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Archive for the ‘DeeDee’s Ancestors’ Category

Yesterday I had an email from Ancestry.com. They had added a new collection called Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985. “Well, there’s a chance…” I thought.

Wow. I’ve barely scratched the surface so far, but I’ve found the marriage date of two couples, and I have high hopes of breaking through a very frustrating couple of brick walls.

On this Super Bowl Sunday, I’m excited about new genealogy records going online! Hence the Geek element of this blog. 😀

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So often when I’m working on genealogy, I come across a person who had a story I long to know. Jessie Lathrop, my third-great aunt, was one of those people. I don’t know much about her, but what I do know is tragic. Jessie was born on November 2, 1864, the first child of Andrew Mercer Lathrop and Lucy Anna Sanders.

Jessie Lathrop's birth recorded in the family Bible

You could say that Andrew’s life was a series of tragedies. His father died before he was born. He was something of an outsider in southern Louisiana because his father was descended from an old Colonial family, so he wasn’t French or Cajun. He was also Protestant in a region so Catholic that when he died, he was buried just outside the fence of the cemetery. He had only been married for three years to his first wife, Susan F. Rider, when she died of complications from childbirth at age 28. The daughter she bore, Ada, died the following year. (Click here to read a sweet, cheerful letter from Susan to Andrew the day before she gave birth to Ada)


Andrew & Lucy Lathrop, Jessie’s parents

Andrew didn’t marry again for ten years. When he did, it was to Lucy Anna Sanders, a woman 25 years his junior. Which brings us back to Jessie. On December 21, 1880, the New Orleans Times-Picayune included this brief news item:

The Thibodaux Sentinel publishes a report of the suicide of Miss Lathrop, niece of Louis Sanders . . . at Bayou Lafourche. She had made two previous attempts at self-destruction, and finally succeeded in her mad purpose by swallowing a dose of arsenic.

Jessie Lathrop killed herself on November 16, 1880, two weeks after her sixteenth birthday. After two previous attempts. What made her so desperate to die? Family lore (never known for being reliable) says that her uncle, Lewis Sanders, had sexually abused her. Family guesswork (even less reliable) suggests that he got her pregnant. She was living with Lewis and his three children on the 1880 census; his wife had died in 1875, and it seems Jessie was keeping house for her uncle and taking care of her young cousins. Lewis married his second wife in December of 1880, a month after Jessie’s death. Did Lewis take advantage of his niece? The fact is, we’ll never know.

Jessie's death recorded in the family Bible; the birth of her little brother, my great-great-grandfather, Woodford Lathrop, was recorded just above.

We do have a letter that Lewis wrote to Andrew in January of 1881, wrapping up some last, small details of Jessie’s short life:

I rec your Ecknolagement of the Barl I shiped to you, things belonging to Jessie they ar just as She left them […] I had the clothes washed those cut & torn Dresses ar the clothes that was taken off of her after her deth

Jessie had a sad story to tell. I can’t ever know exactly what that story was, but thanks to genealogy, at least I can know that she lived and that she had a story.

In Memory of Jessie Lathrop
1864-1880

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I couldn’t figure out what to write for my first post, and then I remembered my great-great-grandfather and his sordid crime.

In case you didn’t know, Genealogy Bank can be a veritable goldmine for the kind of information that actually tells you who your ancestors were, as opposed to knowing them only as a list of names on census records. If your ancestors lived in big U.S. cities (and even some scattered small ones), chances are good that you’ll find them in GB’s huge archive of historical newspapers. The site has a free trial, so you might want to sign up, see if they have newspapers for your main locations, and decide if you want to subscribe. And sadly, no, I’m not being paid for plugging this site.

On to my great-great-grandfather, Frank A. Marceaux. So it turns out he was running for sheriff of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, in 1931. But he ran into a complication. He needed to file a petition with the state board of pardons because three decades earlier, he had committed, and I quote, “larceny of a cow.” Reported the Times-Picayune in December of 1931:

In the candidate’s application he states that he was convicted of larceny of a cow on October 10, 1899, and was sentenced to serve two years in the state penitentiary. He states that he was released from the penal institution on July 3, 1901, after his sentence was commuted on grounds of good behavior.

Frank, in spite of his shady past, had one prominent supporter: Governor Huey P. Long, who is quoted in the same article:

I would like to know since this prohibition law how many of us have not violated the law.

For a genealogist, this stuff is gold. Am I right?

Frank Marceaux and Family, c. 1919

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