Friday, January 23, 2015

Oops! Genealogy Roadshow: New Orleans - Cabildo (S2E1)

Did I review the wrong online episode of Genealogy Roadshow last week? Yes, I did.

The Austin, Texas episode I wrote about last week aired on October 14, 2013; it was from last season. So I'm a little behind the times. That happened because I watch them online.

The episode that aired on Tuesday, January 13 on was centered in New Orleans. This too was a good episode but honestly, I liked the Austin, Texas one better. Maybe that is in part due to the fact that I know New Orleans has a much richer culture than the episode showed. See, in addition to the presentation of about a half dozen family history stories of everyday people, the program gives a little background on the city the show has traveled to. I would have liked to see a little more about the history of ethnic diversity in New Orleans. Nonetheless, this episode wasn't bad. What I enjoyed was the variety of resources presented.

I really loved the first guest's story. She was interested in finding out the about her family's house in the 7th Ward of the City of New Orleans. Josh Taylor presented the findings. Before revealing what he found he said to her, "We talk a lot about documents in family history, but sometimes its those physical assets, like the house, that is our link to the past." Ain't that the truth!

Now enrolled in a course of the History of Material Culture I am thinking about the story objects tell. But back to this reveal...

Josh showed the guest entries in city directories, census records (including surviving 1890 census schedules of civil war union veterans), birth certificates, and a civil war pension file.

That pension record revealed a first-hand account of this guest's racial background. Her 3rd great grandmother, who was born a free black woman, was the daughter of a freed slave woman and a white man. Additionally, the pension file revealed that the 3rd great grandmother did indeed receive her deceased husband's pension for his service in the Union Army. That pension helped to buy that home that the family has lived in for generation. 

"A single mother of six bought that house." 

And Josh is quick to point out that it was the Civil War and the ancestor's participation in it that changed the course of history, not only for the country, but also for that family as evidenced by that house.

I also love Josh's statement that pension files leave incredible first-hand accounts and "...if our ancestors were to write a blog, wouldn't we love to read the words?" Let's hope that blogs prove of interest to future generations of family historians.

The other presentation that really stood out to me was the one in which the guest wanted to find out more about the murder of her great uncle.

For this reveal, Josh presented a little about the value of headstones in one's genealogical research. Frankly, I don't have much first-hand experience with this because, um, my poor dead relatives hardly ever have headstones but this guest's relative did.

Her great uncle's headstone reads, "Neil Sessions. Born Nov. 28, 1872. Died Dec, 24, 1905. He was murdered and robbed. In life beloved, in death lamented." 

Josh then presents newspaper articles which he wisely points out are the best resources for anything sensational. From the information gleaned from the article Josh presents census records which establish the residents in the neighborhood and proximity of the murder victims home to that of the suspect. He then continues to search census records for what became of the suspect. By the 1910 census the suspect's mother indicates that only one of her four children are living; concluding that the suspect has died. Now is that true? Was the mother honest with the census taker or just hiding her son's whereabouts? The guest may never know for sure but she certainly got a more complete story.

There are a variety of resources available that can inform a researcher about his or her ancestor's life. This episode underscored the importance of exhausting them all.

And I must say before closing that the new genealogist they have added to the program, Mary Tedesco, was really a wonderful addition. I hope that in future reviews I'll feel inclined to recap her presentations. For now though, this episode will be available to view online until February 10, 2015 at

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