Case of the Missing Given Name

Case of the Missing Given Name

As most of you know I work in the Genealogy Department of the Dallas Public Library. My job is a rewarding one as I get to help people on a daily basis with their genealogical problems. While many people come in for the first time and are just getting started others may well have been conducting research many years. Quite often patrons, new and old, have interesting genealogical research mysteries which they ask the staff to help solve.

A lady came in to the library recently wanting to know the given name of the owner of her enslaved ancestor. In conducting her research she had discovered her ancestor was owned by a man named J. Boulanger. When she tried to identify him she encountered several men named Boulanger who had given names of John, James and Joseph and for that reason was unable to discover which one was the man she sought.

Using, I had her take me to the entry on the Slave Schedule of the 1850 United States Census. There we found J. Boulanger listed with one slave, a black female aged 10 years.  We wrote down the names of several of the slave owners before and several after J. Boulanger. One nearby slave owner was Felix Grima who I recognized as a prominent attorney and Notary in New Orleans. We also took note that they were listed as living in the first ward in New Orleans

Next, we went to the Free Schedule of the 1850 census. Just as the lady had informed me there were numerous Boulangers with various given names beginning with J. After looking at several of these men, we could not find a Boulanger we felt was our man. So, we used Felix Grima to help us. We found Grima on page 80 of the first ward. Going down the page, just a few doors from Grima was the J. Boulanger family.

Contrary to what we had hoped, the Boulanger household was headed by none other than J. Boulanger. His named was not spelled out. But we did find additional information about him. He was aged 27, born in France. His wife was listed as what looked like Louise, aged 18, born in France and they had a two year daughter, Mathilde, born in Louisiana.

Well, I thought, if the 1850 census did not spell out Boulanger’s given name, surely the 1860 census would. So, armed with the family make-up of the Boulanger family we proceeded to try to locate them in the 1860 census.  That search was not fruitful. We could not find the family. We even located the Grima family hoping they would be nearby. Still,no luck.

So, on we went to the 1870 census. We had no luck with J or Louise but when we used Mathilde we hit pay dirt. We found the family in the 6th ward of New Orleans on page 318. His name was Jules!

We found Jules Boulanger age 47 born France, a retired grocer, with his wife Leonie aged 36, born in France. She had only aged 10 years over a 20 year stretch, or possibly she was a second wife. The age of Mathilde was off somewhat, as well. In 1850 she was aged 2 and in 1870 she was aged 19. In addition, there was a new daughter, Rose, aged 17. Both daughters were born in Louisiana.

We had solved the mystery of the missing given name. THEN, like we all do, the lady began asking other questions….

This entry was posted in African American, Census, Ethnic Reseacrh, France-French, Louisiana, Research Methodology. Bookmark the permalink.

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