Thursday, May 26, 2011


The United States censuses are an important genealogical tool. Since the census has been taken every tenth year since 1790, we are often able to get snapshots of a person’s life at ten-year intervals by following his/her census records.

From a census, we may learn ancestors’ birth dates, states and countries of origin, parishes/counties/states of residence, and occupations, as well as names and ages of parents, spouses and children. Census schedules vary in the information collected. Early censuses asked only for the name of the head of the family and for very little about the people in the household. Later ones are much more comprehensive.

However, some problems arise when relying only on the census for genealogical information: census records are not made public for 72 years after they were taken; the 1790 United States census was almost completely destroyed by fire; and married women are listed with only their husbands’ last names. Census takers sometimes misspelled names, the ages of household members are not always exact, and the handwriting can sometimes be difficult to decipher. Still, census schedules remain one of the most valuable tools for genealogy researchers.

Parish census records are available in indexed books published by the Terrebonne Genealogical Society and are housed in the Genealogy Collection located on the second floor of the Main Library. These books are very useful, because local genealogists have pored over copies of the handwritten censuses and annotated them with the probable correct spelling of the names listed. The same census records are also available to you free of charge through our library's Ancestry subscription (available only within the library) and through HeritageQuest (available to you both in the library and from home with a library card). The advantage of the locally indexed books is that our unique regional names are more accurately interpreted by folks who recognize a Boudreaux, Arcenaux, or a Pitre when they see them, even in a flowery script.

Genealogists are waiting anxiously for the release of the 1940 schedule in April 2012. In spite of their limitations, the U. S. census records provide genealogical data of impressive scope and breadth. If you have ever wanted to trace your family tree, a census is a great way to get started.

- Judy Soniat

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A little bird told me... Instant Morganza Spillway updates

Want instant updates on additional Morganza Spillway gate openings? Curious about wildlife fleeing the flood water? The New Orleans US Army Corps of Engineers has an active Twitter account that is a great source of information and spill related links. Recent posts include the announcement of the opening of the 17th gate on the Morganza Spillway and links to photos of flooding and fleeing wildlife spotted by Wildlife Enforcement agents.

You can access the TeamNewOrleans feed on Twitter or receive the updates on your mobile phone as text messages by texting "follow TeamNewOrleans" to 40404.

- Jennifer Hamilton, Reference Services Supervisor

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Look out below! Watching for Displaced Wildlife

As the Morganza Spillway continues to pour water into the Atchafalaya basin, critters in the path of the unexpected inundation will be on the move in search of higher, drier ground. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has issued a press release urging all of us living in regions affected by the flood to stay alert for evacuating wildlife.

Displaced critters you may encounter include Louisiana black bears (still an endangered species), alligators, snakes, deer, and feral hogs.

If you need assistance with a black bear that has wandered into your area, call 1-800-442-2511.

For all other wildlife, including alligators, snakes, deer, and feral hogs, residents are encouraged to a nearby LDWF field offices if assistance is required.
  • Baton Rouge 225-765-2800
  • Hammond 985-543-4777
  • New Iberia 337-373-0032
  • Opelousas 337-948-0255
In general, the LDWF asks that we avoid interaction with fleeing wildlife as much as possible, leaving them to follow their own evacuation plan without interference or extra road side snacks. Feeding displaced wildlife can apparently disrupt their natural inclination to return to their usual home territory as soon as it is safe to do so.

Click here for a photo lineup of poisonous snakes best avoided if possible. The LDWF maintains a very user-friendly Snakes of Louisiana web page that can be sorted by various characteristics and likely habitats. Clicking on the name of any snake on the page reveals more detailed information, including identifying characteristics, habits, and where that snake is most likely to be found.

For a list of rare animals, rare plants, and natural communities indigenous to Terrebonne Parish, see the Species by Parish List. This handy guide includes fact sheets, and can be limited to Terrebonne or any other parish of your choice. Let us know if you see some interesting animals in the ongoing Morganza Spillway Migration of 2011!

Local Job Fair Next Wednesday

Need extra money? Looking for a career change? The Houma Courier and Daily Comet newspapers are teaming up with to host Job Fair 2011. This event takes place on Wednesday, May 25th from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Evergreen Cajun Center located at 4694 W. Main Street, Gray, Louisiana.

Anyone over the age of eighteen is invited. Over twenty companies will be participating in the job fair representing industrial, health care, schools, and staffing companies. Job seekers should bring a resume and dress for job interviews.

For a list of participating companies, look for the Job Fair 2011 flyer in Sunday's Houma Courier and the Monday edition of the Daily Comet. For more information call the Courier at 985-850-1102.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tracking progress and depth of flooding

The Army Corps of Engineers will begin gradually opening the Morganza Spillway today. Where will the water go? When will it reach Terrebonne Parish? How deep is the water ultimately expected to get?

To answer these questions, or at least share their best guesses, the Corps of Engineers released updated versions yesterday of two types of maps: a Travel Time map and an Innundation map.

The Travel Time map provides the approximate time the water will take to initially travel from the Morganza Spillway to all of the parishes in the water's path. According to a map released by the Corps, the waters from the spillway will be visible in Terrebonne Parish between 144 and 192 hours after the spillway is opened. The Times-Picayune has published a simplified version of the flooding time map (above), in which the estimated number of hours the water will take to be visible at each stage are marked in square white boxes.

A revised inundation map, Scenario 1a, was also released yesterday by the Corps. This map reflects the new plans to open the Morganza spillway no more than 25%, less than half of the original planned release. Click here to see a large, very readable version of the Scenario 1a flooding estimated by the corps. The excerpt below shows that Terrebonne Parish is still expected to see flood depths of 0-5 feet, but there are many ridges of higher land, including the highly populated areas around Houma, that may see very little to no flooding at all.

- Jen Hamilton and Ross Mays, TPL Reference Staff

Louisiana Taxes Due May 16th

While our attention is on the Mississippi waters heading in our direction, it would be easy to forget that Louisiana state taxes are due this Monday, May 16, 2011. It's not too late to drop by the library and pick up a state tax booklet, which contains both the instructions and all of the papers you need for filing.

Louisiana state taxes can also be filed online at

If you need a little more time, individuals can request a 6 month extension to file (though any money owed is still due May 16th). Simply mail state Form 2868, or a copy of your federal extension (IRS Form 4868) to Return Extensions, PO Box 751, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0751.

To file for an extension online, complete the short form at

- Jen Hamilton, Reference Services Supervisor

Friday, May 13, 2011

Morganza Spillway to open within 24 hours

The National Weather Service has released the following civil alert:

New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA

Fri, May 13, 2011, 9:02 PM CDT





Pre-apply now for Disaster Food Assistance

If you live in an area that is threatened by rising water and are concerned about possible loss of income related to the Morganza Spillway flooding, you may want to consider applying early for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (DSNAP), formerly known as Disaster Food Stamps. You don't have to wait until the water reaches your door to pre-apply.

DSNAP provides food assistance for eligible households who do not receive regular SNAP benefits, but who need help buying groceries due to lost income or damages following a disaster.

There is no risk to filling out the application now. It is designed to save time, prevent long waits, and make it easier for applicants to collect the required income information before circumstances change. Filling out an application doesn't guarantee you will receive assistance, but will make receiving benefits a lot easier for those who qualify.

Visit and click on the Disaster Food Stamp Program Logo (look for the picture below on the DCFS web site) or call 1-888-LA HELP U (1-888-524-3578) to pre-apply.

If a disaster is declared and the DSNAP program is launched, those who have pre-applied only need to visit a DSNAP site to verify their information and identity, determine final eligibility, and receive their benefit cards. Exact eligibility requirements and a list of places you can go to activate DSNAP benefits will be announced as soon as a disaster is declared.

Current SNAP recipients do not need to pre-apply, since they would receive disaster benefits automatically.

- Kristen Sinclair and Jen Hamilton, TPL Reference Staff

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finding Your Flood Risk: How High is Your Property?

As the Mississippi River continues to rise, the Corps of Engineers is predicting that much of Terrebonne Parish could be flooded. The flooding will be worse if the Morganza Spillway is opened, but there is likely to be flooding even if it stays closed. Officials are urging everyone to prepare for rising waters. One of the most important things to find out is the elevation of your home, apartment, or business. Flood waters are predicted to reach up to five feet above sea level across the parish. Anyone who lives or owns property below five feet is being encouraged to prepare for rising water.

How do you find your elevation? The easiest way to do so is to go to the Wind Speed and Elevation Map webpage maintained by the LSU AgCenter. When you click on this page, you will see a map of Louisiana, showing different wind speed predictions for hurricanes. Since wind speed not applicable in this situation, you can click the Basic Wind Speed button on the left side of the page to "Off". The map will now show a basic, zoomable road map of the state. Buttons above the map let you switch to a satellite, or "aerial" view, or a hybrid road/aerial view.

While you can simply click on the approximate location of your property, a more accurate method is to enter your address into the search box at the top of your page. Enter the street, city, state, and zip code; each separated by a comma. If the page recognizes your address, the elevation at that point will appear on the left side of the page. The lower the elevation of your property, the more critical it is to prepare for flooding.

You may also encounter other flood maps online. FEMA produces detailed flood maps used to map flood risks for particular locations. The older style of flood maps, called a Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM, were originally print maps, although they can often be found online as zoomable, scanned images. The newer style of FEMA flood map is called a Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map, or DFIRM. FIRM's and DFIRM's are excellent for finding detailed flood risk information, but understanding them requires a good deal of background information. The LSU AgCenter has an excellent interactive flood mapping website, but people using it should be sure they understand how to read FIRM and DFIRM maps. The site links to important special instructions for using these maps when flood waters are rising. Also, this site seems to work in Internet Explorer, but not Firefox. LSU AgCenter's blog also has instructions for using both of its mapping services.

If you have any difficulty finding the elevation for your property, call or visit our reference desk at the Main Library. Our friendly reference staff can be reached at (985) 876-5861, option 2.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Keeping An Eye on the Mighty Mississippi

If you have been following the news, you know that the Mississippi River is higher than it has been in decades, due to heavy rain and snowmelt in the upper reaches of its watershed. This has already caused flooding along the upper Mississippi and its tributaries. As all this water flows downstream toward Louisiana, the downriver portions are getting more and more swollen. The river is expected to crest in Baton Rouge on May 22, and in New Orleans on May 23.

To prevent the river from breaking or spilling over levees, the Army Corps of Engineers has diverted some of the flow into other areas. The Bonnet Carré Spillway, just upriver from New Orleans, was opened on Monday, May 9, to divert water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain. Also on Monday, the Corps of Engineers put in a request to open the Morganza Spillway, upriver of Baton Rouge. This would divert water from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya River, resulting in widespread flooding along the Atchafalaya's course. The Corps has released an inundation map showing expected flood levels in this area. As of Monday evening, officials have not decided whether to open the Morganza, but if they do, it could happen as early as Thursday, May 12.

If it is opened, the worst flooding is expected to occur in parishes around the spillway, especially West Feliciana and St. Martin. However, flood waters of up to five feet are expected across much of Terrebonne Parish. This is serious, but not as serious as it sounds, because most of the land area of Terrebonne Parish consists of low-lying, unpopulated wetlands. Most populated areas are higher, and should not see this much flooding, if any. Also, the water will rise slowly, over a span of several days. Still, officials are urging parish residents to prepare for flooding, especially in communities in the western part of the parish, such as Gibson, Donner, and Chacahoula.

Parish residents are strongly encouraged to start planning now, in case they need to evacuate or take measures to protect their property. All residents should check to see if their houses and businesses are less than five feet above sea level. Anyone with property below this level should take measures to protect it. The Houma Courier reports that residents can get sandbags at the following locations:
  • Gibson Fire, 110 Merry Moss St.
  • East Gibson Fire, 5218 N. Bayou Black Drive.
  • Devon Keller Memorial Gym, 5575 Bayou Black Drive.
  • Donner-Chacahoula Fire, 1805 La. 20.
  • Bayou Black Fire, 2820 Savanne Road.
  • Schriever Fire, 1529 W. Park Ave.
All residents, even those who live above five feet, should prepare for possible disruptions associated with flooding. The links below have more information about following and preparing for this situation. Please check the Terrebonne Parish Library's website, and this blog, for more information. As we receive updates, we will post them here.

Local Resources
State Resources
Federal Resources