Friday, September 19, 2014

Records In The St. Helena Parish Vault

St. Helena Parish Courthouse
One of my favorite places to research is the St. Helena Parish courthouse in St. Helena, Louisiana. There are so many document and records that can help you when you’re researching your family history. Although you can no longer go into the vault to pull the records for yourself, but one of the employees will gladly pull the records for you.

I found the succession records of Benjamin Richardson and my ancestors Carrie and her child Thomas were listed in his inventory as well as  how much they appraised for. Some of the records are crumbling up and are in bad shape and need to be preserved. There are records such as: the Asylum Records, Crop Lien Records, Marriage Records, Land Records, and Court Records housed in the vault.

If your ancestors were slaves in St. Helena Parish, the inventory list can be very vital to anyone who is researching their family history, especially if they come from St. Helena Parish, Louisiana.  Researching the history of the slaveholder family might give you some answers you were looking for.

I got a full understanding of crop liens when I found the application of those who were borrowing
money to plant their crops. The application named the person who applied for the services. They also gave you a legal description of the property and how much money they borrow against the crops.

When I first opened the drawer to access the files in the vault, my eyes filled with tears of excitement when I found my ancestors in the succession records. I was pulling their files for the very first time, I found them and who owned them.

Bernice A. Bennett and Antoinette Harrell inside the vault
I couldn’t help but wonder what was that day like for Carrie and her child Thomas Richardson who appraised at $1,100 dollars. As I continued to review the succession and inventory list, I wanted to know if the others people on the inventory list were related to Carries in some way.

Standing inside the vault and looking at old file cabinets that I had seen on the television series "Gunsmoke" wondering how long it had been since anyone opened these files outside of the employees who are employed there.  Pulling the files for the first time and opening them to look at the records was like freeing my ancestors and letting them know that I came back to learn more about their lives as slaves in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana.

I took the files and sat at the desk with my fingers cross in high hopes that I would find more of my ancestors.  Reviewing the succession records of Benjamin and Celia Bankston Richardson and looking at all the slaves they own on their plantation. I wanted to know if any of the other slaves were related to Carrie, could one of the women on this inventory list be her mother?

I wanted to know more about Carrie. Where did she come from? Who did they purchase her from? Was she one of the Africans’ who was kidnapped and sold into slavery? Who were her mother and father? Did she have other siblings? What cemetery is she buried in?

As I continued to look inside the vault, I found the crop lien records of people who borrowed money to grow their crops. I found my maternal grandmother Emma Mead Harrell and her son Jasper in those files. Jasper’s brother Palmer Harrell’s application was there also. 

Scanning the room looking at the old books, the policy jury records, criminal records, and the asylum records, my curiosity has gotten the best of me and I wanted to look at those asylum records.  For what medical reason was that person  sent to East Louisiana Mental Hospital?  I knew my maternal great-grandfather Thomas Richardson spent many years in the asylum and I was hoping that I would have found his medical records, but I was out of luck here.

When I visit the St. Helena Clerk of Court office to conduct genealogy research, I can stay all day. There is so much to see and so many records and document to look at. The marriage records are indexed in books and if you would like to see the original marriage license you can tell the clerk and she would be glad to pull them for you.