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.

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