow to these things, and lining everything up well ahead of time helps everyone concerned.

Microfilm reader/printer.  Photo taken with permission.
The Archives Office is on the main floor.  Just off of this office is a small hallway leading to archived files and microfilms.  A very old, yet altogether useful, microfilm machine sits just inside this area.  Taking photos of images from the microfilm is not allowed.  Pages are printed (by you) and payment is per the page.  From memory, I think it was a dollar a page - but, I might be off on this point.  Nevertheless, I only paid for what I printed.  And I printed just able the entire file, 100 plus pages.  This file documented a set of circumstances which, interestingly enough, lead to my grandparents (Tassin/Theriot) meeting.  She sued him - it's a long story.  But, the cost of reproduction in this case was not a concern to me.  

When I am working on-site like this I take notes.  The description of the microfilm roll, start and stop image numbers, things of interest for follow-up later.  In all cases these notes go into the file/s for the involved persons.  In some cases, like this one, I also prepare a report.  My notes and any report I write will aid others who may wish to follow my steps later.  They are also tools for me into the future.
Firetrucks!  No fire, everything turned out fine.

Leading up to my visit to Calcasieu Parish, I learned that most of the records from 1910 and before burned in a fire - as did much of Lake Charles.  Ironically, just as I was finishing up with my good-byes to my helpful point of contact, the fire alarm went off.  It was time to leave - and in a hurry.  I stood outside for some time chatting with people and never saw any smoke.

Calcasieu Parish Public Library and Genealogy Room

The public library branch located at 411 Pujo Street in Lake Charles Louisiana was on my list of places to see while I was in this part of the state.  A friend, and fellow genealogist, spoke highly of the staff and the collection.  Before I ever left California, I knew I'd be stopping in.

While research wasn't my goal during my visit, I was able to take some items off of my To Do list.  For anyone conducting genealogical research in southern Louisiana, the Genealogy Room at this library branch is sure to please.  The staff is friendly and even knowledgeable.  If I lived in southern Louisiana, this would be one of my haunts.

Here is an outline of my notes:

Parking (free) across the street to the west of the building.  No problem finding a spot in the morning.

This is a public library.  The Genealogy Room is in the back.

Obituary Card Catalog from early times to 1999.

The Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Society's Book of Charts, five generations, are in bound books.  Beyond that the genealogies extend into nearby cabinets.

The Family History stacks wrap around the walls.  Blue dots on the book's spines represents Bios.

Impressive collection of maps.  Local cemetery maps.  (Good place to start before heading out to a cemetery.)

Map Books: Map Guide by William Thorndale; Louisiana Post Offices by John Gremann; Township Atlas of the United States by Andriot.

Reference guides at desk.

Complete sets of Father Hebert's indexes, the Baton Rouge Catholic Diocese's indexes, the New Orleans Diocese's indexes.

Family Map Books by parish; these are green bound books filed by parish.

Scanner that will email or export to thumb drive.

* Online card catalog.

Wifi as "CPPL".  Power strips on each table.

* I found the card catalog system confusing.  There was a need to log-in and to
keep 'adding time' to use it.  Somehow there is a library card (barcode) that was also required.  I never did fully under understand it, or whether I would be able to use it from home.

My takeaways were:  This library would be very useful to a serious researcher visiting from out of town, as well as to family historians who just needed some help or direction.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

St. Peters Cemetery - Iberia Parish Louisiana

I'd been to several places already the day of my first visit to the historical cemetery known as St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery in New Iberia Louisiana.  Without a doubt, this stop would be the most exciting.

St. Peter's is a quintessential Louisiana cemetery.  Absolutely fascinating, and I would argue beautiful in its own way.  I was here with a mission in mind...find my missing second-great Grandfather, Hildebert Theriot, and if possible his wife Louise Elmina Delahoussaye.  I'd already done as much as I could from California, including speaking a few times over the phone with the cemetery's pro bono manager.  Everything I had up to this time pointed to Hildebert and Louise at rest here.  If I couldn't find them, I'd have an explanation why.

The cemetery is located at French and Pershing Streets in New Iberia, about one block north of the courthouse.  The cemetery manager and the cemetery's maintenance supervisor knew I'd be in town and kindly met me near the main entrance.  Both men have devoted much of their free time to caring for this historical treasure.  The maintenance lead has generations of his own family at rest here, and his family is also mine!  Yes, he and I are third cousins on my Theriot line.  This second-great Grandfather and my second-great Grandfather (Hildebert Theriot) were brothers.

October afternoons in Southern Louisiana are predictably rainy.  The three of us sat in the cemetery manager's truck as both men explained the history St. Peter's, records that survived and did not, yellow fever, unreported burials and removals, unreadable and unidentified grave markers, and the like.  Their's is a story of doing the best they can with the information available.  Taking notes, and fearing I'd not find Hildebert and Louise on this trip, I took it all in.  Everything pointed to St. Peter's - most significantly records from the Catholic dioceses.

St. Peter's Cemetery is about 200 years old.  Available records establish 11,000 names of persons interned yet of this number about 6,000 can not be placed at a known grave site.  Conversely, there are about 300 unmarked grave sites.

With major walkways crossing from top to bottom, and left to right, the cemetery is generally laid out in a grid.  But be careful, some of the pathways off the major walks don't always line up.  Today all the identified graves are in a database.  Many are already on Find-A-Grave.  More grave sites are identified from time to time because of proactive outreach.

After the rain stopped I found some Theriots, but not Hildebert and Louise.  There is a grouping of Theriots, and among them a few unidentified grave sites.  My suspicion is they are here.  Concrete interments give away the age of a grave site.

While more research is needed, when I got back to California a detailed report documented my "reasonably exhaustive research" to date.  In situations like these, a genealogist can only keep pushing, re-evaluating, and continually searching.

St. Martin Parish Court Records

The St. Martin Parish Court Records building is located at 415 South Main in St. Martinville Louisiana, behind the actual Courthouse.    This is a modern facility - thankfully air conditioned for this California born researcher.  From my understanding this is self serve as to the actual recordings.  I have no problem being corrected on this point, but I didn't have to ask permission.  On this day, I found a very helpful fellow researcher (Wayne) who knows the place inside and out.  He pointed me in the right direction.  I was looking for a marriage record and some succession documents.  For the marriage record, I found the document then asked the staff to make a copy for me - for a fee.  The succession record was a different process, maybe because it was so old.  I had the number and date of filing.  A clerk pulled it from the back (not public) room.  I asked her for copies - again for a fee.

As with most county (oops, Parish) records, the Indexes are in large hardbound books arranged in some logical order.  The Index of Marriages for Grooms and Brides are the same, A to I and J to Z from 1800 to 1987.  A separate index exists for 1987 forward.  Once the marriage is found in the index, we proceed to the Original Marriage documents.  Original!  All very well preserved, covered in plastic, in large volumes.  Copies can be had - again, for a fee from the staff.  I just got a kick out of being able to get my hands on (sort of) the original.

I noted that in the Marriage Books, the column on the left side is for a convenience number, but the number you want is in the right side column.

Building as open WiFi.  There are a few editions of Father Hebert's books, but not a complete collection.  Parking was free, but on the street.  The retired cop in me noticed jail trusties at work around the courthouse; I took my valuables with me.

St. Martin Parish Public Library

The St. Martin Public Library is located at 201 Porter Street, in St. Martinville Louisiana.  This is a very nice little public library located a short distance from town.  There is a separate room just for genealogy related materials.  I had a few items on my Research Log that I found here.  There is a complete set of Father Hebert's Southwest Louisiana Records and each of the Baton Rouge Diocese Indexes.  Primarily this spot is all about Louisiana, and even though it is a smaller collection I was impressed with it as a whole.  I made a note this would be a great place to just use the Hebert and Baton Rouge Indexes.  Another researcher told me about this library and mentioned there was a file cabinet full of drop folders by surnames.  Found it, and reviewed everything concerning my Theriot name.  There is a part-time genealogist who volunteers here, though I missed her on my visit.  Parking was no problem.

The Acadian Memorial

The Acadian Memorial is located at 121 South New Market Street in St. Martinville Lousiana.  On the date of my visit, the memorial was closed for flood damage repair.  No wonder the flood of last August reached the building, the memorial sits on the bank of the Bayou Teche.  I walked around and took a few photos.  With time to spare I almost convinced myself to visit St Martin de Tours Catholic Church - a block away - and ask for some records that have been on my Research Log for far too long.  The Diocese in Lafayette had been promising to post the records online, and I was still waiting.  But in the end I found a little 'hole in the wall' place that makes fantastic fried pork chops and my tummy won out.  

Iberia Parish Courthouse

The Iberia Parish Court Building is located at 300 Iberia Street, in New Iberia Louisiana.  On the day of my visit Succession Records were on my mind.  My second-great Grandfather Hildebert Theriot (sometimes spelled without the silent H, Ildebert) and his wife Louise Elmina Delahoussaye lived and died in Iberia Parish.  Research pointed to Hildebert's succession documents kept in this courthouse.  The Court Records office is on the first floor.  Once inside this office, there is a public counter with some very helpful staff.  They told me to just help myself to the Index Books, a right turn and immediately adjacent to the public counter.  I was told taking pictures of the actual recordings is discouraged and there is a fee for copies.  Normal rules.  Naturally there are no birth or death records, but plenty of conveyance and successions.  Conveyances are numbered in order and the actual documents are kept by book within a given number range.  These are neatly shelved, some to the ceiling.  Once the record's number is found, find the corresponding book and flip some pages.  Copies are made by the staff at the public counter - $1 each; printed out to legal sided paper.  Seems there was a little dispute between the children in Hildebert's succession, great for genealogical perspective, but at a dollar a page cut into my research budget.

Whenever I'm in a court records repository, I like to check for other family known to have been in the same geographic area.  I'll also run the pages looking for names that jump out at me.  This time it paid off.  Hildebert's mother Marie Rosalie Romero had a much earlier succession.  

Parking next to the court building, west side.  Look north from the parking lot and you'll see St. Peter's Cemetery.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Saint Joseph's Catholic Cemetery

Saint Joseph's Catholic Cemetery is located in Baton Rouge on North 15th Street, between 'North' Street and Main Street.  There are two entrances, one on the north side of the cemetery, and the second on the southern edge.  This is a historic cemetery, and I was impressed with the overall disrepair and lack of upkeep.  There are newer grave sites here, with dates of death only 50 years ago or so, but still there doesn't appear to be ongoing maintenance.  Several headstones are made of concrete; many without visible or readable markings.  I found my Theriot family there in the southeast corner.  This section appeared to me to have the older resting places.

Street parking only, and not much of it.  No one on site.  If I had to find someone here, I'd first research all the known indexes to narrow the search.

The East Baton Rouge Public Library

The East Baton Rouge Public Library is located at 7711 Goodwood Blvd., in East Baton Rouge Louisiana 70806.  I did not have time to do research here, but did want to review this place before moving on.  The genealogy materials are had in the "Special Collections" room located on the second floor.  This is open to the public and there is lots of room to spread out.  I counted ten microfilm readers.  There are maps, and books arranged by state. Louisiana, not surprisingly, had the largest representation with five rows of stacks.  Parishes are arranged by call number.  I only found two books for Iberia Parish - of interest to me on this trip - but otherwise the collection was impressive.

Free ample parking.  Close to eats and everything else you'd need.

Louisiana State Archives – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Louisiana State Archives is located at 3851 Essen Lane – cross street Archives Ave. – in the state capitol of Baton Rouge.  This is a large building, at the southeast corner of the intersection, with flags in front.  The public access area is on the first floor, left from the main entrance. Free parking on side of the building.

Here are some notes I made about this repository during my October of 2016 visit:

No open Wi-Fi.

John B, a librarian at the archives, was very knowledgeable and gave a tour.  All staff friendly. The public area, called the Research Room, has books; serves as a point of access for the Archives' microfilm collections; a computer index and an Archives Index (not open on the Internet).  They have a good sized Civil War book collection and to a lesser degree, volumes on African American research generally.  I saw some books on Irish research.

There is a card catalog they call the Family Card Catalog.  These cards, created about 30 years ago,
service as a surname index for the books on the wall next to the file.  There is a list of each book that was indexed on top of the card catalog.

They have copies of all the major genealogical and history journals. 

Next in the collection are books arranged by Parish.  Parish histories and related. 

Complete collections of: 1) Father Hebert’s indexes, 2) Baton Rouge Diocese indexes, 3) Archives of the New Orleans Diocese, and 4) Orleans Parish Birth indices (1790-1915).

The Archives has both the Edwin A. Davis and Powel A Casey Collections.

The Booth Index: a hand written index of Confederate soldiers originally made for Washington D.C. post war, and later obtained by the state in 1930.  Prior to this the state didn’t have this information.

Confederate Soldiers/Military Binders.

Microfilm readers; only one with digital write path.