Stories of my Ancestors

I had some fun in the past few months as I researched my family’s roots. I began by asking myself a few questions that I detailed in another post, Tracing My Roots. Fortunately, I have answered the questions about my family’s past satisfactorily.

I can substantiate that my family did, indeed, own slaves. I discovered a bill of sale on for a 12 year old boy named Theo who was bought by my ancestor, Jacques Matherne, in 1783. Before Jacques, census records show that Jacques’ grandfather, Johanne, owned five slaves in the early 1700s, shortly after arriving in Louisiana from Germany.

I couldn’t find records of any other ancestor owning slaves. However, slave ownership was quite common in the South. About 1/3 of white families owned slaves in the pre-Civil War days. On average, a slaveowner owned 3-5 slaves. So it’s quite possible that others in the family tree had slaves, too. I just don’t see a record of any others owning slaves.

Did my family participate in the Civil War? Yes, I found a record that my great-great grandfather, Joseph T. Martin, was drafted in 1862, then captured by Union forces the same year near Thibodaux, Louisiana. According to what I have found, he was released on his own recognizance and returned home shortly thereafter. He never traveled more than 30 miles from home during the Civil War.

Again, there probably were others in my family who took up arms for the Confederacy. Starting in 1862, there was a draft, so most families had a family member who served the Confederacy. However, most records only list surnames and a capital letter. Therefore, it’s impossible for me to ascertain if the A. Matherne that I found on a Lafourche Regimental Roll was my ancestor, Anatole Matherne. Could be but who’s to say that were other men named Matherne with an A for a first name in the region.

I uncovered other interesting stories, too. Ursin Napolean Matherne was a philanderer, and in the spirit of his middle name, made many conquests. My great-grandfather fathered at least 16 children, from 3 different women. Those are the children that one can verify. Where there more? Probably, considering he had a marked propensity for leaving his wife and children for periods of time, with little or no explanation for his whereabouts upon his return. I have relatives I know little or nothing about up and down the bayous of Louisiana.

One of the women that I am descended from was Clinda Picou Matherne, my great-grandmother, married to the above-mentioned Ursin Matherne. She was renowned in her community as a traiteur, a Cajun term for a faith healer. She prayed for the sick, laying hands on the ill, then she offered a remedy, usually a homeopathic cure. Payments were traditionally received, though not required for her services. She lived to an old age, just a few months shy of 100 years old. To the end of her days, she was known for praying and offering cures for the sick.

There were other details, too such as when and how my ancestors came to America. I detailed a bit about the long journeys of the Cajuns, who left France for Canada, were forcibly evicted from that land, and eventually made their way to Louisiana. My family was part of that journey, too.

I made a Shutterfly book of pictures and stories about my ancestors. I plan on gifting copies of the book to my nieces and nephews. I didn’t write down all the stories I have heard or read about my ancestors. However, I hope the stories that I managed to wrote down will be handed down for more generations to discover.


6 thoughts on “Stories of my Ancestors

  1. Your family was a gang of slave-owning Confederates? Good grief! I will report you to both Antifa and BLM immediately. Expect problems. Heh, heh.

    My father’s sister, my only aunt (R.I.P.), was very interested in our ancestors, a topic that’s never interested me in the slightest for some reason. She did all manner of research, and often shared it with me. I acted interested.


    1. I wouldn’t label the Matherne clan as a gang of slave-owning Confederates! My lort! How you can spin a phrase, Felipe. However, every family has its interesting turns and twists. My family has those moments, too. I have always been enamored of stories of heritage and history It’s most compelling when you can factor your own DNA into the story.


  2. I have been the beneficiary of the work of other family members on both sides of my clan. But you have garnered far more personal details than I have seen from their research. I know my mother’s side of the family were abolitionists. Perhaps one reason they headed north to Canada in the 1790s. Part of my father’s family came through Virginia (the first traces are also in the 1790s) then through North Carolina to Indiana to Illinois to Missouri where they headed west to Oregon in the 1890s. (His mother’s family came to Oregon in the 1840s through Missouri and Massachusetts.) There certainly seem to have been some opportunities for slave-owning along the way, but I have seen no record of that. Where did you find the bill of sale? It would be interesting to check.


    1. The bill of sale was a hint on Ancestry attached to the above said Jacques Matherne. In other words, it was there because of someone else’s work in finding it. The Matherne family tree, at least the early part, is well documented since the Matherne family was one of the original German group of immigrants to settle Louisiana when the Louisiana colony was quite young.


  3. The “story” on my last name is that five brothers were brought over to Canada from Prussia as millwrights, men who made and fitted the iron bits on saw mills. The men all have blacksmith on their birth certificates from that point on. Down to my father, before the trade was abandoned as a livelihood. In my digging, they all owned farms as well. Only two of the five had children so there are two branches of this family, one centered in upstate Wisconsin and one in Wyoming, I’m from the Wisconsin clan. .
    As far as I know, I have no people from the south.

    I have some campaign ribbons and reunion ribbons from one of my Mom’s great Grandfathers who fought in the civil war. I keep his and his wife’s burial plot up, lilac and hosta , mulch and summer flowers.
    As in all family histories, there is plenty of heartbreak, the 1918 flu took both of my Dad’s Mom’s parents. Men killed in farm mishaps, logging gone bad.

    We have three lines of Puritans so it goes back to the start. My closest old world family is a lady who slipped in from Norway back around 1885, she was my Dad’s Grandmother. I’m an American, pretty much.


  4. Norm, your heritage is a rich one indeed. I would think those ribbons are precious to you. As far as the 1918 flu epidemic, I have never heard any stories at all about it hitting our part of the world. And Puritans? That’s pretty neat.


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