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Looking for the Ghosts of My Ancestors in New Orleans

Today Wayne and I are in New Orleans. Just for one night as we transition from cruise mode back to regular life mode. Tomorrow we’ll return home.

New Orleans holds a special fascination for me. When I was little my grandma would tell me stories of her life growing up there. Apparently it was someplace near the French Quarter.

She never spoke much about her father. I don’t know if he died when she was young or if her parents were divorced or if he split on them. She only spoke of her mother, whom she called Ma Mere, and her beloved sister, Laura, who she called La La.

From left to right: My grandma, Ma Mere, La La

I remember her telling me how she loved to dance. Every weekend she and La La went to some pavillon where a band played and they could dance the night away.

That’s where she met my grandfather. Ferdinand was a student attending the university. He was from Mexico. I don’t know if Ma Mere disapproved or what, but for some reason my grandma and grandpa decided to elope.

Funny, now that I think about it like that, I’ve sort of been tracing my heritage on my mom’s side this whole trip. Our cruise took us to Mexico. Not actually the parts where my grandpa was from or where he and my grandma lived, but maybe once upon a time they visited the same areas too? I wish she was around for me to ask.

I also wish she was around for me to ask about Pearl. That might be a painful memory, though.

I was ten before I even learned my mom had had a sister named Pearl. Who I later learned preferred to be called Lisa.

I call her Pearl, because when my mom and grandma did start speaking of her in front of me, that’s how they referred to her. And when they spoke of her the one thing that always came up was how beautiful she was. That’s what everyone I’ve ever asked who knew her would remark about first and foremost.

“What a beauty, Courtney. She had the kind of beauty Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor were known for. She was always classy and dressed to the nines.”

My Aunt Pearl, dressed for a night out somewhere. The date on the back says 1964.

If she hadn’t been murdered I might have gotten to see her beauty for myself. Sadly, someone shot her in the head in the parking lot of a hospital.

I don’t know when exactly. Some say it was before I was born. Some say it was just right after I was born.

And no one knows why. The first version I heard had it that Pearl was mistaken for her daughter, Gary, who’s husband had been fooling around with a cop’s wife. The cop caught them in the act and shot Gary’s husband in his head. He actually ended up surviving. Pearl was bringing Gary a change of clothes, because she stayed by his side at the hospital. (Later, after he recovered, they did divorce, though.)

Another story has it she was involved with the mafia. Either she had threatened to bust someone on something, or she was trying to game someone on something. Either way she messed with the wrong people and they took her out.

I might never know the truth. There’s only two parts of the story everyone agrees on. 

  1. It wasn’t a mugging gone wrong. No one stole anything from her. Not the jewelry she was wearing or her purse. They just shot her in the head and left her for dead.
  2. That her case was sealed.

I’d like to verify that second part some day. How can you seal a cold case? As far as I know no one was ever charged in her murder, so why would they seal it?

I’d also like to visit the hospital where she was shot, if it still exists. And her resting place. Trouble is, I don’t have much contact with all the people I can ask. They’d find it odd I was contacting them at all, and then to ask about Pearl’s death…that’s always been a touchy topic.

Yet I’ve always wanted to know more about her. She’s always been such a mystery. Perhaps while we’re in New Orleans my ancestors will find a way to lead me to some of the answers I’ve so desperately longed to have. 

Pearl (on the left) with my grandparents
Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her on a tennis court somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
http://www.courtneymroch.com

8 thoughts on “Looking for the Ghosts of My Ancestors in New Orleans

  1. I see the family resemblance, especially in your Aunt Pearl. I have a genealogy blog that has lots of information from both of my parent’s families. It is always exciting to see the lineage that you come from.

  2. You have a genealogy blog too? Dang! I’m impressed by your prolificness! And THANKS for saying you see any kind of resemblance between me and Aunt Pearl! I agree with you about seeing where the lineage leads is exciting. Wish I had more than just a small path to follow tho….

  3. I to see a family resemblance. She’s hot!! I have a cousin who is on the police dept here in my home town. I’ll ask him why a case would be close or sealed if no one was charged with murder.

    It might be a touchy subject but the people who might know stuff may be up there in age and may not be around much longer and what info they might have will go with them when they pass so even though it might be or feel unconfrontable at first but who knows what you might turn up.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story. I have friends who travel to New Orleans a lot but I have not yet been myself…it’s near the top of my list of places in the U.S. I’d like to visit so hopefully some day.

    I wish you well on your quest for answers. I can kind of relate to the difficulties as there was a family member in my family who was murdered in the early 60’s, and it seems near impossible to get any information – that too is a sealed case. I wonder about the reasons for that. If one messed with the wrong person or wrong group and was “taken out”, perhaps that person or group also had enough clout with the proper authorities to get records sealed, to have the case just put to rest unsolved. And trying to get more answers out of relatives who were around at that time, well, I guess they’re old-school in that you just don’t talk about such taboo things, you lock any skeletons in your closet and that’s that. Sigh.

  5. Thanks for the comments, Jack and Kimberley. Jack, I’d be really interested to hear what they say. I always thought it was because someone high up was involved and had it sealed, but that might just be me creating drama. There must’ve been some reason. I do want to know, and perhaps I’ll get brave and ask my cousin. It was her mom who was murdered, but we’re not very close so…would be a weird question for me to come ask her about. Oh, and THANKS for saying Pearl’s hot. I wish I had more photos. These are really about the only ones.

    Kimberley, how sad. I am so sorry you have the same sort of situation in your family. And, yes, if anything was taboo back then you’re right…mum was the word! My dad finally told me my grandma’s sister, La La, most likely died of cancer. But no one talked about stuff like that back then. That was swept under the carpet and mentioned as little as possible. Things sure are different these days, huh? People don’t seem shy about parading their skeletons these days!

  6. Courtney,

    The family homestead for your relatives were at Liberty and Canal Streets(in the french quarter). It was torn down and now has a Court System on the property. I do not know if it is Federal, Civil or what. And the answers about our great grandfather, Gary knows a lot about him.

    Did you check out the cemetery in New Orleans downtown in the quarter where our great-great mother is laid to rest? It is Saint Louis #1 the oldest cemetery in New Orleans.

    Hope this helps out.

  7. Yes, Peanut, any info helps out! Very much obliged! Now I know where they used to live. And that the ancestor in Saint Louis #1 (where, yes, we did visit) is named LaCroix and that the hospital where Pearl was shot was Charity Hospital. You have me LOADS of great info and I can’t even begin to thank you enough! Super cool!

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