Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Family Research

Thankyou to Mary for sharing her family research.

Family research can require hours of work. Sifting through old records. Bothering everybody and anybody. Phone calls to family for their bits of knowledge. And emails sent to forums, churches, newspapers and message boards. Always with the hope that you will find even one tiny clue to help connect the pieces of your family’s puzzle.

And when you find a photo of an ancestor it’s a bit like manna from Heaven. Eureka! You weren’t expecting it but you had hoped for it. When it’s discovered you are so excited and appreciative. It has happened to me on a few occasions. But only because people shared with me.

Recently I connected with a woman who was seeking information about her husband’s family that might be connected to mine. So we shared. She was so appreciative. Said that her husband had been very ill and was thrilled with this new information. It would give him something to read and absorb during his recovery.

Now this great grandfather of his came over from Ireland before or during the Civil War. By 1880 he was living in New Orleans-a family man running a grocery and saloon. He did his fair share of populating the Algiers neighborhood of NOLA (on the West Bank of the Mississippi River) since he had at least ten children by 1900.

I was fascinated. Usually I envision Irish immigrants in overcrowded, New York City tenements or in the slums of Boston. Love it when I can shift my imagination to mines, railroads or the banks of a mighty river.

Algiers had a bit of history before and after this Irishman arrived. The first home built in Algiers was in 1812 and became a city in 1840. There had been slaughterhouses and detainment centers for African slaves before they were sold across the river. It had also been an area for Cajuns who were thrown out of Nova Scotia by the Brits. It was a railroad center and an industry of ship building. And it was ablaze when the Confederates tried to burn everything before the Union soldiers arrived.
I can imagine it all. The good and the bad. Industry. Oppression. Horror. Music. Immigration. Heat. Smells. Mosquitoes. Food. Diversity. Celebration. War. Defeat.

Back to the sharing part. This woman told me that there had been a photo of the grandfather and personal documents. They were in New Orleans in the possession of her husband’s aunt. So she asked the aunt for a copy of the photo. And the aunt refused.

Then along came 2005 and a powerful gal who went by the name of Katrina. She took nearly 2000 people and destroyed just about everything in her wake. Devastating. Not just for New Orleans but also the surrounding areas. It effected the entire country. People, houses, boats, schools, and neighborhoods just swept away. All gone.

And yes, that includes the unshared photos, personal documents and family histories. All gone.

In no way does this compare to the loss of life. But it’s still a loss. And like a lot of New Orlean’s destruction it could have been avoided.

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