Thrill of the Hunt, or Why I Love New Orleans


Pete needed to go to the New Orleans’ main library recently.  He knew I’d want to join him on the third floor: the Louisiana Special Collections.  Genealogy.

I took my trusty Moleskine notebook and went looking for information on an uncle my great-grandmother came to live with after the Galveston storm in 1900.  I hit lots of dead ends.  I did manage to copy a marriage certificate I hadn’t yet had, but otherwise it was a bust.

Then I attended the funeral wherein I met new relatives and swapped NOLA genealogy search tips.

And the urge that is always there, that idea of turning just one more stone, finding one more link, that urge grew.  And before I knew it I was signed up with again searching names.  And talking to my grandfather (“Are you looking into that stuff again?”) and scouring my notes.

And then I got a lead.  I haven’t had a workable lead in such a long time!  Tuesday, Sun and I went to a cemetery.  I truly love cemeteries, and New Orleans’ above-ground ones are even more alluring.

The cemetery Sun and I went to is the cemetery where my grandmother and great-grandmother are buried.  We visited that grave, the grave that is likely to one day read my name.  And we found the other grave we were looking for.  In this rather large cemetery, I was truly amazed that the two graves were merely one row and five graves apart.  Uncanny.

Then Sun and I drove to an address at which this uncle (and presumably my great-grandmother) once lived.  I could imagine the streets not being paved, folks sitting on their porches with no air conditioning that now seals people in their homes.  I could imagine my family living in much closer quarters than to which we are now accustomed.  I drove past two shotgun doubles one door away from each other where this uncle and his wife lived (and then my great-grandmother, too) in one side of one double and his cousin and an aunt lived in one side of the other.

I long to go back in time to walk the city streets where my family lived, to hear how New Orleans sounded without cars and air conditioner units.  To smell the salt air close to the river but also surrounded by butchers.

Then we turned the corner to visit another address and passed a truck creeping down the narrow street.  It was pulling a trailer.  And on the trailer was a papier-mâchéd woman’s over-sized head wearing a Trojan helmet.  Normally, such sights in New Orleans don’t even get a second look.  But this day, I couldn’t help but smile.

This city is a much a part of our family history as any person on our tree.  All four of my grandparents’ families have been here for over 100 years.  This humid city, so lush with vegetation, wrapped its veins around us and rooted us here.  I couldn’t love her more.

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