Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Rogue And A Harlot

Most days the research involved in my genealogical endeavors involves the very dry and factual copies of old records with the stating of names, dates and places. Once gathered, these records do create a "story" of the person's life, but it is a story of names, dates and places. It is not the story of their "life". The life they lived from day to day; how they felt, how they behaved, what their personality and demeanor was. The further back you go in time, the less likely it is that you can even guess what that person may have looked like.

Occasionally, though, you come across something that gives you a glimpse of something more than just a factual record. When you find these things, they are to be cherished. They are the little pieces that make up more of the quilt. In the case of my recent finding, I giggled every time I read it. I just couldn't help but see that in some ways, human beings have not really changed all that much. Although the translator of the record noted that "this proceeding is interesting only for the light it throws upon some moral and social conditions in New Orleans at that period." No matter... it isn't the records that "prove a life" that I enjoy the most, it is those records that prove that the life was lived fully.( although I do not agree with adultery)

I randomly came across the record in question by going to the Louisiana Historical Society's website ( you have to be a member to access the Quarterly) and typing in my ancestor's surname. The following is a transcription of the record that threw me into a fit of giggles:
Index to Spanish Judicial Records of La (1942, Vol 25 issue 4 p1241)
No date.
Criminal Prosecution
Jaun Bautista Demoruelle(my ancestor) vs. one named Farge, a watchmaker.
No. 3019 1 p.
Court of Alcalde Nicolas Forstall.
No Assessor.
Escribano, Fernando Rodriguez
For using obscene language
This is a detached, undated( although undated, based on it being a Spanish records it surely falls in with the years that the Spanish ruled the colony) petition and ruling. A marginal note stipulates that it was presented by one who does not know how to sign his name. It reads in part:
Jaun Bautista Demoruelle (Jean Baptiste was his given name) sets forth that he makes a civil and criminal charge against one called Farge, a watchmaker, who lacking in the fear of God and respect for the Court, on last Monday, October 31, at about 9 o'clock at night, came out of his house, with a lighted candle in his hand, screaming: "I have surprised this rogue, Bautista San Cartier (Demoruelle), in bed with that harlot of a wife of mine. The infamous scoundrel ought to be hanged tomorrow. I shall go to ask to have him banished because he came to seduce my wife." When the plaintiff heard these insulting words, he went out of the door of his own home where he had been in bed for half and hour and on realizing that such deprecations were directed against him, he returned and took refuge in his own house. Therefore he prays Alcalde Forstall to receive the testimony of the witnesses he will present, who must declare under oath, upon what he has related as well as anything else they might know, or may have heard said about Farge, and done deliver their depositions to him to be used to enforce his rights. the unsigned ruling to this petitions reads: Let this complaint be admitted in as much as it is legal. Receive the testimony this party offers. And done deliver the depositions to him.

Jean Baptiste was never hanged or banished so it is assumed that he survived his neighbor's fury. He went on to do very well with his life and this is the only little glimpse I will probably ever have, not only of how people handled things, but how my New Orleans ancestors handled their affairs (no pun intended).

1 comment:

  1. We see black and white pictures and names and dates on paper and forget these were all real living people.Who lived their lives in bright,living color with passion and noise and all the emotions we experience.What a treasure for you to get a glimpse of that in this!


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