Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A new look at the 1940 U.S. Census of Bayou Pigeon

 Shining a  Light On  and  Saving Bayou  Pigeon Cultural Memory  and History of Our  Community.

The 1940 U.S.census is important  to Bayou Pigeon, because in 1940 Pigeon was a pure unadulterated Cajun  Fishing community, not influenced by outsiders and modern society. The very cultural / folklife traditions  that the Bayou Pigeon Heritage Association is trying to document and preserve were dominant .  

Back in 1940, Federal census takers were instructed to record information about all those who lived in each household on the census day. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information he collected was supposed to be about the people who were in the house on the census day. 

Another thing, the census workers worked there way  down Hwy 75  from Plaquemine, so the order of the families  were recorded does provide  some indication of who lived next to who.

Cajun French names in the  census prone to misspellings by English only speakers, ie. The way Cajun people pronounce names, eg.  Solar,  you would think   that should be easy… but in the old  days when my Mother in  Law  would pronounce it;  it sounded like ‘So_laa” , which I suppose  would  sound like  ‘Saurage’  to an Anglo, which was the way it was spelled in the census record. 

Another example, was Mr. Felician Berthelot,  the English version would be Felix. But that is not close to how  the old  folks at Pigeon use to say it,   Felician _ ‘fay le se ain’.  The way old  Cajun people say names is another reason  Bayou Pigeon is so unique and special.

So if you look at the actual census record I have provided, and cannot find a name  look closely  at all names in the listing in with the head of Household.  Then you can usually figure things  out. 

Listed below are the actual data  sheets  from the LA., Iberville Parish , Police Jury Ward 8 outside Plaquemine town, Crescent  Enumeration District…24-21 … 1940 US census.  

Census pages  from #49  - 60 are on the East side of Grand River somewhere  from the Bayou Sorrel locks and the end of Hwy 75., ie. the “End of the World.’ 

Seeing the names of your relatives is satisfying, They are gone, but you  feel like I can still touch them !!!!!

I have tried to provide this data in best resolution as possible, so that if you have  some  computer skills …you can enlarge your screen  and read  the names as they were recorded. 

Why should  you want to take the time to review these 1940 records -

1. It took a long time to put this together, longer than most people have the time  to do..

2. Knowing your community / family history will make  you feel good when you begin to think your community, is going in the right direction, ie, The  Bayou Pigeon  Heritage  Association.

3. You will know you are a part of a  community; 

4. It is proven People like to feel  connected. Just look  at the  success of FACEBOOK!

5. Knowing your history is good for the heart.

6. In 1940 , there  were 100 Heads of Household and 390 souls at Bayou Pigeon. 

This Census overview  starts On Page 49 of the  LA., Iberville Parish , Police Jury Ward 8 outside Plaquemine town, Crescent  Enumeration District…24-21census.

There we find two recognizable names of  Bayou Pigeon Families, Mr. Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux.  

At that time I surmise  that Mr. Orillion Berthelot (house number 474) and Alger  Simoneaux,  house number  480, lived somewhere between the Bayou Sorrel Lock and  Bayou Choctaw.  (Hwy  404)

If any one help can verify  that, please  contact me.

Moving on to Page 50, I pick up other names of  Bayou Pigeon residents  I can recognize.  Mr. Claiborne Landry, in house # 487.  Now assume  that Mr. Claiborne may be living at his  farm  at Choctaw and Grand River.   That is the  foundation  for the logic, that would put Mr. Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux  are above / north of   that residence, since they were at 374 and  480 .  

Earnest Hebert at #488.  I am told  That Earnest Hebert  and family lived  just above where the current Bayou Pigeon fire station is located now.

Note  all the people from line 44 to 72, have occupations  other than fishing.  I wonder where this group  was  actually located.  

Anyone got  any clues ? I think they were located between where the current Bayou Sorrel Locks and Choctaw Bayou near Hwy 404.  Which neither was there in 1940.

All interesting questions ?

Moving on to  Page 51, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families, most natives can recognize.  The order seems to match where Mr. Felix  Berthelot  and J.C. Berthelot remembering  

On this page  we start to see the descendants of  Anatole  Berthelot family 

However, there is one  family with surname of  Case.  Is this  family related to Case  family  we know of in Plaquemine?

On Page 52, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families

There  was no Bayou  Pigeon names on Page 53.  On page 54 mostly all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families.  The Census taker must have left the Pigeon area and went back to Plaquemine or White Castle, the last two names are Black people housing order is out of  sync.

The Bayou Pigeon part of the census records starts  again on page 58.

On Page 58, Bayou Pigeon Families start again on line 49. The last line# 80 we go toward Indigo Bayou… because that’s where Mr. Archie Settoon, lived… half way from current Bayou  Pigeon Bridge and Indigo Bayou. You see… you can now begin to connect the dots…it all makes sense.  

You can  also see that groups of  Families that were related lived in  clusters.  


On Page 59, we are the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the Blanchard's , and the Gaudet's and others. My mother in law, Ms Beulah Gaudet Solar, who recently passed is on line 37

On Page 60, we are still the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the first name on the list is a carry over from page 59 Ms. Shirley Gaudet.  The Gaudet's lived  at Indigo Bayou before they moved to the Old Gaudet  store  area.  

This is here my  spouse's family is listed, the Solar family name is misspelled, line 42. It is Solar, not Saurage, how could the census taker mess up that bad. Maybe old Man Casamire and his wife Lucy did not talk any English. More than  likely census recorder mistakenly  took the way they would have pronounced the  name in  cajun French,  ‘So – lage’ as  Saurage .

The census taker must have left Indigo Bayou and went to across Grand river at the confluence with little Bayou Pigeon. The last names on the page are Devillier Daigle and Evelyn Vaughn, who were know to live near Ms. Clementine Michel on  Little Bayou  Pigeon.

On Page 61, the census taker is on the west side Grand River going in order from  Little Bayou  Pigeon  toward the current Bayou Pigeon bridge. By recognizing the sequence of recording you can connect the dots on where people lived. 

On Page 62, The Bayou Pigeon Census ends. 

The census taker is still on the west side Grand River and I am not quite sure of the location of the last two folks on the page, Mr. Dewey Vaughn and Mr. Aurlie Berthelot, that would have them be the  last two recorded  folks.

The last name on that page must not be from Pigeon, because the occupation is listed as a farmer. 

1940 was an important year for Bayou Pigeon,  WW II was about to start,  after the war and by the end of the decade, the cultural / folklife traditions  that we are trying to document, preserve and protect started  to disappear with the Americanization of Bayou Pigeon.

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census was conducted using an official  census date of April 1, 1940. 

All census data specific to an individual is restricted by Federal Law there  for 72-years  for privacy reasons.