This post was contributed by Mr. Lionel Khaton. Mr. Khaton was born and raised in New Orleans and has done extensive genealogical research into his family with the purpose of uncovering those who have come before him. We are proud to publish his article and hope it will motivate others to begin to research their ancestors who are longing to be found and who deserve to have their stories known.
I find many of the historic photos posted on CreoleGen of prominent Creole families and the institutions and places we frequented to be very enjoyable. However, my emphasis is on researching my family history and so I offer this article in an attempt to show some of the efforts one must put into tracing family genealogy. I hope there are those of you who find it useful also.
It was over twenty years ago when I first saw vintage photos of my family from the late 19th or early 20th century
That peaked my interest in family research. We all start off with four surnames to look into. I started with a photo that had ‘Joe Quetant, Papa’s brother’ written on the back. It was a seemingly short man who didn’t appear particularly appealing. I’ve had costume experts from the University of Colorado examine the picture to date the clothes and they said mid eighteenth to turn of the century style. So, my quest began there and I sent out questionnaires to family members and talked to as many as I could.
My father’s oldest sister, Fidelia Bayard, was the keeper of these photo gems – she also had several others of the Tervalon family. She gave me the oral history as she remembered it and I spoke to other family members from her age group and essentially wound up with a base story. We believe that the picture above may be Charles Quetant, my great grandfather. Of course, we aren’t sure.
The ‘Q-U-E-T-A-N-T’ spelling of the name was intriguing because our family spelled it as KHATON. So the research began. Though software resources like Ancestry.Com were available back then, there was little info to be found through their resources. This was the point where my wife and I began going to the Mormon Family Center in our neighborhood in Colorado. You didn’t need to be a member of their church to access their records. Thus began the many nights and weeks of searching through microfiche files. It’s a slow process but we eventually managed to amass data that would lead us to other sources (in the process, we also discovered data on other family members).
When researching family history you usually try to get more than one corroborating piece of information. Census data gives ages of the persons being researched along with ages and names of their children. Once armed with this information one can write to the various state agencies to get copies of desired records. This process usually involves a fee and can amount to a tidy sum considering all the folks you’re trying to trace.
After a couple of years we finally ran across a man named François Quetant in Assumption Parish. We didn’t have much information on this man. We took a blind shot and contacted the Assumption Parish County Clerk’s Office. A woman by the name of Betty Thibodeaux answered and quite graciously volunteered to provide all the information she could find on François. We now had an actual person to work on. We learned that he was from the Haute Savoie area of France. Before we were done, ‘Ms. Betty’ had provided us with manumission papers and a will written by François. These documents were in French, so, it was some time before we had them translated.
The translations revealed that François had freed a slave and her son in 1849, some 12 years before the start of the Civil War! The slave was named Clothilde and her son was François Marie Quetant. We began to run into a stone wall once we had this information until CreoleGen’s own Jari Honora helped us out and published a piece in CreoleGen back in Aug 8, 2012 headlined François Quétant and Clothilde Girod – Assumption Parish, 1840s-1860s. We later obtained the document where François Quetant purchases Clothilde from his uncle’s estate.
There was still one lingering concern; we never had a solid confirmation that old man François Quetant was the father of my great grandfather Charles Quetant. Wedding documents we obtained from the New Orleans Public Library named a Joseph Quetant as Charles’ father; so, besides Jari’s research, we had no other source. Then, just recently in 2014 Sharon Girod, a descendant of Nicholas Girod, had a post on one of the message boards on Ancestry.Com confirming that François Quetant’s middle name was Joseph. She cited that she had family documents proving this fact. My wife subsequently contacted her for more information. She stated that she had donated most of her documents to Tulane University. The extra information was quite amusing in that it showed my family has a relationship to Nicholas Girod, the fifth mayor of the City of New Orleans
I’d like to say that despite the state of racial affairs in Louisiana today, the simple fact is that if one has an African-American heritage history, Louisiana is one of the best states in which you can obtain records. The history and cultural makeup of Louisiana makes it an excellent source for documenting family history.
One can now only imagine what the relationships were between all these people once the research is done on a particular item. This man was a slave owner; yet, he recognized his son and entered into a pseudo marriage arrangement with Clothilde. I suppose if one were a romantic you might think there was a genuine feeling for this woman. I find it difficult to know one way or the other. The old man and Clothilde retired and moved to New Orleans where he died. Clothilde was an illiterate French-speaking Creole woman. It’s easier for me to believe she stayed with this man for the sake of her children – it was her price for their freedom. Of course, that is something we aren’t likely to ever know.
A translation of the manumission document follows:
State of Louisiana
September 27th in the year of our Lord 1849 and the 64th day of the Independence of the United States of America.
Before me, Andre Leblanc, Recorder, Ex-Notary Public Officer, duly commissioned and approved in and for the above mentioned parish, where I reside, in the presence of the witnesses named and undersigned below:
Was present Mr. Francois Quetant residing in this parish, who declared that, having met with all the legal requirements in order to be allowed to free the two slaves named Clotine, aged over thirty, and her child Francois, aged seven, as it appears in the enclosed court order of the fifth judicial District of that State in and for the above mentioned parish, he dearly wants the above mentioned slaves Clotine and Francois, his son, to be freed from the bond of slavery as of this very day and forever thereafter.
The condition for this emancipation is that Clotine should commit herself to serve the above mentioned Francois Quetant throughout her life (translators note: in exchange for food and clothing), a condition gladly accepted by the above mentioned Clotine in gratitude for her master’s kindness. Duly acknowledged and recorded in my office on the above day, month and year, in the presence of Mr. Alfred Tete and Mr. Aristide Leblanc, witnesses residing in this parish and expressly required to attend, who signed this document with the above mentioned Mr. Francois Quetant, Clotine and myself, Recorder, after it had been read to them.
The above mentioned Clotine, unable to write put her usual mark.
Signed by F. Quetant, Clotine (mark), Alfred Tete, Aristide Leblanc, and Andre LeBlanc, Recorder.
Recorded on September 17th 1849 Andre Leblanc/ Recorder
A translation of the will follows:
United States of America
State of Louisiana
Parish of Assumption, November 29th, in the year of our Lord, 1855, 80th day of Independence of the United States of America.
Before me, Andre Leblanc, Recorder, Ex-Notary Public Officer, duly commissioned and approved in and for the above mentioned parish, where I reside, in the presence of Mr. Alexandre Guillot, Mr. Andre Domus and Mr. Apolinaire Bourg, witnesses residing in this parish and expressly required to attend:
Was heard in person Mr. Francois Quetant, a landowner residing in the same parish, who while ill in bed, but sound of mind, memory and understanding, as it appeared to the undersigned notary and witnesses,
Dictated to me his will and last wishes which I faithfully wrote down as follows: I hereby bequeath to Clothilde, a free woman of color, all the possessions, both movable property and real estate, that I shall leave in this State after my death, for her to enjoy in her lifetime provided she shall not sell or dispose of them but in favor of her child Francois, a free young man of color, my son.
I hereby bequeath to my brother Bernard Quetant, residing in Tour en Savoie, all the possessions, either inherited from my mother and father or obtained from other sources, that I shall leave in Europe after my death, for him to enjoy and use as he pleases.
Duly acknowledged in the house of the testator, in his bedroom, at 10 o’clock in the morning, in the presence of Mr. Alexandre Guillot, Mr. Andre Domus and Mr. Apolinaire Bourg, witnesses residing in this parish and expressly required to attend, to whom I read the present will in front of the testator, who told them that these were his last wishes. This same will was signed by him, as well as the witnesses and myself, Recorder, after having been read to the former.
Signed by F. Quetant, A Domus, A. P. Bourg, Alexandre Guillot and Andre Leblanc, Recorder. Recorded on November 29th 1855.
Andre Leblanc/ Recorder
Lionel Khaton (Contributor)