The maternal matriarch of the family was Julie Burcard. Julie was born into the American horror story commonly known as slavery. Because of her low social and racial status, her exact birthdate is unknown. From her death certificate, it is estimated around 1836 in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana.
Julie’s owner was also her father. He was a rich slaveholder by the name of Jean Frederick Burcard. He also served as the Sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish from 1852-1857. He owned property in New Orleans and a sugar plantation in St. John Parish. He was of Swiss descent. The identity of Julie’s mother may forever be a mystery. Family legend tells us that she was a black woman of African descent sold from Virginia to Louisiana.
Physically, Julie was a handsome woman. She was of short stature, with fair skin and long black hair. Photographs show a profound resemblance to Jean F. Burcard. Though Jean fathered a mulatto child, he did have several legitimate children with his wife. The fact that Jean Frederick fathered a mulatto child was not an uncommon practice. Many questions still remain. Did Jean acknowledge Julie? Did Julie or other family members know of their kinship? How was Julie treated in her father’s household? Was she abused or treated well? Was she close with any of her half-siblings? We may never know.
Slavery was not abolished until Julie was around 29 years of age. By this time, she was already married, raising her first three children.
Julie married a black man, Pierre Thomas. There are two theories regarding his origins. First, is that he was enslaved and sold from Virginia, like so many others during that time. The 1860 Slave Schedule lists a Pierre Thomas sold from Virginia to Louisiana. Second, is a rumor that the Thomases were from Haiti. Many Haitians, both free and enslaved, fled to Louisiana due to its reputation of being a safe haven for free persons of color.
They had nine children together. The Thomas tribe included: Elmire, Julian, Clara, Camille, Raoul aka Henry, Gustave, Gustavie, Julia and Alfreda.
Julie Burcard Thomas passed away March 10, 1922 in Montz, St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. She was buried in St. John the Baptist Cemetery.