Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jessie Mae's DNA Results

As most of the family knows I purchased a DNA test for Maw Maw and Paw Paw. 
Click here for Paw Paw's results and the reason for the test.

So, without further ado, here are Jessie Mae's results.

Jessie Mae Boudoin

Autosomal DNA: 

Similar to my grandfather's results, we were shocked there was not a higher percentage of Native American DNA. We were only a little surprised with the high proportion of European DNA. However, I took a second look at the Boudoin family tree and realized of Jessie Mae's 14 great-great-grandparents, 5 of them are European, and 3 are described as mulatto. So, we can see a long line of race-mixing. The most recent full-blooded European ancestor was Pierre Jacque Caire, a French immigrant. Here is his story.

Paternal DNA: 

Only males carry a Y-chromosome, which for a genetic genealogist reveals deep ancestral history. It reveals information along the direct paternal line. In Maw Maw's case, it is the lineage of the Boudoin line. Unfortunately, Uncle G passed away, so I was unable to test him. But any male from his line is able to test so we can confirm this line. But, I was able to connect with a distant cousin through the Boudoin line. Here are his results:

From my research, I have been able to identify that the Boudoin's were native to France. Our branch migrated in the early 1700s to New Orleans and later St. Charles Parish. 

How do you spell that? 
The big debate in the Boudoin family is the "proper spelling" of the surname. The earliest records I can find show it as Baudoin. Our branch spells it Boudoin. However, we also have cousins who spell it Boudouin. As the story goes, after Uncle G joined the military someone told him he was spelling his name incorrectly and so the additional "u" was inserted. Not having much formal education, he assumed they were correct. This variation has been used ever since by his branch and by one of the sisters. I think it's important for the branches to know we are all kin, despite a variety of surname spellings. 

Why are we of color? 
A century later, Antoine Boudoin (Baudoin) (Jessie Mae's 2nd great-grandfather) married Celestine Lagrange, a manumitted woman of color who started our line of Boudoins who made their home in Saint John the Baptist Parish. 
(Click here for more on their story.)  

Maternal DNA: 

By far my favorite discovery for Jessie Mae's test was her maternal DNA. Our direct maternal line originated in the Sahel region of Africa. This is important because in Louisiana history, the French took people from this region directly into Louisiana in the early sixteenth century. 

The major ethnic groups from this region include the Barbara, the Mandingo (Mandinka), the Fulbe (Fulani), the Wolof and the Moors. All of these groups have been identified through Louisiana slave records. Present day, this region encompasses the modern nations of Senegal, the Gambia, Mauritania, and Mali. 

Julie Burcard Thomas

Our oldest female ancestor whom I have been able to identify is Julie Burcard. She was a woman who was enslaved in St. John the Baptist Parish. She lived to see her freedom and that of her children. Interestingly, she too was listed as a mulatto. Click here for more on Julie

Maw Maw's DNA results reveal our Louisiana Creole heritage through French fathers and Senegambian mothers. I guess the history books got something right after all.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Morris Keller's DNA Results

Morris Keller Jr.
Vacherie, La. circa 1995
Original held by Julia Dumas

Why DNA?

Genealogy is detective work. Most of it is theories and stories confirmed through documentation. As the paper trail dwindles, so do the leads. So, I wanted (no, I needed) to use DNA to fill in the blanks. It has verified my work, so that I don't look like a crazy lady who makes up stories about dead people.

About DNA:

First, know there are three types of DNA: autosomal, mitochondrial and paternal Y-DNA. Each reveals something different regarding one's ancestry. The autosomal DNA can reveal mixtures between people from different continents based on genetic mutations. This is how DNA companies estimate an ethnic breakdown. The mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to child and changes very slowly, so scientists can go pretty far back in human history showing where the mother's mother's mother's (etc.) line originated thousands of years ago. The same concept is the same for all men, who carry Y-DNA, but it reveals the history of the direct paternal line.

So, without further ado, here are the DNA result for Morris Keller Jr.

Autosomal DNA

Paternal Y-DNA 

By far the biggest surprise regarding Morris' DNA results was his European paternal haplogroup.

Paw Paw's paternal line is of European origin (specifically from Basque Country along the French/Spanish border). Before my research, I never knew of any European ancestry on the Keller line. However, there has been a claim of Native American ancestry through Pop Jules Keller, who was said to have worn a long braid and Native American attire. I also know that he had blue eyes, which is an interesting mixture of features for an American Indian.

Through my research, I learned that the Keller line does have European ancestry through Pop Jules' grandfather Michel Keller, who was the son of German immigrant Nicolas Keller and his wife Agnes Schexnayder, who was of German and Belgian descent. Michel had a sexual relationship with Celeste, an enslaved black woman who gave birth to a son, Noel Keller, Pop Jules' father.

Perhaps there is Native American ancestry along Pop Jules' mother's line. I know that the tribes of southern Louisiana were matrilineal, so in their tradition the child was always of the mother's nation. At least this is my theory regarding my blue eyed, hair-braided, bead-wearing Indian ancestor we call Pop Jules.

Mitochondrial DNA:
Paw Paw's maternal DNA confirmed African ancestry from the Yoruba and Fulbe (aka Fula/Fulani) peoples from the Sahel region. The Fulani people were nomadic herders who originated in Eastern Africa. They were traditionally Muslim. The Yoruba people lived in city-states in what is presently Nigeria. Yoruba culture has remained in the Carribean and southern Louisiana through Masquerade dancing, which we have incorporated in our Carnival festivities. 

On the Keller line, I have confirmed our family's link to both groups of people. At least two of our enslaved ancestors were of both of these nations. Pierre, a Yoruba man, was the husband of Charlotte, a Fulani woman. From their union they had at least three daughters, one of which was named Celeste, who was the grandmother of Pop Jules Keller.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jessie Mae's Breast Cancer Survival Story

I've decided to get back into the writing spirit. 
As many of you know it is October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

So, and write about my beloved grandmother, Jessie Mae Boudoin Keller She is a 46 year breast cancer SURVIVOR!  

Four years ago, Maw Maw's survival story was published in the family church newsletter published by Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Vacherie, Louisiana. 

Contact me if you would like a digital copy.  Here is an expert:  

In 1962, not long after the birth of her tenth child, Mrs. Jessie discovered a bean-sized lump in her left breast, as she and her husband, Morris, dressed for a dinner party on a summer Saturday evening. "That was the longest weekend ever," Jessie said.  

"I prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Please let me live to raise my children. I knew my mom couldn't raise ten children. There was never any doubt in my mind. I knew the Sacred Heart would help me. There has never been anything I have asked of the Sacred Heart that has gone without answer. My prayer may not have been answered like I wanted, but it was answered."  

"At that time," Mrs. Jessie says, "cancer surgery was not like it is today. I had to stay in the hospital for a good many days and I don't think that breast reconstruction was even an option. It was hard to be away from my children that long."  

"But the old ladies in the neighborhood were good. My family was a good support. My twin sister, Marg, took Noreen who was just a baby, my sister and nieces took groceries to my family, and one sister came and sat with me in the hospital. But then I told her she had to go home to her own family."  

Less than five years later during a routine visit to her doctor and follow-up testing, a lump was discovered in her right breast, resulting in another radical mastectomy.  

Mrs. Jessie is proud to say that she raised all of her children in the church.  
"When my kids were punished, I would put them on their knees and they had to say the Rosary loud enough so I could hear. That way they couldn’t fall asleep," she said with a chuckle.  

"Now my family is my pride and joy."  

Originally published in Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church Newsletter, October 16, 2011. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celestine Lagrange Boudoin

This week is Mother's Day. For the past month, I have been writing about my foremothers. Today, I will continue the tradition. I recently uncovered an interesting story about my 4x great-grandmother named Celestine Lagrange aka Mother Boudoin. She is the first person of color in my lineage who was free before the Civil War. How was this possible?

Here is her story.

Celestine Lagrange was born circa 1810 in Louisiana, most likely in St. John the Baptist Parish. She was not born free but as a bondswoman. Her last known owner was Marie Lagrange. I have found two records regarding Marie Lagrange. One lists her as a free woman of color, another as a white woman.

Louisiana had a large free people of color population. Many people who were able to obtain their freedom bought their family members. Ironically, keeping them in a "slave status" was often a protective matter in case one lost their freedom papers. Or, in many cases the laws had changed regarding the process to manumit them. Someone could purchase a slave but it became increasingly harder to free them. I am not sure if this was the case with Marie. I found documentation that Marie Lagrange requested that her slaves be freed before he death. 

Here is Marie Lagrange's 1850 slave schedule. She owned eight slaves in 1850. This was not enough to run a successful plantation operation. I wonder who Marie was, how did she support herself?   

Note: The second to the last person on the schedule is a 40-year-old black woman. This is my Celestine! What I also find interesting is that there are several mulatto children listed. I learned that these were Celestine's children. Who and where was the father? (More on that later.)

Marie Lagrange died in 1852. The eight individuals in her household were sold in 1854, according to the Race and Slavery Petitions Project (Petition #20885262). 

Petition 20885262 Details
State: Louisiana
Location: St. John the Baptist
Location Type: Parish
Salutation: To the Honorable the fourth Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana in & for the parish of St. John the Baptist (, )
Filing Date: 1852-May-3
Ending Date: 1854-August-10

General Petition Information
Abstract: Pierre Barré presents to the court that, by her 17 February 1846, the recently departed Marie Lagrange appointed him testamentary executor of her estate and bequeathed to him a plantation and a slave. He prays that Lagrange's last will and testament be officially recorded and an order for its execution be issued; he also asks the court to confirm him as testamentary executor, to order that the seals affixed to the deceased's property be removed, and that an inventory be taken "according to law."
Result: granted
# of Petition Pages: 3
Related Documents: Order, 3 May 1852; Last Will and Testament, Marie Lagrange [Text in French], 17 February 1846, certified 19 April 1852; Bill of Revivor, Seraphin Barré, 17 November 1853; Orders, 17 November 1853, 25 April 1854; Supplemental Petition, Seraphin Barré, 31 December 1853; Order, 31 December 1853; Supplemental Petition, Seraphin Barré, 10 August 1854; Order, 10 August 1854; Sale of Slaves, Estate of Miss Marie Lagrange [Text in French], 14 September 1854, certified 15 September 1854
Pages of Related Documents: 13
People Associated with Petition 20885262
Slaves: 4
Free Persons of Color: 1
Defendants: 0
Petitioners: 1
Other People: 3

Citation Information
Repository: St. John the Baptist Parish Courthouse, Edgard, Louisiana

Records of the Fourth Judicial District Court
Record Group:
Document Number 64

Processing Information
Record Created: 1/23/1997
Record Final Edited: 9/2/2003
Record Last Updated on: 8/22/2006 10:37:00 AM

Celestine slave black female
Fanfan slave black male 16 years of age in 1854 (purchased by Seraphin; #20885262)
Pierre slave mulatto male 10 years of age in 1846*
Toutoute slave mulatto female 10 years of age in 1854

In 1860:
Celestine is free living as a free woman, next door to the Barré family who presided over the estate of her late owner. The Barré family are kin to the Lagrange family. 

What did I find about the Barré family's continued connection to my family? Note: Celestine is living two doors down from Seraphin Barré, who is living with a man named Antoine Boudoin. Of course, this stood out to me because this is my family's surname. But, what struck me as odd was that this Boudoin fellow was not rich. He did not own slaves. He was a working class white man who just happened to live near my Celestine whose children carried the surname Boudoin. This led me on another hunt. 

Later, I find that Celestine's daughter Justine married Seraphin Barré, the brother of Pierre Barré, who fulfilled Marie Lagrange's wish to manumit her slaves. 

In 1870, I found Antoine Boudoin is living in the same household as Celestine! He is listed as white while she is listed and black. Her children were listed as black on this census, but on a previous census and the slave schedule were listed as mulatto. It all makes sense. Antoine was the father of her children. Celestine's husband Antoine was a brick mason. Because of his race, I have been able to identify his exact date of birth (17 Jan 1808) and parents (Pierre Boudoin and Pelagie Belsom). He was of French ancestry.

I wondered why couldn't they live together as husband and wife? Not only was it socially unacceptable, but was illegal in Louisiana to be married as an interracial couple. This law was passed in 1808. 

Louisiana - Civil Code 1808, page 24, article 8: 

"Free persons and slaves are incapable of contracting marriage together; the celebration of such marriages is forbidden, and the marriage is void; it is the same with respect to the marriages contracted by free white persons with free people of color."

(Not reversed until 1967 in Federal case "Loving vs. Virginia")

This, of course, did not mean that interracial relationships did not happen. Even though it was illegal, they were husband and wife in their own eyes. In the 1880 Census, Celestine lists herself as a widow after Antoine passed away. She is listed living with two of her children and several of her grandchildren. 

Together, they raised several children:

Pierre Antoine Boudoin
Joseph Boudoin
Josephine Boudoin 
Justine Boudoin
Aramantine Boudoin
Clotilda Boudoin
Adolphina Boudoin
Charles Lagrange 
Packa Anderson (parents unknown)

I love that Celestine and Antoine chose to follow their hearts, no matter what society thought about their relationship. It shows bravery and a bit of a rebellious spirit, which I hope I have been able to inherit. I could never imagine not being able to live openly with my partner, especially on account of the color of our skin. I am happy to see that they were at least able to live together for the latter part of their lives.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Marie Henriette Brown Dumas (1857-1890)

Marie Henriette Brown was born into bondage circa 1857 in either St. John the Baptist or St. James Parish, Louisiana. Her parents were Adam Brown and Eliza Butler. She and both her parents were listed as mulatto. (This term was more a matter of complexion than the strict dictionary term of having one black parent and one white parent.) There is also some evidence that her paternal grandfather was a white man, the son of a local planter. I am still researching this, but it would explain many DNA matches I have not been able to corroborate. Neighborhood elders describe her as a quiet woman, very tall with long black hair and fair skin. My Dumas family happen to be tall so I found this bit of information right on point.

Marie Henriette in 1870 Census with parents

                Because of her status, much of Henriette’s youth remains a mystery. I am able to find the family in 1870. Her father, Adam Brown, is listed as a Brick Mason. Her mother was a housewife. Marie Henriette, age 13, worked as a “domestic servant”. What surprised me was that she and her parents were literate! It was illegal for slaves to be educated, so I wonder who taught them. Did they have to keep this a secret?

On 9 May 1878 Marie Henriette Brown married Pierre (Numa) Dumas at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Vacherie, Louisiana. After marriage, she became a housewife and mother.

Henriette Brown and Pierre Dumas had seven children:

Pierre Jr. (1879-1946)
Joseph Adam (1880-?)
Marie Anastasia “Zene” (1882-1969)
Leopold (1884-1966)
Marie Noelie (1886-1923)
Jean Orderille (1889-1951)
Roselius (1890-1920)

On 20 Nov 1890, Henriette would pass away prematurely at the approximate age of 33. She was buried the following day at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. The cause of her death remains unknown. After her untimely death, her husband, Pierre would pass away within the next ten years. Their young children would be split between their daughter Anastasia (who raised Orderille and Roselius in Vacherie) and Pierre’s sister Eliza “Lise” Dumas Jefferson (who raised my great-grandfather Leopold and his baby sister Noelie in Wallace). The eldest two children were of age by this time and on their own. To this day, there is a set of Dumases in the neighboring towns. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mary Leonce Jones and Tips for African American Genealogy

Mary Jones. 

Can there be a more common name than this? That was what I thought while researching this ancestor, before I found her maiden name.

One of my goals for researching my family history was to have a "full" family tree to hang on my wall. I never thought I would have a tree stretching back hundreds of years due to the abyss slavery created. So, my idea of a "full tree" was 5 generations including myself. 

This meant learning the stories of my 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and all 16 of my great-great-grandparents, including the maiden names of all the women. After many years of research, I am proud that as of last year (2014), I reached this goal! I still have to order my tree, but I'll get there.

This week for the #52Ancestors Challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, I decided to share the story of my paternal 2nd great-grandmother Mary Leonce Jones. This post is an explanatory approach as to how I conduct my genealogy research. Hopefully, those interested in genealogy research, particularly for African descendants, would find this helpful.

1. Oral History 

aka Start With What You Know

Oral history is what initially got me interested genealogy research. I loved listening to my maternal grandmother go on and on about the family. I did not always believe her and secretly set out to prove her wrong. However, I found her oral history extremely accurate. 

My father's side has been more challenging to research in part because my father passed away earlier than expected. Both his parents had passed before I was born and most of my aunts and uncles had limited knowledge of the family history. But, I didn't let this stop me. I had a goal... I wanted to know about my people. I wanted my "full" family tree!

Too often, oral history and written history are viewed at odds with one another. This does not need to be the case. We all should listen intently to the stories our elders share with us about our family and community. It will lead to invaluable clues. While it is true that oral history is not always the accurate, that does not mean the elders are trying to mislead us. It simply means they may have misinterpreted facts or combined several ancestors into one.

Before researching Mary Jones, I knew that my grandmother Julia Jones was partially raised by her "Uncle Tot". This was an important piece of information, which will come into play later. I also knew my grandmother's parents were Ignace Ernest Jones and Adelaide Grant, from her death certificate. I found a couple different Ernest Jones in the area through Census records. 

How did I know which Ernest Jones was mine?

2. US Census

My internet repository of choice is I know a lot of people complain about the fees, but I understand. They have millions of records and they have already scanned, transcribed and organized much of them. Also, if funds are tight you can cancel your membership and keep access to your tree.

For my research, one of the first sources I reference is the US Census. The US Census records provide invaluable information. I tend to work backwards, first finding my grandmother and her siblings and parents. Then, I search for her parents as children and so forth. Trouble struck when I found several men with the name Adam Jones (Mary's husband). You won't believe how many Adam and Mary Jones there were!

The US Census is wonderful, but it is easy to start researching someone else's family tree and not your own, if you are not careful. This almost happened to me.

How could I know I had the right family?

3. Death Certificates

I ordered death certificates for a few possible candidates. This lead me to this discovery: Ernest Jones' parents were Adam J. Jones and Mary Leonce! I finally had Mary's maiden name. Whooo hooo!

I knew this was my Ernest because it shows that his body was shipped to Wallace, Louisiana. This is a tiny town where my family is from. It also lists his second wife Gertrude!

[Tip: Don't just research your direct line. Add in all wives and children in the family. I will help confirm the identity of your ancestor, especially if they have a common name.]

Death certificates have been invaluable to my research. For the State of Louisiana, I can order any certificates over 100 years old online for $5.

Back to the Census

With this information, I went back to the Census to find my Adam J. Jones and Mary Leonce Jones. I looked at a few who also had son's named Ernest. 

How would I ever get this straight? 

Then, I noticed that one couple had a man who lived next door with the surname Leonce. I found my people! Remember, often family members lived right next door to their kin: parents, siblings and children never really were that far from one another. So, who was this guy? I looked at his age and he was only a couple years younger than Mary. There are no birth certificates during this time, so the only way to confirm parents would be through marriage certificates.

4. Marriage Certificates

I started to broaden my research and look at the neighbor/relative of Mary Leonce Jones.
By researching Mary's neighbor and brother, I was able to find the names of their parents through his marriage certificate.

Luckily Mary Jones got a little more unique in that her birth name was Mary Leonce, a unique surname. I conducted a search for just this surname and found that all the people of color with this name were from a neighboring parish: St. Charles Parish, Louisiana.

How/why did Mary and her brother move to St. John? Maybe it was because she was to be wed. I quickly learned how in these rural areas everyone was kin. Often people looked to the next parish over for a mate. The parishes were only a few miles apart, so one could walk if they chose.

So, that's how I did it. I slowly trace and confirm one relationship at a time. I started with what I knew: my late grandmother. I used her death certificate, the US Census, her father's death certificate and his mother's brother's marriage certificate to confirm their relationships.

Mary's Story

From everything I have been able to gather through my research, Mary Leonce was born about May 1862 possibly in Saint Charles, Louisiana, USA. Her parents were Angeline Harriet and August Leonce. She has one known sibling, Augustus, who married Leonie Rixner. They resided next door to Mary after she wed Adam J. Jones of Wallace, Saint John the Baptist Parish Louisiana in 1878. I have yet to obtain Mary and Adam's marriage certificate, but that is on my to research list.

Mary and Adam made their home surrounded by Adam's family in Wallace. They had 10 children:

Morris Jones
Ignace Ernest Jones
August Jones (named after Mary's father)
Armontine Jones
Clifford Jones
Vanderbilt "Victor" Jones
Angele Jones Pablo
Clarence Jones
Olive Jones
Willis "Uncle Tot" Jones *

5. Obituary Research:

The youngest Jones son, "Uncle Tot", helped to raise my orphaned grandmother after her parents passed away. Through his obituary, I was able to confirm more information about the family. Obituary research is often overlooked. It provides a plethora of information in one source. I like to use for my obituary research, but there are others. Pick any you like.

Here is my Great-Uncle's obituary, which cemented him into my known Jones family.
It also provided the married names of some of the women in the family. This is helpful for finding living cousins. 


Willis (Uncle Tot-Totee) Jones, of Wallace, LA, at his residence, on Wednesday, December 9, 1981 at 9:00 p.m., beloved son of the late Adam and Mary Jones; brother of the late Morris, Ernest, Victor, Clifford, and Clarence Jones, Amontine, and Angeli Pablo; devoted uncle of Julia Dumas, Alvin and August Jones, Nolan and Lucille Pablo, Shirley Ross, Florida Johnson, Willie and Philip Rogers and the late Elvira Holland, Cora and Lucille Jones, Almedia Raymond; great uncle of Curtis, Larry, Clifford, Ronald, Ernest, Leo, Clarence, Olga Mae, Patricia, Debora, Alana, and Margaret Dumas, Lillian Miles and Mary Butler; uncle-in-law of Curtis Dumas, Priscilla Jones, Dorothy Pablo, and Mrs. August Jones; brother-in-law of Carmen Jones; deceased also survived by other relatives and friends. A native and resident of Wallace, LA, age 85 years.

Relatives and friends of the family, also pastors, officers and members of the Morning Star Baptist Church, all neighboring Churches, Willow Grove Society, are invited to attend the funeral. Services from the Woodville Baptist Church, Wallace, LA, on Monday, December 14, 1981 at 12:00 noon. Rev. Linton Grant, pastor, Rev. Floria Johnson, officiating.

Interment in Willow Grove Cemetery. Wake services on Sunday, December 13, 1981 at 8:30 p.m. from the above name Church. Visitation after 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Earl Baloney & Sons MOrtuary, in charge of arrangements. Carment M. Baloney, Directors.

What I learned...

Researching my 2x great-grandmother was an amazing journey. I learned that this line had been in this region of Louisiana for a very long time. It is the same neighborhood where my great-grandfather Ernest, my grandmother Julia and my father called home.

I learned that Mary was a literate woman, but her husband was not. This makes me curious about her childhood. I know she was born before slavery ended and was unable to find any record of her parents in records, so I assume they too were enslaved as well.

In 1900, Adam and his 3 eldest sons worked as farm laborers, most likely on one of the nearby sugar plantations. Though they were a humble people, they owned their own home free and clear. What an accomplishment! 

By 1910, Mary would be deceased, leaving her husband, Adam, to care for their remaining children with the help his mother Clara. Mary died before birth and death certificates were issued in the state of Louisiana, so I have not been able to obtain an exact date of her birth or death.

Still, I hope I have proven that we don't need those documents to prove our lineage and uncover our family history. 

Tips for Your Family History: 

1. Document your oral history

2. Use the Census

3. Verify through documentation 

(death/marriage certificates)

4. Don't forget about obituaries of other relatives.

5. Tell the story of your people.