A word about family traditions

I want to share something I found 20 April 1968 in the library of LSU in Baton Rouge taken from Genealogical Proceedings. I apologize I have not recorded all of the necessary references, but anyone wishing to find the article should not have too much trouble. I think it is significant.

From TRACING TRADITIONS by Mrs. Jacqueline Olivier Vidrine, in Genealogical Institute Proceedings, p. 36

" Traditions have an important part to play in genealogical research. Certainly they add interest to a family's story, and they can add to our historical understanding even when they do not add to historical fact.

The generations preserve what is important to them, giving a sociological continuity, and even a kind of psychological uniformity to the smaller, stable communities such as those common in many parts of Louisiana until World War II.

An example of this is the stories of Confederate soldiers kept alive in every Southern family--their youth, their bravery, their hardships at the end of the war. The Jay-Hawker and Carpetbagger stories are still told with a certain tone of voice that shows contempt. Listening to the tales takes you back a hundred years into the hearts of the people of that time. You feel the pride, the patriotism, the sectionalism, the suffering, the sorrow of defeat, and often the despair. Then you are feeling history, and this should lead to greater understanding and tolerance.

Although you must never rely implicitly on a tradition, you should not ignore it. Generally there is some element of truth in it which you can discover, and which can lead to the real facts.

In our grandparents' time and all the centuries before, storytelling was the most frequent source of entertainment. There were no movies or television, and very few books. The tales of adventure and romance within a family's history were repeated again and again, so passing down from one generation to the next the family traditions. When names or dates were forgotten, the storyteller guessed at these basics. And often he added dramatic details.

Yet in every case I've researched there has been a background of truth.

Here is an example of a tradition now under study-some parts proved true and others proved false:

The first Billeaudeau (Biodeaux) immigrant is said to have come to Louisiana with his sister at the time of the slave insurrection in Santo Domingo. His name was Michel, and his sister's is thought to have been Virginie. The little girl was smuggled out in a bundle of clothes. One version says that they were accompanied by a housemaid; another states that they came with a Madame Desautels who took them along with her own children. Michel's parents were probably killed in the rebellion.

Notice the clues? Names, Michel and Virginie Billeaudeau and Mme. Desautels; a place, Santo Domingo; a time, the slave rebellion 1791-1804."

It is research like this done by others that has led me to believe for many years now that there is some truth in the legends surrounding the origins of René Rocheteau who married Carmelita Beaudouin in Natchitoches in 1817. There are variants of the story: some have one boy, others have two brothers smuggled out. The kernel of the story though places his origins in Saint Domingue (Santo Domingo)/Haiti at the time of the slave rebellion. In addition, we do know that a French plantation owner, René Rocheteau, died there at that time, leaving his wife a widow and a refugee. The conclusion that René Rocheteau and Elizabeth Delaunay are the parents of René Rocheteau is tantalizing yet unproved. We need the facts (and just the facts).

R. J. Rocheteau

11 June, 2001