They were so close to being twins. My uncle J.D. was born in December, my father was born the following October, only 10 months later. When my uncle went off to first grade, my father sat dejectedly on the doorstep waiting for him to return home. But before they could go off to play, my schoolteacher grandmother would review the day’s lessons with my uncle. My father naturally joined in.
When my father went off to first grade the following year, the teacher realized he already knew the lessons, so he joined my uncle in second grade. The boys graduated high school together and went off to LSU together in 1946, where they shared an overcrowded dormitory room with returning World War II soldiers. The following year, my uncle went off to the military academy at West Point.
Years later, my uncle confided in me that he had felt bad about leaving my father all alone at LSU. But when he returned home at the end of the school year, he found the teenage boy he left had become a self-assured young man. “He did fine without me.”
About Photo+Story: Inspired by a competition at the RootsTech 2018 genealogy conference, the series distills family stories to a single photo plus 150* words or less. (*this one’s 200 words)
Almost every family has an oral history, the stories of ancestors to use as a starting point for genealogical research. With a little digging, you’ll find some stories turn out to be true, many have a grain of truth that’s been distorted over time, and some are complete fabrications. Proving or disproving family stories is one of my favorite parts of researching my family history. I think of it as Mythbusters, Family Edition.
My father’s paternal grandparents Adraste Lafleur (1874-1951) and Elodie Marthe Lafleur (1880-1965) were both born with the surname Lafleur, and grew up in the same locale in Louisiana. So close that in the 1880 census, their families were recorded only two pages apart in the 7th Ward of St. Landry Parish.
Many decades ago, when my mother asked my father’s relatives for names and birth dates for the family tree in our Bible, they were quick to point out that Adraste (Pépère) and Elodie Marthe (Mémère) were not cousins, and that Pépère’s Lafleur ancestors had come to Louisiana by way of Canada, while Mémère’s Lafleur ancestors had come directly from France. The family tree in Momma’s Bible records just one more generation back, with a father of Ulysse Lafleur for Pépère and Benjamin Lafleur for Mémère. Is this “Canadian French vs French” distinction accurate? Or were they actually related and if so, how closely? Continue reading “Mythbusters: Lafleur Family Origins”→
My parents met on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. She was working as a medical technologist at the Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. He was finishing his master’s degree in chemistry at LSU. Daddy would come courting on Sunday afternoons, frequently sharing the couch with another suitor named Talmadge who always drove over in his truck with his cousin Ewell.
When Momma chose Daddy, she didn’t know that Talmadge’s family would strike oil on their family farm located smack dab on top of the Tuscaloosa Trend, nor that Talmadge would become a wealthy businessman, owning Hilton hotels in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. When I found out as a teenager, I teased Momma about how she could have married rich. But between my gratitude for having Daddy as a dedicated father to us and loving husband to her, and the stories I heard of Talmadge’s family drama, I’d say she definitely married well.
About Photo+Story: Inspired by a competition at the RootsTech 2018 genealogy conference, the series distills family stories to a single photo plus 150 words or less.
Aunt Emily loved a party. With a “heavy on the bourbon, light on the Coca Cola” drink in hand and a full repertoire of bawdy jokes in mind, she kept us all entertained. That is, until her jokes got too risqué and our parents sent us children out of the living room.
In her later years, as her memory began to fade and her eyes grew weak, she would read her jokes off index cards with reading glasses, pulled out from her purse with her signature dramatic flair. Continue reading “Life of the Party”→
It wouldn’t be Easter in Cajun country without egg pocking. The rules are simple: gently tap the pointy ends, the first to crack loses, and the winner takes all. Our grandfather didn’t play for keeps, sparing us the tears of an empty basket. But if he lost he’d tease, “Wait, was that a guinea egg?”
Only when we were older did our father explain that back in the day men gathered at the Ville Platte ice house on Easter Eve to drink, boast and bet over egg pocking, and that an accusation of slipping a tough-shelled guinea egg could set off a fight.
After Sunday dinner when the weather was fine, our grandfather would load us cousins into his truck and drive us to his camp by Lake Chicot. There, we’d throw hickory nuts, scare each other with cries of “Snake!” and shriek and jump for no good reason at all.
I’m sure my grandmother sighed with relief when the truck pulled away. No more kids running back and forth through the kitchen’s swinging doors, no more chicken fighting in the living room. To this day, none of the cousins has fessed up to breaking the glass top of her coffee table. I swear it wasn’t me.
“Dear Buddy, the book is a jewel. … Have you the negative of myself taken with the pigeons in Lyons?” The old man sat in my grandmother’s living room, with the letter in hand and his book on the coffee table, 70 years after the Great War and six years after my grandfather had died. We all knew the photo; it hung on the wall behind him. But the book and its author were news to us.
His grandson prodded, “Tell them the part about sneaking into Paris” And so we learned of my grandfather’s secret adventures in France.
“Susan, Carol, Lucy, Patty…” my daddy would call out to me, sputtering until he grasped my name, “Janet.” To grow up as the fifth daughter was to watch four paths unfold and consider which sister’s I might follow. An independent streak with a scientific trajectory landed me in Silicon Valley, far from home and family in Louisiana.
And yet, when I’m back home and meet an old family friend at a party or at the grocery and get the expected, “You must be one of the Lafleur girls,” I’m proud to say, “Yes, I am.”