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.

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