Monday, January 18, 2010

Methodology Monday in 18th-century Louisiana

The discussion group of the Great Lakes APG chapter recently took up an article by Elizabeth Shown Mills published in the July/October 1997 Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Issue of The American Genealogist: "Deliberate Fraud and Mangled Evidence: The Search for the Fictional Family of Anne Marie Philippe of Natchitoches, Louisiana." (If you haven't heard Mills speak and are a Midwesterner, don't even try to pronounce that place name.)

The article is worth digging out of your nearest good genealogy library even if you don't have research targets in the 1700s in that territory, because it's at least a three-in-one. (Copies are still available for $20 from the TAG website.)

For one thing, it shows show even the best genealogical research has a kind of spiral character, in which you examine a set of records, then another, and then later return to the first set knowing enough more to see the same records with new eyes. For another, it ties the genealogical puzzle into the story of a chilling fragment of German history. (No spoilers here!) For a third, it chronicles a bit of the author's own journey from neophyte to sadder but wiser.

And finally, read it for the inspiration. At one stage in the research, essential information from parish registers was finally being made available -- but only in a compilation of poorly indexed abstracts, the originals remaining unavailable. Mills writes,

At this point persistent researchers part company from the fainthearted. Solving this research problem required a word-for-word, page-by-page reading of the entire volume -- indeed more than one such reading, to absorb all clues amid a myriad of name variations and phonetic spellings. {358}
Will you recognize that point when you come to it?

3 comments:

Randy said...

Two tourists were driving through Louisiana. As they approached Natchitoches, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town. They argued back and forth until they finally stopped for lunch. As they stood at the counter, one tourist asked the blonde employee, "Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us? Would you please pronounce where we are ... very slowly?" The blonde girl leaned over the counter and said, "Burrrrrrrr, gerrrrrrr, Kinggggggggg."

Louisiana Genealogy Blogs said...

Boudreux's Death Notice:
#33 - Boudreaux's Death Notice


Boudreaux's wife, Clotile, went to the local newspaper and said she wanted to put in the Obituary Column that Boudreaux died.

The editor said that it would be $1.00 per word. Clotile said, "Here's $2.00 - just put 'BOUDREAUX DIED'."

The editor said, "Mrs. Boudreaux, surely you want more dan dat."

Clotile said, "Mais, no, just 'BOUDREAUX DIED'."

The editor said, "Well, Mrs. Boudreaux, I know you're a little upset. Bring yourself back tomorrow and you will probably tink of somethin else."

Clotile came back the next day, and said, "Yeh, I taught of somethin else, put 'BOUDREAUX DIED, BOAT FOR SALE'."

Mills said...

Hmmhh. Boudeaux's delightful Cajun culture and accent doesn't extend all the way up to Nak-uh-tush, but newspaper obits there still have their problems. When my children's great-great-grandfather died there in the 1890s, his brother personally went into the newspaper office also. The editor then wrote, in his next edition, "My friend Landry Charleville came up from Cloutierville and brought me the biggest red tomato you ever saw." Did he say anything about Joseph Charleville's death? No. I confess I've wondered if, perhaps, there were things at play that were better off left unmentioned. :)