Jelly Roll Morton
An Essay in Genealogy

by Peter Hanley

AN ESSAY IN GENEALOGY
Introduction  ·  Jelly Roll’s Ancestry Chart  ·  Jelly Roll and Relatives
Mamanita and the Mysterious Johnsons  ·  Mabel Bertrand
Conclusion  ·  Appendices  ·  Bibliography and References  ·  Kudos

INTRODUCTION

Genealogy has become an area of intense interest in all English speaking countries in the last decade, and a vast amount of primary source material is currently being accumulated in online databases, making the task of researchers easier in the sense that they no longer have to go to the place where the information is stored. They can now obtain that information from a central location or locations. Nevertheless, a vast amount of time has to be spent on research to achieve any significant results.

People today, for one reason or another, have developed a fascination for the past, and genealogy is in the forefront of this fascination. No genealogy is more fascinating than that of Jelly Roll Morton because his ancestry brings together a number of cultures that gave rise to the birth of the true art music of the 20th century: jazz. It is also fascinating because so much unverified and incorrect material has been written about it, and it has been difficult to uncover the facts with any degree of certainty.

Lawrence Gushee, emeritus Professor at the School of Music, University of Illinois, has been the leader of research into Morton’s ancestry for many years, and he is universally and rightly regarded as the Dean of Morton genealogists. His research has produced an extensive achievement, but new facts are still being uncovered, and more research needs to be done to remove many contradictions and uncertainties.

Research on early New Orleans jazz musicians using primary and secondary sources uncovers many inconsistencies and the absolute information we are looking for is never entirely clear. What I have done here is to give the facts as I have found them, even though they may be inconsistent, so that the reader can form his or her own opinion. Where there are different birth, death or other dates in different sources, they have been graded in the order in which I believe they are likely to be correct. It will also show the enormity of the task at hand and those looking for black and white answers should turn to other pursuits. Even in a perfect world, there are many shades of grey.

© 2002 Peter Hanley

JELLY ROLL’S ANCESTRY CHART

Jelly Roll’s emphasis on his French ancestry is well known and well documented on the Library of Congress recordings. He has been much criticised for not saying anything about his African ancestry, but that criticism is entirely misplaced, because he came from a long line of proud Creoles of colour who had been established in New Orleans and Saint-Domingue (Haiti) for many generations, and whose direction was towards French tradition, not African tradition. His French blood outweighed his African blood many times, just as it did Alexandre Dumas père. One has to go back four generations to find a white ancestor in his ancestry, and no African ancestor is apparent in the first four generations, which stretch back to the latter half of the eighteenth century.

A chart of Jelly Roll’s ancestry, traced back four generations, follows and Appendix A explains, in the form of the chart, terms used in the text to identify his ancestors. I have given the precise reference of the documents and other materials searched to arrive at my conclusions so that others may verify for themselves the correctness or otherwise of what I have written.

Ancestry Chart of Ferdinand Joseph (Jelly Roll) Morton 1890-1941

                                                                                                                                              (André) Martin Lamotte w ?

                                                                     ? André Martin Lamotte fmc
                                                             1818-1895
                                                                                                                                                                Eugénie Fraissinet fwc                                                                                                                                                           1785-1860+
Jean Martin Lamothe sl           
1831-1892             


                                                 ? Catherine ? sl
                                              1810-1850+



Edward Joseph (Martin) Lamothe                                                                               
1865-1938                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                  ? Basile Jalliaux fmc
                                                                                                                            ? -1831
                                                         Laurentin Jalliot fmc
                                                   1815-c.1865
                                                                                                                                  ? Mélite Rafael fwc ?

Henriette Jalliot fwc               
1833-1908                       


                                                      Marie Penn(e) fwc
                                                1816-1868




Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe                                                                                                                                                               
(Jelly Roll Morton)                                                                                                                                                               
1890-1941                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                   Jean Monette fmc SD

                                                            Pierre Monette fmc SD
                                                1794-1872
                                                                                                                                           Marie Magdeleine ? fwc SD

Julien Joseph Monette fmc       
1835-1886             


                                                      Louise Boulin sl SD
                                              1810-1867



Louise Hermance Monette                                                                                         
1871-1906                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                       Jean Baptiste Péché w Fr
                                                                                                                                1803-c.1846
                                                           Pierre Marc Péché fmc
                                                      1831-1869
                                                                                                                                   Adélaïde Duplessis fwc
                                                                                                                             1803-1848+
Eléonore (Laura) Péché sl         
1852-1931           

                                                                                                                                                ? Amédée Antoine Baudoin w Fr
                                                                                                                                     1806-1870+
                                                               Félicie (Mimi) Baudoin sl
                                                             1833-1914
                                                                                                                            Eugénie Sirette sl

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

fmc = free man of color   fwc = free woman of color   sl = slave (at date of birth)
w = white person      SD = born in Saint-Domingue (Haiti)     Fr = born in France


JELLY ROLL AND RELATIVES

The most basic facts of Morton’s life, the date and place of his birth, have yet to be established beyond doubt. The Holy Grail of Morton genealogical research, his birth certificate, has not seen the light of day. The best evidence we have is a copy of a baptismal certificate, which gives New Orleans as the place of his birth, and 20th October 1890 as the date of his birth. My own belief, from the information in the sources listed below, is that he was born on 20th September 1890, not on 20th October 1890 as recorded on his baptismal certificate. He was the natural son of Edward Lamothe, a bricklayer, and Louise Monette, both of Creole ancestry. An extensive and detailed search of the Louisiana State Archives Index to Birth Records 1790-1904 for Orleans Parish and the City of New Orleans indicates that his birth was not registered. This is also true of the births of many children in New Orleans, whatever their race, in the period during the whole of the nineteenth century. The main reason for this is that, although the city government required registration, it was not given a mandate to enforce registration until 1914.

Ferdinand Joseph Morton



Born
























Died

Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe (alternative surnames Lemott, Morton and Mouton)

20th September 1890, New Orleans, Louisiana
(the most likely birth date from all the sources below)

sources

20th October 1890, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Certificate of Baptism, St. Joseph’s Church, 1802 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, as Ferdinand Joseph Lemott)

20th September 1889, New Orleans, Louisiana
(the date on his death certificate and the date recalled by both his sisters)

1890, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1930, New York, New York County, New York, 17th Assembly District, Block I, SD23 ED31-792, Sheet 11B, Line 10, at 119 West 117th Street, as Frederick Morten, courtesy of Lawrence Gushee)

20th September ____ New Orleans, Louisiana
(Mexican Visa dated 7th October 1921, with the particulars filled out in Morton’s own handwriting, with a photograph pasted over the year of birth, as Ferd Morton, document now housed in HNOC)

13th September 1884
(WWI Draft Registration Card, dated 12th September 1918, as Ferd Joseph Morton)

September 1894, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17, as Ferman Mouton)

10th July 1941, Los Angeles, California
(Certificate of Death 1901/9682, State of California, as Ferdinand Morton, informant Mrs. Anita Morton)

Jelly Roll’s Birth Year on the Mexican Visa

Jelly Roll Morton’s Mexican Visa (dated 7th October 1921) was issued as one sheet of paper, measuring 6-inch x 5-inch, with the details typed and hand-written in English on the front, and with dates of validity of the Visa (7th October 1921 to 7th October 1922) typed and hand-written by a Mexican consulate official on the Spanish side. The photograph on the English side of the Visa was pasted over an area where Jelly Roll had written his year of birth.

Jelly Roll filled out the hand-written parts in English with a steel nib pen and black ink, which was the usual procedure in those days. The ink writing was generally visible from the other side of the paper, but in mirror reverse.

In an attempt to see what Jelly Roll wrote for the year he was born, Mike Meddings hit upon a brilliant method of forensic investigation. Phil Pastras had supplied him with full size photographs of both the front and the back of the Visa. Taking the full size of the back of the Visa (written in Spanish), he made a mirror image of it, and selected the area on the back where the birth year would be, underneath the photograph on the front of the Visa.

The image of this small area was then enlarged by a magnification of 2. The result clearly showed a year of “1890”.

A scan of the small section, where the date was written, was immediately sent to Prof. Lawrence Gushee in the United States and to Peter Hanley in Australia for their opinion.

Both agreed with Mike that what Jelly Roll wrote on the Visa as his birth year contained the following:

1   —  a type-written “1” was on the original form
8   —  an “8” in Jelly Roll’s handwriting
9   —  a “9” again in Jelly Roll’s handwriting
0   —  a “0” again in Jelly Roll’s handwriting.

It is now almost certain that Jelly Roll wrote “1890” as his birth year on the Mexican Visa and then pasted the larger than required photograph on the form, over the area where the year had been written. This is the first statement in Jelly Roll’s own handwriting so far discovered documenting that he believed he was born in 1890.

© May 2005 Peter Hanley and Prof. Lawrence Gushee

A lot of confusion has arisen over the spelling of Jelly Roll’s surname as “La Menthe” in Alan Lomax’s Mister Jelly Roll, which misled everyone for years, until Lawrence Gushee discovered about 1980 that his real name was Lamothe. The fault was not entirely Lomax’s, because Jelly Roll wrote his father’s name as “F.P. Lamenthe” (not La Menthe or LaMenthe) in the autobiographical fragment published by Roy Carew in the March—April 1944 Record Changer, and reproduced in Oh, Mister Jelly [OMJ 37-45] and at [MSS 1]. Jelly Roll’s uncle, Henry Monette, also referred to Ed Lamothe as “F.P. La Menthe” even though he seems to have known that his given name was Edward, as Ignace Colas (Jelly Roll’s brother-in-law) clearly referred to “Ed” in the same interview. [MJR 33]

Jelly Roll clearly says “Lamont” (if you use the English version of the name) or either “Lamonte” or “Lamonthe” (if you use the French version of the name) on the Library of Congress recording.
[AFS 1640-A] I have owned the 12-inch Circle LP (The Saga of Mr Jelly Lord, Volume 1) since 1952 and the complete Riverside set since 1965, and I am not convinced that Jelly Roll says “Lamothe” or “Lamotte” (both pronounced “Lamot”). However, I will concede that the records are rather low-fidelity and Jelly Roll may appear to say “Lamothe” if you are too far away from the speakers and the volume is not turned up above normal listening. The variable speed of the original recording may also have something to do with it.

Lawrence Gushee says that “both the recording and the handwritten memoir published by Carew clearly offer as the name of Jelly Roll’s father one ‘F.P. LaMenthe’”
[MJRLG 322] but this is not entirely correct. What Jelly Roll says on the issued Library of Congress recording is this: “Of course, I guess you wonder how the name Morton come in, by the name Morton being an English name, it wouldn’t sound very much like a French name. But my real name is Ferdinand Lamonthe. My mother also married one of the French settlers in New Orleans, out of a French family, being a contractor.” I have not heard tapes of the original recordings in an unedited form, and it may be that the commercially released recording has been edited, but the above is what he says there. [AFS 1640-A]

The facts are that there is no one with the surname “La Menthe” or its variants “LaMenthe” and “Lamenthe” listed in the index to the 1900 U.S. Census (25 million plus names). Roger Richard has searched the New Orleans telephone directory and the French Minitel directory and found no listing for the surname. [MSS 2] It is not possible to say whether Jelly Roll was being devious or that he just did not know. If he was being devious, why did he mention it at all? It is unlikely that Jelly Roll would remember when he was referred to as a Lamothe. His mother married William Mouton in February 1894 when he was only just over three years of age, and he would have been known as Mouton from that time onwards until he adopted the anglicised form of Morton, probably about 1908 or 1910. There is no evidence, other than the Certificate of Baptism, that he ever went by the name of Lamothe, Lamenthe or any of its derivatives. In any event, there seemed to be no love lost between the Monettes and the Lamothes.

The word “la menthe” means “mint” and is only found, to my knowledge, as a proper name in “Creme de Menthe,” a liqueur distilled from the essence of garden mint. That could, of course, be where Jelly Roll got the idea that the surname of his father was spelled “Lamenthe.” The 1900 U.S. Census lists persons residing in New Orleans with the surnames Lamont, Lamonte and Lamonthe but not Lamenthe.

The best evidence we have of Morton’s birth is a Certificate of Baptism issued by St. Joseph’s Church (more correctly St. Joseph Church), a Catholic church in New Orleans, located at 1802 Tulane Avenue. The present church, constructed between 1869 and 1892, was consecrated on 18th December 1892 and opened for parochial services on 1st January 1893. It is not the church where Jelly Roll was baptised. Jelly Roll was baptised in the original St. Joseph’s Church, built soon after the establishment of St. Joseph Parish in February 1844, on a site further along Tulane Avenue opposite Charity Hospital, which is at 1532 Tulane Avenue. The original church served the African-American community. After the opening of the new St. Joseph Church in 1893, the original church was renamed St. Katherine Church, and it continued to serve the African-American community until 1964 when it was demolished. The records of the original St. Joseph’s Church were transferred to the new Church many years ago. The priests at both the original and the new church were called “Vincentians” and were members of the order of the Congregation of the Mission, using the letters “C.M.” after their name.

The photocopy I have of the Certificate of Baptism, extracted from the original entry in the Baptismal Register, is dated 15th March 1984. Prof. Lawrence Gushee discovered the existence of these records in 1981, and later obtained a photocopy of the original entry in the Baptismal Register, which verify the facts as set out in the 1984 certificate. The original data was entered by Father J.W. Downing, the curate at St. Joseph’s in 1891. Almost everything he entered in the records is wrong, from the names of the parties — Lemott, Monett and Haco — to the month of birth. Jelly Roll and his family always gave the day and month of his birth as 20th September. One cannot help but wonder whether the curate got the year wrong as well.

Catholics believed that the soul of an unbaptised person could not enter Heaven and, instead, went to Limbo where it remained forever. Consequently, Catholic children were baptised as soon as possible after birth to avoid the possibility of an eternal Limbo and a priest would be in breach of his spiritual duties if he allowed infant children to go without the sacrament of baptism for more than a few weeks. In those years of high infant mortality, a period of 6 months might be tolerated, but it would not necessarily be accepted. If Jelly Roll was born in 1889, as both his sisters later claimed, a period of 18 months would have been unacceptable, unless young Ferdinand had been privately baptised by an adult Catholic lay person and the parish priest had been notified. The situation today for Catholics is that baptism is entirely at the option of the parents.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the most amazing musical genius of them all, was born at 8 p.m. on 27th January 1756 and was baptised at 10.30 am on 28th January 1756. Beethoven was born on 16th December 1770 and was baptised the next day. There are many other examples that can be cited and even 20 years ago, delay in baptism was never contemplated by Catholics.

There is no doubt that much can be said against 1889 as being the year of the birth of Jelly Roll Morton, but the recollections of both his sisters and the information on his death certificate must give it a deal of credibility. However, Amède Colas, Jelly Roll’s elder sister, told Alan Lomax in 1949 that she thought Jelly Roll was born in 1886 as great-grandmother Mimi (Félicie Péché) had told her she was born in 1897 and Jelly Roll was eleven years older, but she was not sure that this was so.
[MJR 35] The information on the death certificate came from Mrs. Anita Morton, who at the time was supposed to be Mrs. John F. Ford, and not many of her statements have proved to be too reliable. However, Anita’s information about his birth would no doubt have come from Jelly Roll, so it may have been what he believed himself. When Anita finally arranged for Jelly Roll’s gravestone in 1950, it gave the year of his birth as 1890, but it seems to be the fact that she did not really know much about Jelly or about his family. She told Alan Lomax that she did not know that Jelly Roll had any family, because he said he was a foundling from a Catholic home. [MJR 177]

What we are ultimately left with is a number of inconsistent birth dates: 1885 (for the Library of Congress and Down Beat magazine), 1886 (his great-grandmother’s recollection, reported by his sister).
[MJR 35] 1888 (the date on his insurance policy). [MJR 35] 1889 (the date on his death certificate), and 1890 (the date on his baptismal certificate, Mexican Visa and gravestone). The date shown on the 1900 U.S. Census rolls is September 1894, but the census taker recorded incorrect information for other members of the family, making the census entries of doubtful significance.

Mother



Born


Died

Louise Hermance Monette

10th April 1871, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 59, page 610, as Louise Hermance Monette)

24th May 1906, New Orleans, Louisiana, at 1622 Poydras Street
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 138, page 200, as Lizzie Mouton, age 35 years)

Jelly Roll’s mother was Louise Hermance Monette, a light skinned Creole, who was born in New Orleans on 10th April 1871. Her birth certificate records the following details of her birth and parentage:

Be it remembered, That on this day, to wit: the Second of December in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy One and the ninety sixth of the Independence of the United States of America, before me, L. Pessou, duly commissioned and sworn Recorder of Births, Marriages and Deaths, in and for the Parish and City of New Orleans, personally appeared:

Julien J. Monette

a native of New Orleans residing at Royal Street No. 466 in this city who hereby declares that on the tenth day of April of this present year April 10th 1871 at Seven o’clock PM on Urquhart Street near Spain Street in this City was born a female child named:

Louise Hermance Monette

Natural issue of deponent with Laure Peché a native of New Orleans . . .

(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 59, page 610)

There is no mention of race on Louise Monette’s birth certificate because her birth was registered during the period after the Civil War known as Reconstruction (1865-1877) when the rights of African Americans in the South were enforced by the presence of Federal troops. When reconstruction ended, registration of births, marriages and deaths immediately re-commenced the practice of recording race.

Nothing is known of Louise’s early upbringing except that she lived in the Péché household with her mother at 151-153 Urquhart Street (old numbering), New Orleans, and received little formal education. She was able to sign her name but was only marginally literate. Trained in domestic duties, she worked as a cook and as a housekeeper. About 1889, she began a relationship with Edward Lamothe and Ferdinand Morton was born of that relationship, probably at 141 1/2 Perdido Street (again old numbering), the address of Edward Lamothe recorded in Soards New Orleans City Directory for 1891. The relationship ended sometime about 1893.

Louise Monette married William Mouton on 5th February 1894 in New Orleans in what was probably a double wedding with her mother and Joseph Adams.
(Orleans Parish Marriage Records, Volume 17, page 362) The witnesses to the wedding were Emile Péché (her uncle), Paul Hécaud (husband of Eulalie Hécaud), and Alex Johnson (not related to Bill Johnson’s family). The marriage certificate gave Louise’s age as 23 and William’s age as 26.

Stepfather



Born



Died

William Mouton

January 1870, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17, as William Mouton and U.S.C. 1880, Louisiana, Lafayette Parish, SD4 ED24, Page 47, lines 43-48)

probably 21st March 1911
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 151, page 914, as William Moten, male colored, age 42 years)

William Mouton was born near Lafayette, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana about January 1870. He was the son of Jean Baptiste Mouton, a mulatto farm labourer, and Frances Letty who were both born in Louisiana.

Alan Lomax interviewed Henry Monette (Louise Monette’s eldest brother) and the Colas family in 1949 and Henry said that Willie Mouton was not a Creole, but a light brown-skin man who did portering jobs.
[MJR 31] His occupation was listed as day laborer (a wide catch-all term) in the 1900 U.S. Census, and he was not able to read or write English. He was only able to make his mark on his marriage certificate, which was attested by Judge Ernest Morel.

Both Amède Colas and Uncle Henry referred to Mouton as Willie Morton. Jelly Roll himself never mentioned his stepfather, preferring to say that he took the name “Morton” for professional reasons because it was an English name, and he did not want to be called “Frenchy.” Henry Monette also said that he thought Willie Mouton drowned while he was travelling outside of New Orleans and Louise did not live long after that. He added that she was always healthy but “pneumonia took her.”
[MJR 36]

This statement by Henry Monette is not in accordance with the recorded facts. Louise Mouton died on 24th May 1906 and her death certificate, declared on 25th May 1906 by E. Ware, an undertaker, gives the following information:

Lizzie Mouton (Col)

a native of this city, aged 35 years
departed this life yesterday (24 May 1906) at No 1622 Poydras Street in this city
Cause of Death       phthisis pulmonitis
Certificate of Dr Will Hinds
Deceased was married, a Housekeeper
Birthplace of parents, Louisiana


(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 138, page 200)

Louise had died of the dreaded crowded city disease, tuberculosis of the lungs (phthisis pulmonitis), and the certificate clearly recorded that she was married and not a widow. The two daughters of the marriage of Louise Monette and Willie Mouton, Eugénie Amède and Frances, were listed in the 1910 U.S. Census under the name “Moten” as the adopted daughters of their aunt and uncle, Viola and John Haynes.

Children of Louise Monette and William Mouton
(sisters of Jelly Roll Morton)



Born


Died

Eugénie Amède Mouton (incorrectly referred to as Amide)

12th October 1897, New Orleans Louisiana
(California Deaths 1940-1997, as Eugenia Collas, father’s surname Morton, Social Security Number 552 219 820)

10th November 1982, Los Angeles, California
(California Deaths, as above)



Born



Died

Frances (Mimi) Mouton (her Christian names may have been Françoise Michèle)

18th June 1900, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Frances Oliver, Social Security Number 462-03-9128, issued in Texas before 1951)

June 1982, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Frances Oliver, Social Security Number 462-03-9128, issued in Texas before 1951)

Jelly Roll’s elder sister, Amède, as she was generally called, married Ignace Colas in New Orleans on 15th October 1913, a few days after her sixteenth birthday. (Orleans Parish Marriage Records, Volume 35, page 911) Colas was a Cajun from Edgard in the Parish of St. John the Baptist, just west of New Orleans. He was the son of Ernest Colas and Eugénie Fortier (both born in 1860), and was born either on 31st July 1891 (World War I Draft Card) or 19th June 1892. (California Death Index 1940-1997) The couple lived at 1316 St. Bernard Avenue in 1920, 2437 Marigny Street in 1930 and in St. Antoine Street when Alan Lomax interviewed them in 1949. Ignace Colas worked as a labourer and as a carpenter but suffered from indifferent health for many years. Amède told Lomax that Jelly Roll contributed to their support for many years, even sending ten dollars the week before he died. (Mister Jelly Roll at page 30)

Under Jelly Roll’s will, Amède had been left his interest in the Tempo-Music Publishing Co.’s copyrights. Roy Carew generously purchased this interest for $2,000 in the early 1950s, which enabled Ignace and Amède to move to Los Angeles, where their eldest daughter and her husband, Louise and Frank Bozant, were living. Ignace Colas died in Los Angeles on 9th January 1963. (California Death Index 1940-1997, Social Security Number 439-24-1868, as Ignace Collas) Amède Colas died there nineteen years later, on 10th November 1982. (California Death Index 1940-1997, Social Security Number 552-21-9820, as Eugenia Collas)

Children of Amède Mouton and Ignace Colas
(nephew and nieces of Jelly Roll Morton)



Born


Died

Eugene Colas

21st December 1916, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Eugene E. Colas Sr., Social Security Number 437-09-1645)

23rd October 1997, New York City, New York
(Social Security Death Index, as Eugene E. Colas Sr., Social Security Number 437-09-1645)



Born


Died

Louise Colas

14th April 1914, New Orleans, Louisiana
(California Deaths 1940-1997, see below)

27th December 1992, Los Angeles, California
(California Deaths 1940-1997, as Louise C. Bozant, mother’s maiden name Moten, Social Security Number 433-05-6539)



Born

Velma Colas

24th April 1924, New Orleans, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1930, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, Block 23, SD11 ED 36-127, Sheet 7A, Line 10, household at 2437 Marigny Street, New Orleans, and letter from her nephew, Frank Bozant)

Amède and Ignace Colas were interviewed by Alan Lomax in 1949 and some of that interview was reproduced in Mister Jelly Roll. However, William Russell noted in Oh, Mister Jelly that she later refused to be interviewed and tried to encourage her sister, Frances, to do the same. Eugene (Gene) Colas was interviewed by Bob Greene and Bill Russell in New York in 1978. [OMJ 94] Bill remarked that Gene Colas was a little taller than Jelly Roll, but bore a remarkable resemblance to him, with large hands and the same characteristic speech. He had a son called Eugene (1963-1994) who lived with him in New York.

Jelly Roll’s younger sister, Frances Mouton, was described by her contemporaries as a tall and beautiful woman. Usually called Mimi, she married Arthur Guichard in New Orleans on 25th April 1917, shortly before her seventeenth birthday. Guichard was born in New Orleans on 9th March 1898, the son of Arthur F. Guichard and Theresa Fisse (or Zigg).
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 125, page 1050) Frances and Arthur were divorced in the mid 1920s. Their son, Julian C. Guichard was born in New Orleans on 17th January 1918, and later lived with his mother and stepfather in Texas where he worked as a surveyor. He died in New Orleans on 24th September 1994. (Social Security Death Index, Social Security Number 462-14-2497, issued in Texas before 1951)

Frances stayed with Jelly Roll in Chicago in 1925. She went there in the belief that he was sick and needed her to look after him. In actual fact, her marriage had broken down when her husband began an affair with another woman (whose Christian name was Louise) and a child was born from that relationship (refer to the entry for Arthur Guichard in New Orleans in the 1930 U.S. Census). The trip to Chicago was Jelly Roll’s way of helping his sister get through a difficult period. She later married Dr. Joel P. Oliver, who practiced as a physician at 1622 La Salle Street, New Orleans in 1930. They subsequently went to Lubbock, Texas, where Dr. Oliver ran a medical practice and sanatorium. Frances Oliver returned to New Orleans in the 1960s, after the death of her husband in March 1958. William Russell interviewed her for the Hogan Jazz Archives at Tulane University on 10th May 1969, and the very moving interview is reproduced in Oh, Mister Jelly. [OMJ 85-93] At the end of the interview, Frances, unable to hold back the tears, remembered the final farewell to her brother when she left Chicago in October 1925 to return to New Orleans:

“The lady where I was staying in Chicago had a piano at the head of the stairway. As I came down the stairs for the last time, my brother sat at the piano and played and sang Always, I’ll be loving you not for just a day, but always.”

                                                                               I’ll be loving you always,
                                                                               With a love that’s true always.
                                                                               When the things you’ve planned,
                                                                               Need a helping hand,
                                                                               I will understand always . . .

                                                                               Days may not be fair always,
                                                                               That’s when I’ll be there always.
                                                                               Not for just an hour,
                                                                               Not for just a day,
                                                                               Not for just a year, but always . . .

Words and music by Irving Berlin. © 1925 Irving Berlin Inc.

Maternal grandparents



Born



Died

Julien (Julian) Joseph Monette (free coloured person)

1836, New Orleans, Louisiana
(MJRLG 329, FL1999 151)
(U.S.C. 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, City of New Orleans, 8th Ward, page 643 as J. J. Monette, age 34)

c. October 1886, Panama
(MJRLG 329, FL1999 151)

Laura Péché (born a slave but manumitted with her mother in 1855)
(MJRLG 330)

Born




Died

November 1852, New Orleans, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 7th Ward, 7th Precinct, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17, as Laura Adams, for the month, and U.S.C. 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, page 719, as Eléonore Péché, age 17 years, for the year)

5th December 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 202, page 2926, as Laura Adams, age 73 years)

It appears that Julien Monette and Laura Péché were never married, but lived in a common law relationship from about 1870. [MJRLG 329] Julien was a tailor by occupation [MJR 32] and was reasonably well off. He was elected a senator in the State Legislature in 1868 during the post Civil War period in Louisiana and served until the collapse of reconstruction in 1877. He is listed in U.S.C. 1870 as a Representative in the Legislature (age 34) and was living with his father at the time of the census (1st June 1870).

Julien Monette served as a corporal in the 1st Native Guards, Louisiana Militia, (Confederate Allegiance) in 1861 and 1862.
(Louisiana Confederate Soldiers, Confederate Research Sources, Volume 2, page 1013, and Civil War Service Records) He is shown on a Roll not dated, and was ordered into the service of the State of Louisiana. However, other events cut short this part of his military service. The Union navy’s Gulf squadron, commanded by Flag Officer David G. Farragut, steamed past the forts guarding the lower Mississippi and besieged New Orleans, which quickly surrendered to the fleet on 25th April 1862, after it had been abandoned by its garrison. Union troops, commanded by General Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-1893), formally occupied New Orleans on 1st May 1862, an irreparable loss to the Confederacy.

After the fall and occupation of New Orleans, Julien Monette served as a captain in the 6th Louisiana Infantry, a coloured regiment (Union Allegiance), for a short period of time in 1863.
(Civil War Pension application 682,471, dated 27th August 1898 as Julien J. Monette, and Civil War Service Records, as Julian J. Monette) Henry Monette said that his father “got elected state senator in 1868. Yes, Papa was a big politician (a big racketeer like all these politicians, I reckon) but in his day, he was known. Then he left New Orleans and died in Panama, working on the canal job.” [MJR 32]

The pension application was not made by Laura Monette, but by Philomène Monette (née Poydras) who claimed to have married Julien in 1871.
(Civil War Pension Application 682,471) Philomène Monette is listed in (U.S. Census 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED 39 Sheet 11) as residing at 217 Galvez Street (6th Precinct, 4th Ward) with her daughter and son-in-law (Louise, born 1875, and J. A. Hardin) and her two sons, Arthur and Seymour. All were Creoles of colour. She was born in May 1858 (according to the census) and was the mother of 7 children, only three of whom were living in 1900. If this is correct, she may have been a little too young to marry in 1871, even in New Orleans. Julien Monette must have cut quite a figure with the young Creole damsels of New Orleans in the 1860s and 1870s: a wife and a mistress that we know of, and at least 12 children.

Children of Julien Monette and Laura Péché



Born

Died

Louise Monette

10th April 1871 (see above)

24th May 1906 (see above)



Born


Died

Henry Oswald Monette

24th March 1874, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 62, page 555, as Henry C. Monette)

February 1963, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Henry Monette, Social Security Number 433-05-4320)



Born


Died

Auguste Reynolds Monette

28th August 1876, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 71, page 262, as Auguste Reynolds Monette)

27th March 1958, Alameda, California
(California Deaths 1940 -1997, as August R. Monette)




Born


Died


Joseph Roscoe Neville Monette

20th February 1879, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 75, page 4, as Joseph Roscoe Neville Monette)

26th June 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 206, page 410, as Neville Monette, age 52 years)

Children of Julien Monette and Philomène Poydras



Born


Died

Charles Albert Monette

11th March 1872, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 60, page 214)

11th July 1872, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 55, page 170)



Born


Died

Arnold Pierre Monette

5th August 1873, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 61, page 906)

20th May 1876, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 66, page 233, as Arnold Monette, age 2 years)



Born


Died

Louisa Emilie Monette

23rd February 1875, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 63, page 228)

?



Born


Died

Louis Julian Lionel Monette

25th August 1877, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 71, page 262)

1st July 1883, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 83, page 103, age 5 years)




Born


Died


Arthur Delfort Monette

26th January 1882, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 78, page 953)

20th June 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 206, page 353, as Arthur J. Monette, age 47 years)




Born


Died


Seymour Benjamin Monette

5th February 1885, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 95, page 8)

6th April 1948, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Certificate 2281, as Seymour J. Monette, white or Mexican, age 63 years)

Roger Richard advised by e-mail that Nelusco is not a French name and is taken from the leading male character in Meyerbeer’s last opera, L’Africaine (actually Nelusko in the opera), produced posthumously in 1865. Similarly, he suggested that Eliska (in Eliska Adams below) is not a French name, and may be a corruption of Selika, the leading female character in the same opera.

The 1900 U.S. Census
(Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED81 Sheet 5) lists Henry as being born in March 1875, but this does not seem to be correct. When Alan Lomax interviewed him in 1949 with the Colas family, Henry said that he had just attained his 75th birthday. [MJR 31] This is in accordance with information in the Social Security Death Index. Amède Colas described him as her mother’s eldest brother. [MJR 31] He was living at 2001 Marigny Street in the 8th Ward in 1900, and his occupation was a cigar maker. He later became an insurance agent for the Acme Insurance Company and worked for them for more than thirty years. [OMJ 345]

The census actually shows Auguste (Gus) as born in August 1874, but this could not be correct, because of the information on Henry above. The more likely date is August 1875 and California Deaths 1940-1997 bears this out. The name is spelled “Monete” and not “Monette,” probably the enumerator’s mistake. The 1920 Census shows August Monette as living at 1320 St. Bernard Avenue, New Orleans with his wife and family (3 sons and a daughter) in a house owned by him, subject to a mortgage. He was a barber working from home and his age was given as 42, making the year of his birth 1877. Amède and Ignace Colas were living next door to him at 1316 St. Bernard Avenue.
(U.S. Census 1920, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED 114 Sheet 6, as Ennis and Amelia Colas)

Laura Péché (known also as Laura Monette) married Joseph Adams on 5th February 1894. [L.M.I.] and [MSS 4] Joseph Adams is listed in (U.S. Census 1900, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17) as Jausephe Adams, a longshoreman, born in September 1840 in Louisiana. Neither he nor Laura were able to read or write English. They lived at 1443 Frenchmen Street (corner of North Robertson Street), New Orleans in the Faubourg-Marigny district. Laura is shown as the mother of 7 children, with 6 living at the date of the census (1st June 1900). It appears that Neville (a barber) was the deceased child. I was unable to trace Nelusco in the 1900 Census. He was a carpenter and butcher [OMJ 346] and was apparently alive at the time of the 1900 Census.

There are two photographs of Laura Adams reproduced in William Russell’s Oh, Mister Jelly taken in the period 1915 to 1925.
[OMJ 37 and 54] She was very light in colour and had the characteristic large hands that Jelly Roll, his sisters and his nephew (Eugène Colas) had.

Children of Laura Péché and Joseph Adams



Born


Died

Viola Adams (married Haynes)

December 1888, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17)

?



Born


Died

John Nelusco Adams

12th June 1890, New Orleans, Louisiana
(World War I Civilian Draft Registrations, as Nelusco J. Adams)

March 1963, Illinois
(Social Security Death Index, as John Adams, Social security Number 438-01-0420, issued in Louisiana before 1951)



Born


Died

Marguerite Adams

8th November 1894, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume and page not recorded, as Margaret Adams)

17th July 1895, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 109, page 140, as Marguerite Adams)

Viola Adams was characterised by her niece, Frances Oliver, as the true historian of the family. [OMJ 345] Viola’s married name was Haynes and her husband was probably Frank Haynes (born November 1882), the son of Michel Haynes who resided at 1414 Annette Street in 1900, a near neighbour of her uncle, Emile Péché.

According to the 1910 U.S. Census, the Monette family home at 1443 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, was occupied by James Bartholomew and his wife and 4 children. They were a white family, and Bartholomew was a property owner, mentioned by Jelly Roll in his fragment of an autobiography.
[OMJ 38] and [MSS 1] That section of Frenchmen Street had become almost exclusively the domain of white families by the date of the census (1 June 1910). I checked a sample of 368 residents from around the Monette home in the 1900 Census and 95 of those were listed as black (25.8%). This, in some way, verifies Jelly Roll’s assertion that New Orleans was an integrated city at the time of his boyhood. [MJR 52] My research on the 1900 Census generally tends to confirm this.

Maternal great-grandparents
(on the male side)



Born


Died

Pierre Monette (free coloured person)

1794, Cap Francais, Saint-Domingue (Haiti)
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 54, page 303, for Pierre Monette)

24th April 1872, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 54, page 303, age 78 years)



Born

Died

Louise Boulin (born a slave in Saint-Domingue, emancipated in New Orleans in 1838)

1810, Saint-Domingue (Haiti)

25th November 1867, New Orleans, Louisiana

(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 38, page 547, as Louise Monette, no age recorded)

Pierre Monette was, for many years, the owner of a coffee house at Poet (Washington) Street, near the Mississippi river. [MJRLG 329] His occupation is listed in the U.S. Census 1870, as “C House officer,” which I take to mean Customs House Officer. Julien had probably found a sinecure for his father in his declining years. According to the census, Pierre owned real estate to the value of $2,000.

Pierre had migrated from Haiti about 1820 (around the end of the Civil War in Haiti) and later lived in open concubinage with Louise Boulin, a free coloured person from New Orleans. Julien was the product of their union, but Pierre fathered another son, Edouard, to a woman called Zabelle. Pierre and Louise married on 2nd November 1867 and legitimated both Julien and Edouard by their marriage contract. (Quoting notes of Lawrence Gushee).
[DMB 70]

Louise Boulin must have died some time shortly after the marriage, because she is not listed in Pierre’s household in the 1870 Census. After Pierre’s death in 1872, Julien claimed to be Pierre’s sole heir and brought action in the Louisiana Second District Court, on the grounds that Edouard was illegimate. The court rejected his claim and held that the marriage contract recognised both as legitimate. One of the witnesses in the case (by deposition) was the famous, but aged, voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau (c. 1796-1881), the widow Paris as she was called. It seems that Marie had known both Pierre Monette and Louise Boulin for 40 or 50 years. (Quoting notes of Lawrence Gushee from the Court records).
[DMB 71]

Maternal great-grandparents
(on the female side)



Born


Died

Pierre Marc Péché (free coloured person)

18th March 1831, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 272, as Pierre Marc Peche)

1st February 1869, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 44, page 236, as Pierre Pecher, age 38 years)




Born




Died

Félicie or Félicité (Mimi) Péché (née Baudoin) (a quadroon slave manumitted 1855)
(MJRLG 330)

March 1834, New Orleans, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1860, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 7th Ward, Sheet 27A, Line 37, age 26 years, for the year, and U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 10th Ward, SD1 ED102, Sheet 13B, Line 58, household at 2015 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, as Felice Pache, for the month)

19th January 1914, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 159, page 679, as Felicie Peche, formerly Baudoin, age 70 years)

Children of Pierre Péché and Félicie Baudoin



Born


Died

Eléonore Péché

9th October 1851, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 10, page 877, as Eleonore Pecher)

11th October 1851, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 10, page 877, as Eleonore Pecher, age 2 days)



Born


Died

Laura Péché

November 1852 (see above)
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17, as Laura Adams)

5th December 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 202, page 2926, as Laura Adams, age 73 years)



Born



Died

Elina (Aline or Hélène) Péché

December 1854
(U.S.C. 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, page 710, for the year, and U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED68, Sheet 17, for the month)

22nd April 1901
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 124, page 838, as Elina Peche, age 41 years)

Hortense Péché (married Emilien Joseph D’Omer on 24th August 1880, as Hortensia Péché, age 20 years)

Born


Died

1860
(U.S.C. 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward 719, age 9)

after 1st January 1920



Born


Died

Aurélia Péché (married Thomas W. Gross on 11th March 1905)

27th January 1869, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 58, page 717, as Orelia Peche)

after 15th April 1910



Born



Died

Emile Péché

April 1858
(U.S.C. 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, page 710, age 12, for the year, and U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED67, Sheet 14, for the month)

8th December 1926, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 193, page 1177, as Emile Peche, age 68 years)

It is not certain that Pierre Péché was the father of Laura Péché. If she was born before her mother was manumitted in 1855, Laura’s father may well have been someone other than Pierre Péché. I do not know what the attitude of slave owners was, in the Louisiana of 1850, towards their slaves courting, but it may have been accepted by Félicie Baudoin’s owner, Madeleine Sirette (1788-1855), a native of Saint-Domingue (Cap Français). [MJRLG 330]

Félicie had been born in the New Orleans household of the Sirettes. Her mother was a slave named Eugénie (or Jane) Sirette, but it is not known who her father was.
[MJRLG 330] His surname may have been Baudoin, for that is the name by which her grandson, Henry Monette, referred to her. [MJR 31] However, Frances Oliver clearly said that her name was Félicie Schmidt and that she had German Jewish blood. [OMJ 87] Henri Monette told Rudi Blesh in 1944 that Félicie was born about 1841 and died in 1913. [OMJ 346]

She is not listed in the published indexes to the 1900 U.S. Census I used, but she was living with one of the Solari families (also not listed) at 2015 St. Charles Avenue.
[WYBFM 166] Jelly Roll said that she often travelled with them, and he mentioned one such trip when he was a boy. [MJR 3] He mentioned it again in the fragment of an autobiography, published in 1944 and reprinted in [OMJ 38] and at [MSS 1]. The senior members of the Solari family were born in Italy, not France, and ran a wholesale grocery business, called A. M. & J. Solari Ltd., based at the corner of Iberville and Royal Streets.

Félicie is shown as the wife of Pierre Péché in the 1860 U.S. Census.
[MJRLG 330] Lawrence Gushee also noted that Pierre Péché, a cigar maker by trade, died in 1869 at the age of 38. His widow and 5 children (four daughters and a son) were left a house and other assets valued at $2,500.

Pierre served as a corporal in the 1st Native Guards, Louisiana Militia (Confederate Allegiance) in the Civil War and was ordered into active service of the State of Louisiana. His name appears on a Roll not dated (Louisiana Confederate Soldiers). He may possibly have died at an early age as a result of war injuries. He is not recorded in the Civil War Pension Index, but that index had only been partially completed at the time of writing (June 2002).

Aurélia (or Amélia) Péché (she signed her name as “Péchér”) was a witness to the wedding of Louise Monette and William Mouton in 1894. Jelly Roll refers to her as “Orealia” in his fragment of an autobiography mentioned above. My research has not found any listing for her in the 1900 Census, but she may have been married after 1894 and was listed under her married name, or may have died before 1900.

Emile Péché resided at 1422 Annette Street (6th Precinct, 7th Ward) in 1900 and his occupation was listed as cigar maker. He was also one of the witnesses to the wedding of Louise Monette and William Mouton in 1894. Interestingly, Emile Péché and his wife Elizabeth (born November 1856) were married in 1880 but their eldest son, Henry H. Péché, was born in December 1873 when, if the census information is correct, Emile was 14 and Elizabeth 16. Elizabeth Péché had 4 children, all living at the date of the 1900 U.S. Census. Henry, their eldest child, resided with them and so did their daughter, Charlesia (born January 1881) and her husband, John Prats, a blacksmith born in April 1877. An adopted daughter, Aline Pellas (born November 1882), also lived with them. The 1920 Census lists Emile (age 62, born in 1857) and his wife (called Eliza on the census sheet, age 67, born in 1852). They were then living at 1817 Allen Street in the 6th Precinct of the 7th Ward.

Pierre Péché’s father, Jean Baptiste Péché, was said to have been born in Geneva, Switzerland and is the only white person in Jelly Roll’s known ancestry, traced back 4 generations.
[MJRLG 332] I have been unable to trace him in any of the passenger lists kept from 1820 under the requirements of 3 Stat. 389, enacted by Congress on 2 March 1819 to record persons migrating to the United States. He is not listed, to my knowledge, in any census from 1810 (the first that included Louisiana) to 1870. Interestingly, there are a number of Péché migrants to the United States who came from Germany as well as from Canada and France.

The name, Duplessis (also spelled Duplesis, Duplesie and Duplessie), was very common in Louisiana in the 19th and early 20th century (about 40 families in Louisiana in the 1900 Census) but I have been unable to find anything of Adélaïde Duplessis. The census rolls before 1850 do not have detailed information about members of families, only information as to age range, numbers and colour. There is no listing for Jean Baptiste Péché and Adélaïde Duplessis in the Louisiana Marriage Index 1718-1925.

Father

                                       Edward Joseph Lamothe (born Martin Lamothe)

     alternative spelling of surname
     Lamotte, Lamoth, Lemott

       incorrect spelling of surname
       La Menthe, LaMenthe, Lamenthe

Born


Died

7th November 1865, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 808, as Martin Lamothe)

3rd April 1938, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 210, page 2973, as Edward Lamothe)

Edward Joseph Lamothe was born in New Orleans, probably on 7th August 1865. [MJRLG 328] His father, Martin Lamothe, was a bricklayer (or brick mason as it is sometimes described) and the son followed in his father’s trade. Jelly Roll said: “My father was a brick contractor, bricklayer, making large buildings and so forth and so on.” [AFS 1640-A]

He probably began his relationship with Louise Monette about 1888, and she and young Ferdinand lived with him until 1892 or 1893 when the couple went their separate ways. They were never married. He is listed in Soards New Orleans City Directory 1891 as a bricklayer, residing at 141 1/2 Perdido Street, New Orleans. The house was presumably divided into a duplex and Edward and Louise lived in one part of it.

Lamothe married Olivia Mary Warnick (born in New Orleans, 1874) in 1897.
(Louisiana Marriage Index, 1718-1925) They had two sons, Edward Joseph Lamothe Jr. (born 1898) and Isidore J. Lamothe (born 1899). Edward Lamothe is not listed in the published index to the 1900 U.S. Census and may well have been outside the country at the time the census was enumerated. However, he is listed in the 1920 Census as living at 4 Mandeville Street, New Orleans (7th Precinct, 8th Ward), not far from Lake Ponchartrain, and the second street east of Elysian Fields Avenue. His wife and two sons lived with him in a house he owned, subject to a mortgage. His occupation at that time was “demolishing houses.”

Children of Edward Lamothe and Olivia Warnick



Born


Died

Edward Joseph Lamothe

7th February 1898, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 112, page 1076)

October 1981, Astoria, Queens, New York
(Social Security Death Index, as Edward Lamothe, Social Security Number 087-18-9409)



Born


Died

Isidore Joseph Lamothe

12th June 1899, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 119, page 967)

January 1973, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Isidore Lamothe Sr., Social Security Number 436-07-4303)

Edward Lamothe seems to have had an interesting career and worked for the U.S. Navy Intelligence in Haiti and San Domingo (in the Dominican Republic) during the period 1917 to 1920. This is attested to by a letter from the United States Naval Communications Service in New Orleans to the Passport Office in Washington D.C. dated 14th October 1920. Lamothe applied for passports in 1917, 1918 and 1920, the last being Application 102083 dated 20th October 1920. [MSS 5] and [MJRLG 329]

Henry Monette, in his interview with Alan Lomax in 1949, referred to Ed Lamothe as “F.P. La Menthe — Jelly Roll Morton’s father — a nice lookin’, light brown-skin Creole, but wild. Very wild . . . (addressed to Ignace Colas) Do you remember how him and Paul went to Haiti in the big war? Government interpreters. Interpreted so much government money, they landed in the pen.”
[MJR 33]

Ignace Colas described Ed Lamothe in these terms: “Ed had himself a good livin’, too. Carpenter, demolished buildings and owned a couple of properties, but he was a fourflusher.” Henry Monette agreed.
[MJR 33]

Lawrence Gushee says that the “Paul” mentioned above was Paul Dominguez, but I had always thought “Paul” was Paul Hécaud (at one time, the husband of Eulalie Hécaud), a cooper, who was supposed to be from Haiti. There were two people in New Orleans bearing the name “Paul Dominguez,” and they were father and son. Paul Dominguez (father) was born in New Orleans in February 1862 of Mexican parents. His son, Paul Jr. was also born there in June 1881, and was a violinist of some note, who was interviewed by Alan Lomax in his research for Mister Jelly Roll. Both were listed as white, not coloured.
(U.S. Census 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED69 Sheet 17)

Edward Lamothe died in New Orleans in April 1938 [MJRLG 328] and there is no evidence that he had any contact with his son, Jelly Roll Morton, after their paths crossed in Houston, Texas, in 1913. [MSS 6]

Paternal grandparents




Born


Died

Martin Lamothe (also Lamotte) (a slave manumitted in 1845)
(MJRLG 331)

1831, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 103, page 209, as Martin Lamothe, age 61 years)

14th December 1892, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 103, page 209, as Martin Lamothe, age 61 years)



Born


Died

Henriette Jaillot (also Jailliot, Jalliot) (free coloured person)

6th September 1833, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume, 6 page 301)

11th November 1908, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 145, page 321, as Henriette Jaillot Lamothe, age 64 years)

Martin Lamothe was born a slave in the household of Andre Lamothe in New Orleans. His mother was a runaway slave from Alabama, called Catherine, purchased by Lamothe in 1834. [MJRLG 331] In 1860, Martin was living with Eugénie Fraissinet who was said to be Andre Lamothe’s mother and probably Martin’s grandmother. (U.S. Census 1860, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, page 321)

Martin Lamothe was a bricklayer by trade. During the early part of the Civil War, he served in the 1st Native Guards, Louisiana Militia (Confederate Allegiance) as a private. (Civil War Service Records, as Martin Lamothe and Louisiana Confederate Soldiers, as Martin Lamotte) He is on a roll not dated, and was called into active service of the State of Louisiana. After the fall of New Orleans, Martin Lamothe served as a corporal in the 6th Louisiana Infantry (Union Allegiance), a coloured regiment. (Civil War Service Records, as Martin Lamotte) After the Civil War, Martin continued to work as a bricklayer for many years and is listed in Soards New Orleans City Directory for 1890 and 1891 in that occupation. He died in New Orleans in 1892, a few years before his purported father, André Lamothe, died.

Children of Martin Lamothe and Henriette Jaillot



Born



Died

Marie Eugenie Lamotte

13th May 1856, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 10, page 740, as Marie Eugenie Lamotte, father Jean M. Lamotte, mother Henriette Tolegane)

30th May 1858, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 14, page 527, age 2 years)



Born



Died

Laura Lamotte (married Joseph Morales)

17th August 1858, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 179, as Laure Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother Henriette Torigal)

24th November 1904, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 133, page 1122, as Elizabeth Laura Morales, age 44 years)



Born



Died

Alice Lamothe (married Albert Lecesne 22nd May 1882)

8th November 1860, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 180, as Alice Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother Henriette Toregano)

10th July 1904, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 133, page 86, as Mrs. Albert Lecesne, age 43 years)




Born



Died


Florestine Lamotte (married Louis Broussard 19th February 1878)

15th February 1862, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 180, as Florestine Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother Henriette Toregano)

?



Born



Died

Louisa Lamotte (married Victor Hecaud 12th October 1881)

4th October 1862, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 181, as Louisa Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother Henriette Toregano)

?



Born



Died

Martin Lamothe (later known as Edward Joseph Lamothe)

7th November 1865, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 30, page 808, as Martin Lamothe, father Martin Lamothe, mother Henriette Torregana)

April 1938, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 210, page 2973, as Edward Lamothe)




Born



Died


Etna Lamothe (married Louis Guillemet on 25th October 1886)

29th November 1869, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 55, page 579, as Etna Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother not recorded)

18th January 1914, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 159, page 668, as Etna Lamothe, age 44 years)


Note:


Martin Lamothe’s children (other than Edward Lamothe) were all registered in the birth records as Lamotte, but some of them adopted the spelling “Lamothe” later on. For these, I have adopted “Lamothe” as the spelling. Others retained the spelling “Lamotte,” and in these cases I have retained that version of the name to describe them.

There is some doubt whether Martin Lamothe was married to Henriette Jailliot or to Fortunée Torrigane. It may well be that they are one and the same person but that does not seem likely to me. It may also mean that he was married to neither, and that both women were his common law wives at the same or at different times. There is an added complication in that I have found a listing for a Mrs. Martin Lamotte (spelled that way) in Soards New Orleans City Directory for both 1890 and 1891. Martin Lamothe is listed in the same directories as living at 381 Bourbon Street. She was a midwife, residing in both years at 273 North Liberty Street. It may well be that Henriette Lamothe was a midwife or trained nurse, but the only Lamothe I could find who was a trained nurse was Mrs. Octavie Lamothe, a widow residing at 822 Elysian Fields Avenue in 1900. (U.S. Census 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 2nd Precinct, 7th Ward, SD1 ED63 Sheet 14B, described as a landlady) In 1920, by a strange coincidence, she was living next door to Amède Colas at 1314 St. Bernard Avenue. (U.S. Census 1920, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 4th Precinct, 7th Ward, SD1 ED114 Sheet 6B, as Octavie Lamott, occupation trained nurse)

Henriette Lamothe is listed in the 1860 Census as a free coloured person, living as a boarder with Sophia Rayner, a mulatto aged 60, along with a number of other young people, both white and mulatto. Although purportedly married to Martin Lamothe, she was not living with him at the time of the census (1st June 1860). The Genealogy.com message board listed above says that Martin Lamothe was married to Fortunée Torrigane and they had a daughter named Alice born circa 1860. In 1900, Henriette Lamothe, a widow, was living with her daughter Laura Morales (born August 1859), also a widow, at 2026 Burgundy Street, near where it crosses Frenchmen Street, only about 7 blocks from the Monette-Péché home at 1443 Frenchmen Street. The records for any Jailliot or Torrigane (or their variant surnames) in New Orleans are extremely sparse.  I could not find any marriage records for Lamothe-Jailliot or Lamothe-Torrigane.

Paternal great-grandparents

(on the male side)



Born



Died

André Martin Lamotte (free coloured person)

25th October 1818, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 26, page 537, as Andre Martin Lamotte, father Martin Lamotte, mother Eugenie Fussinet)

2nd November 1895, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 109, page 871, age 77 years)




Born







Died

Catherine ?  (a slave purchased by Andre Martin Lamothe in 1834)
(MJRLG 331)

1811, probably Alabama
(MJRLG 327)

alternative source

1809 or 1810
(U.S.C. 1850, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, Slave Schedule for Andre Lamothe, a female slave age 40)

after 1850

André Lamothe was a free coloured person, born in New Orleans about 1817. From all accounts, he was well off financially for the period. He is listed in the 1850 U.S. Census as living with his wife, Emma (aged 30), and two children, Marie and Numa, both aged 11. His occupation was described by the enumerator as “none” but he owned real property worth $11,000 at the time of the census, so we may regard him as a property owner. (U.S. Census 1850, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 1st Ward, 3rd Municipality, page 51)

He was also the owner of 3 slaves. (U.S. Census 1850, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 1st Ward, 3rd Municipality, Slave Schedule, page 277) The slaves were all females, aged 40 years, 8 years and 18 months. The 40-year-old female slave was probably Catherine, said to be the mother of Martin Lamothe. The two child slaves were undoubtedly her children, and most likely fathered by André Lamothe.

Children of André Martin Lamotte and Emma Dupuis



Born


Died

Maria Lamotte

20th May 1839, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 405)

?



Born


Died

Numa Lamotte

30th December 1840, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 406)

5th February 1871, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 51, page 315, age 30 years)



Born


Died

Edgar Lamotte

16th October 1842, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 406)

?



Born


Died

Marie Rose Lamotte

29th March 1846, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 645)

?

André Lamothe is thought to be Martin Lamothe’s father, but there is no direct evidence to establish that as a fact. Lawrence Gushee refers to him as André Martin Lamothe, but I can only find reference to André Lamothe (and André M. Lamotte) in the records I examined. Land title records also show an André Lamothe as the purchaser of 200.25 acres for cash in Natchitoches Parish on 1st April 1859. (Document 11354, Louisiana Land Records, Township 3N, Range 4W, Section 12)

Children of André Martin Lamotte and Octavie St. Avide



Born


Died

Eugénie Andrea (Andrée) Lamotte (married Henry Garcia Santa Marina, 24th October 1908)

16th September 1890, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 90, page 794)

11th August 1912, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 155, page 700, as Andree Eugenie Lamotte, age 21 years)



Born


Died

Rose Emma Lamotte (married Camille Louis Moore on 4th February 1920)

1st May 1892, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 94, page 169)

15th January 1974, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Social Security Death Index, as Emma Lamotte, Social Security Number 435-78-7455)

However, Soards New Orleans City Directory for 1891, records an André M. Lamotte (spelled that way, not Lamothe) who resided at 100 Elysian Fields Avenue, New Orleans, in the 7th Ward. There seems little doubt that André Lamothe and André Martin Lamothe were the same person.

Paternal great-grandparents
(on the female side)



Born


Died

Lorentine (more correctly Laurentin) Jalliot (also Jailliot, Jaillot) (free coloured person)

1815, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 301, for Henriette Jalliot)

c. 1865, New Orleans, Louisiana



Born


Died

Marie Penn(e) (free coloured person)

1816, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 301, for Henriette Jalliot)

29th November 1868, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 43, page 687, as Marie Laurentine Jalliot, age 49 years)

Children of Lorentine Jalliot and Marie Penn



Born


Died

Henriette Jalliot

6th September 1833, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 301)

11th November 1908, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 145, page 321, as Henriette Jaillot Lamothe, age 64 years)



Born


Died

Pierre Jalliot

7th November 1836, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 302)

?



Born


Died

Marie Therese Jalliot

15th November 1840, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 302)

?



Born


Died

Joseph Jalliot

10th September 1844, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 305)

?



Born


Died

Marie Josephine Jalliot

24th August 1845, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 6, page 675)

?



Born


Died

Marie Louise Jalliot

19th August 1848, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 10, page 159)

?



Born


Died

Marie Marguerite Jalliot

20th October 1850, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 10, page 331)

?

André Martin Lamotte (spelled that way, not Lamothe) may have been the father of André Lamothe but records prior to 1850 do not give much information about direct relationships between persons. There is the possibility that he was a white person, for he does not appear to have married Eugénie Fraissinet (if that was the way her surname was spelled). He was a person of some importance in New Orleans, both before and after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. I have a reference to a statement of his authorship made in 1811 about the genesis of New Orleans. Copies of this material have been deposited in a number of public libraries (but not in New Orleans Public Library, to my knowledge). I am endeavouring to obtain a copy to see if it gives any further information about his family history.

The information about Eugénie Fraissinet is equally confusing. She is listed in the 1860 U.S. Census (age 75) and a Martin Lamothe (age 35) is shown as living with her at that time. Both were born in New Orleans. To add to the confusion, the 1820 U.S. Census records a Eugénie Fressinet, a free coloured person, living in St. Philipe Street, New Orleans.
(U.S.C. 1820, Louisiana, New Orleans City Parish, page 69) Not far along the same street, there was a Eugénie Fasinot, also a free coloured person. Both were aged between 27 and 45, but only Eugénie Fressinet had a male child under 14 (probably André Lamothe). Ironically, a Ferdinand Lamothe (a white person aged over 45) was living in the same street, about half way between the two Eugénies.

The Lamothes of Louisiana

The Lamothes were very numerous in Louisiana in the period 1800 to 1920 and there are many bearing that name in Louisiana today. The name itself means the “moat of a castle” and the Lamothes in France seem to have originated in Lorraine.

I have located a granddaughter of Edward Joseph Lamothe (1893-1976), who may have been a nephew or second cousin of Jelly Roll Morton’s father. She has some interesting information (unfortunately, only family hearsay) about a native Indian connection to her family, and I am endeavouring to obtain some further details

The majority of the Lamothes in Louisiana seem to have had a long history with Louisiana, but there are those who arrived in the state directly from the Caribbean and directly from France, and even one who was from Italy. There were and are many Lamothes (often given as LaMothe) in the Province of Quebec in Canada, but, strange to say, I can find no instance of any Canadian Lamothe in Louisiana.

The Lamothe side of Jelly Roll’s ancestry is far less documented than the maternal side, and is worthy of further research. I have compiled a list of Lamothes in Louisiana. My aim in doing so is to provide information to researchers, with frequent access to New Orleans, to canvas surviving Lamothes, in the hope that further and more accurate information about possible Morton ancestors may be found, which may then become a part of publicly accessible knowledge.

The Haiti connection

Much has been made of the connection of Jelly Roll’s paternal and maternal ancestors with Haiti, the former French possession on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, with its implication of the family’s association with voodoo. Some facts about Haiti itself may not be out of place. Haiti (with an area of 10,714 square miles) occupies the western part of Hispaniola; the eastern part of the island is occupied by the Dominican Republic (with an area of 18,704 square miles). In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick recognised French possession of the western third of the mountainous island of Hispaniola.

This treaty was between France, on the one hand, and the alliance of England, Spain and Holland, on the other. It concluded the War of the Grand Alliance which had begun in 1689. France named its part of the island Saint-Domingue. At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, Saint-Domingue had a population consisting of about 32,000 persons of French ancestry, 24,000 persons of mixed ancestry and 500,000 Negro slaves. The aboriginal Indians had died out or been exterminated by that time.

In 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a mulatto general in the French army, declared the independence of the entire island with the aboriginal name of Haiti (sometimes spelled Hayti). Civil War ensued and divided the northern part of the country from the south. Jean Pierre Boyer, a mulatto, became president of a re-united Haiti in 1820. Boyer seized the eastern part of Hispaniola in 1822 after a successful Dominican revolt against Spanish authority in the previous year. In 1844, Boyer lost control over the eastern part of the island when the Dominicans revolted and declared their independence. Haiti has remained independent except for a period of United States occupation from 1915 to 1934.

Geoffrey C. Ward incorrectly says that Morton’s family, on both sides, were relative newcomers to New Orleans, and that Jelly Roll was the son of a Creole father and mother, who traced their ancestry back to the island of Haiti.
[JHAM 26] In the first place, Haiti is not an island; it is, and was, only a part of the island of Hispaniola. In the second place, the only evidence of any connection Jelly Roll’s family had with Haiti is through Pierre Monette (born in Cap Français, now Cap Haitien, Haiti in 1793 or 1794), his maternal great-grandfather on the male side, and only one of 8 ancestors in the third generation of his ancestry. Lawrence Gushee wrote that Jelly Roll’s paternal line of descent quite probably goes back to Port-au-Prince in Haiti. [APCJRM 393] However, he later made the statement in his afterword to Mister Jelly Roll that “there is some kind of link to the Lamothe family, émigrés from Haiti and well known as jewellers and goldsmiths.” [MJRLG 330-331]

There were many Lamothes in Louisiana in the 19th century (about 32 families in Louisiana in the index to the U.S. Census 1900, both white and coloured) but the only one I can trace to Haiti is Jean Baptiste Lamothe, a white person. He was born in St. Marc, Saint-Domingue (about 50 miles north west of Port-au-Prince) in 1800, the son of Pierre Lamothe and Marie Couvertié. He emigrated to New Orleans where he married Eulalie Elmire Pellerin (born 1814), a white person. They had several children including a son, Alfred J. Lamothe (1839-1918), who was for many years a book-keeper at the Hibernia National Bank in New Orleans. Coincidentally, Alfred Lamothe had a son named Ferdinand Alfred Lamothe, who was born on 22nd December 1866, but died several months later on 13th March 1867.

Another son, Léon Lamothe (born in 1835), later ran Leon’s Restaurant, as well as a wine and liquor business and a turf exchange, all from premises at 53 St. Charles Avenue. The occupation of Léon Lamothe and that of his father is interesting because Alan Lomax transcribed Morton’s words about his great-grandfather Emile Péchet (really Pierre Péché) with the insertion he was considered one of the largest jewellers in the South. He also transcribed the reference to the occupation of his grandfather Henri Monette (really Julien Monette) as a wholesaler of fine liquors and cordials. The words in italics are not on
[AFS 1640-A] and must have come from interviews with Jelly Roll, taken down by Lomax or his secretary. The coincidence of these occupations makes it worthwhile to investigate these Lamothes further in an endeavour to establish whether there was any relationship with Edward Lamothe.

Jean Baptiste Lamothe is listed in the 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870 U.S. Censuses. He had both free white persons and free coloured persons living in his household in 1840.
(U.S. Census 1840, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 3rd Municipality, page 153, as J. B. Lamothe) The 1850 U.S. Census lists him as a jeweller. (U.S. Census 1850, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 1st Ward, 3rd Municipality, page 41, as J. B. Lamothe) There is a Jean Lamothe (age 55, probably his brother) in the same household, also described as a jeweller. In 1860, Jean Baptiste’s occupation was described as a watchmaker. (U.S. Census 1860, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 7th Ward page 324, as J. B. Lamothe) and in 1870 as a “ret. jeweler”, which appears to mean either a retail jeweller or a retired jeweller. (U.S. Census 1870, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 8th Ward, page 643, again as J. B. Lamothe) He died on 12th November 1874.

The only other Lamothes I could find associated with the jewellery trade were, Louis, Louis Jr. and Noél Lamothe (father and sons, all white), makers of cutlery, who had premises at 75 Royal Street in 1890 and 1891. They do not appear to be related to Jean Baptiste Lamothe. Both Louis (the father) and his wife were born in France, and the sons were born in New Orleans.

I could not establish any connection between any of these Lamothes and Edward Lamothe, Martin Lamothe, or André Lamothe. There is the possibility, of course, that one or more of the free coloured persons in Jean Baptiste Lamothe’s household in 1840 were his children and they could have been related to the Creole Lamothes (or to their spouses) in Jelly Roll’s ancestry.

Godmother Eulalie



Born











Died

Laura Hunter (wife of Edward Hunter)

February 1864, New Orleans, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, SD1 ED116, Sheet 18B, as Laura Hunter)

alternative sources

1867
(U.S.C. 1920, California, Los Angeles County, SD8 ED567, Sheet 5B, as Laura Hunter, age 52)

20th June 1869, Louisiana
(Death Certificate 1901/2351, State of California, Department of Public Health, Vital Statistics, as Laura Hunter, informant Mrs. Anita Ford)

14th February 1940, Los Angeles, California
(Death Certificate, as above, as Laura Hunter, wife of Edward Hunter, informant Mrs. Anita Ford)

Of all the people closely associated with Jelly Roll, his godmother seems to me to be one of only two people who loved him and helped him without thought of any reward. His family remarked that she was crazy about Jelly Roll and loved him as if he were her own son. [MJR 36] The 1900 Census records show that she was the mother of 9 children but none were living at the date of the census, and this, in some measure, may explain her devotion to her godson. At the time, she was married to Edward Hunter (born in Louisiana, January 1867), a carpenter by trade, and they were living at 2706 South Robertson Street, New Orleans, near where that street crossed Toledano Street.

Laura Hunter was formerly known as Eulalie Hécaud, and was either previously married to or lived with Paul Hécaud, one of the witnesses to the wedding of Louise Monette and William Mouton in 1894.

Jelly Roll described his godmother as very black and not a handsome woman, but very intelligent with a pleasant personality and plenty of money. She had a summer residence and a strawberry farm in Biloxi, and that is where Jelly Roll appears to have met the Johnson family, who resided there by 1900. It would be interesting to know Eulalie’s family name, and some of her background, as her parents were supposed to be from Cuba or Haiti. She and Ed Hunter went to California in 1919, quite possibly at Jelly Roll’s urging, and lived in the Los Angeles area for the rest of their lives. At the time of he 1920 U.S. Census, they were living at 537 Bark Street, San Antonio Township, Watts City in the County of Los Angeles. They owned the home they lived in, and it was free of mortgage. Both are listed as also speaking Spanish, and both their mothers were born in Cuba.
(U.S. Census 1920, California, Los Angeles County, SD8 ED567 Sheet 5B) It appears they had frequent contact with Anita Gonzales Ford and her family, but Anita was highly critical of Eulalie, calling her a “voodoo witch” when she was interviewed by Alan Lomax. [MJR 269]

MAMANITA AND THE MYSTERIOUS JOHNSONS

Anita Gonzales was the common law wife of Jelly Roll Morton for much of the period between 1917 and 1923 when he resided on the West Coast of America and Canada. Anita’s real name was Bessie Johnson, and the name “Anita Gonzales” was entirely an invention of her own. Although she variously described herself as a Mexican and a French Creole from New Orleans, she was, in fact, the only daughter among the seven surviving children of Hattie Johnson, an Alabama born mulatto.

The Johnson family is significant in jazz history because the eldest son, Bill Johnson, a fine bass player, organised The Original Creole Orchestra in 1912, and the youngest son, Dink Johnson, was the band’s drummer. The Original Creole Orchestra was the first New Orleans band to take jazz from its birthplace right across the nation.

The history of the Johnson family is clouded in both fantasy and in fiction. The Johnsons were, in a sense, people of their own invention, and the fiction has been difficult to separate from the fact. Some recent writers have had a once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue the facts vigorously, but have merely perpetrated the fantasies, and the selective amnesia of surviving family members. However, a dedicated trio of researchers (Lillian Stevenson of Oregon, Lawrence Gushee and myself), working independently but communicating regularly, have been able to establish previously unknown facts about the family, which now enables us to see through their pretensions, misrepresentations and deceit.

Much has been made of Anita’s business acumen, but the enterprise in the family began with her mother, Hattie Johnson, who was at various times mistress, mother, wife, cook, laundress, landowner and saloon keeper. Hattie Johnson, as far as we are able to ascertain, was born in Alabama in October 1858, but may have been born as early as 1853. She was almost certainly born into slavery, and there is circumstantial evidence that she was the daughter of Charles and Julia Jenkins, both mulattoes, of Crystal Springs and other places in Talladega County, Alabama. Charles Jenkins, born in 1825 in Virginia, was a blacksmith, or farrier as that occupation is sometimes called.

In his application for a Social Security Number, Bill Johnson declared that his mother’s maiden name was Hattie White and that his father’s name was William Johnson
(Letter from Lawrence Gushee, 19th March 2003), but we now know, from information in the 1880 United States Census, that those statements were not entirely correct. There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest that Bill was the son of Granville White, the white postmaster at Enon, in Bullock County, Alabama, after the Civil War, a former slaveholder, who was born in Georgia about 1800. The 1880 census information set out below is the first positive information we have of Hattie Johnson and her family.

Name (Sex Race)

Richard Johnson (M B)
Margaret Johnson (F B)
Dick Johnson (M B)
Hattie Johnson (F M)
Robert Johnson (M M)
James Johnson (M B)
Joseph Johnson (M B)
Willie White (M M)
Relationship

Head
Wife
Son
Daughter-in-law
Grandson
Son
Son
Grandson
Age

55
42
24
21
2
13
10
5
Occupation

Servant U.S. Court Room

Servant


At School

(U.S. Census 1880, Alabama, Montgomery County, Montgomery, 5th Ward, SD4 ED 130, page 49, Lines 36-43, household at Monroe Street, Montgomery, courtesy of Lillian Stevenson)

Hattie and Dick Johnson were not married at the time of the 1880 census, but were married in Montgomery, Alabama on 18th December 1882, a few months before their daughter Bessie Johnson (later known as Anita Gonzales) was born. (International Genealogical Index, as Hattie F. White and Richard G. Johnson, courtesy of Lillian Stevenson) Richard Johnson may have died about 1887, or the marriage ended at that time, for Hattie is listed in the Montgomery City Directory in 1887 as “Mrs. Hattie Johnson, 118 Church Street, Montgomery.” She is listed in the Birmingham, Alabama City Directory in 1890 as “Mrs. Hattie Johnson, Cook, 3rd Avenue corner 22nd Street, Birmingham.”

From Birmingham, the Johnsons appear to have gone to New Orleans. Lawrence Gushee advised that Bill Johnson, who was interviewed in Chicago in 1959 by a researcher, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke about growing up in New Orleans and living with his mother in the downtown area near Bayou St. John and Esplanade Avenue. An obituary of Anita’s youngest brother, Ollie (Dink) Johnson, described him as “one of eight children of a New Orleans undertaker.”
(Oregon Journal, Portland, 1st December 1954) The information for the obituary was supplied by Dink’s brother, David (Tunney) Johnson, so it might be that Hattie was living with an undertaker in New Orleans in the early to late 1890s, before moving on to Biloxi in 1898 or 1899. Professor Gushee has suggested that this might refer to Nathaniel Rhodes, a Biloxi undertaker, probably a relation of Duplin Rhodes who conducted a successful funeral business among the black community from Perdido Street in New Orleans. A search of the 1880 census records for Louisiana indicates that Duplin and Nathaniel Rhodes were brothers. Hattie’s partner was more likely to be Duplin (born about 1859) than Nathaniel (born in 1870). The census also indicates that Duplin Rhodes was married for the second time shortly before 1900, about the time Bill Johnson said that Hattie and her family moved to Biloxi, Mississippi.

The entry for the Johnson family in the 1900 census caught the family almost at full strength, except that Martin Johnson (born in January 1890), the third youngest child, was absent on the enumeration date, and was not recorded in the census for Mississippi.

Name (Sex Race)

Hattie Johnson (F B)
Willie Johnson (M B)
Robert Johnson (M B)
Bessie Johnson (F B)
James Johnson (M B)
David Johnson (M B)
Ollie Johnson (M B)
Relationship

Head
Son
Son
Daughter
Son
Son
Son
Born

October 1860
August 1876
November 1880
April 1883
September 1887
October 1890
January 1892
Occupation

Laundress
Musician
At School
At School
At School

(U.S. Census 1900, Mississippi, Harrison County, Biloxi, Beat 1, SD6 ED23, Sheet 9A, Lines 2-8, household at Deloney Street, Biloxi)

The information above raises the issues of, firstly, who was the father of the Johnson children, and, secondly, their ethnicity. Bill, the eldest, was very light in colour, and his father was almost certainly white (probably Granville White, mentioned above). Robert, Anita and James were the children of Richard Johnson who is listed in the 1880 census as black, which may mean that he was entirely of African blood or at least three quarters African blood. Hattie (listed as a mulatto in the 1880 census) was a quadroon or octoroon so Robert, Anita and James were at the most half white but more probably only three eighths white. The three youngest children, Martin, David and Ollie (Dink) appear to be the children of a different father again, ostensibly “the New Orleans undertaker” mentioned in Dink’s obituary. I have collected the Vital Statistics of the members of the family, and have set them out in the box below:

Members of the Johnson Family



Born


Died

Hattie Johnson

October 1858, Alabama
(U.S.C. 1880)

?



Born


Died

William Manuel (Bill) Johnson

10th August 1874, Talladega, Alabama
(U.S.C. 1880, Social Security Death Index)

3rd December 1972, New Braunfels, Texas
(Texas Death Index, Social Security Death Index)



Born


Died

Robert E. Johnson

November 1877, Montgomery Alabama
(U.S.C. 1880)

6th June 1967, Portland, Oregon
(Oregon Death Index)



Born


Died

Bessie Johnson (Anita Gonzales, Anita Julia Ford)

13th April 1883, Montgomery, Alabama
(U.S.C. 1900)

24th April 1952, Los Angeles, California
(California Death Certificate)



Born


Died

James (Bookie) Johnson

September 1887, Montgomery, Alabama
(U.S.C. 1900)

?



Born


Died

Martin B. Johnson

28th January 1890, Birmingham, Alabama or New Orleans, Louisiana
(World War I Civilian Draft Registrations)

11th December 1965, Portland, Oregon
(Oregon Death Index)



Born


Died

Tunney David Johnson

October 1890, Birmingham, Alabama or New Orleans, Louisiana
(U.S.C. 1900)

10th May 1960, Portland, Oregon
(Oregon Death Index)



Born


Died

Ollie (Dink) Johnson

28th October 1892, Birmingham, Alabama or New Orleans, Louisiana
(Kernfeld-Grove)

29th November 1954, Portland, Oregon
(Oregon Death Index)

The first decade of the new century was a critical period for Anita and the rest of her family. About 1903, she married Fred Seymour (also spelled Seymore, Seymoure) in Biloxi, Mississippi, a local fireman in a sawmill. Seymour and his twin brother Edward (or Eddie) were born in Mississippi in December 1878, the youngest children of Reyan (born 1834) and Caroline (born 1851) Seymour, both mulattoes. (U.S. Census 1880, Mississippi, Harrison County, Biloxi, SD2 ED140, Sheet 36) Fred Seymour had previously married Mary Gilchrist in Harrison County on 27th January 1897, but the marriage did not last long. His marital status was listed as “divorced” in the 1900 U.S. Census. (U.S. Census 1900, Mississippi, Harrison County, Biloxi, SD6 ED31, Sheet 19B) I could not find any marriage records for Anita and Fred, and it is not known whether they were legally married or merely lived in a common law relationship.

Whatever the situation, Anita gave birth to a daughter, Hattie Seymour, on 14th March 1904.
(Social Security Death Index, California Death Index 1940-1997, as Hattie Huetter Eysaman) Hattie Seymour died on 28th January 1992, a few weeks before her 88th birthday. One of Hattie’s daughters indicated in a letter to a nephew (reported to Mike Meddings by the nephew) that Anita and Fred Seymour had ten children, but Hattie was the only surviving child. By the time of the 1910 census (15th April 1910), the Johnsons had begun their exodus from Mississippi to seek opportunities in less racially oppressive parts of the country.

Before she left Biloxi sometime prior to 1910, Anita met young Ferd Morton (or Mouton as he was probably still calling himself at that time), an event that was to change both their lives. Phil Pastras, in Dead Man Blues, puts the date of their meeting as early as 1901, or even 1900, but this is almost certainly incorrect.
[DMB 52] The date was undoubtedly after the death of Jelly Roll’s mother in May 1906, somewhere between 1907 and 1909, for Ed and Laura Hunter, his godparents, had moved to Biloxi by that time. Anita told Lomax in 1949 that she and Jelly Roll were sweethearts back in New Orleans, but this is another of her many fabrications, as there is no evidence of the Johnsons being in New Orleans as a family after 1899. The nature of their relationship at this time is not known, except for Anita’s statement to Lomax, and Jelly Roll may have been the cause of Anita leaving the Johnson and Seymour household before the time of the 1910 census.

Name (Sex Race)

Hattie Johnson (F M)
Fred Seymour (M M)
James Johnson (M M)
Martin Johnson (M M)
David Johnson (M M)
Ollie Johnson (M M)
Hattie Seymour (F M)
Relationship

Head
Son-in-law
Son
Son
Son
Son
Granddaughter
Age

43
31
23
20
19
18
5
Occupation

None
Saloon Proprietor
Fireman — Sawmill
Block Setter — Sawmill
Porter — Hotel
None
None

(U.S. Census 1910, Mississippi, Harrison County, Biloxi, 4th Ward, Beat 1, SD6 ED32, Sheet 11B, Lines 76-82, household at 735 Creousus Street, Biloxi, rented house)

Bill Johnson married Mattie Amus in April 1905, and was the first of the family to leave Mississippi, first going to New Orleans. He arrived in West Oakland, California in October 1909 where he ran a cigar store for a period of time. (Letter from Lawrence Gushee, dated 21st March 2003) It is quite probable that Anita followed him there, and this is where she adopted the name of Anita Gonzales. Bill also claimed in the 1959 interview that he attended the Jack Johnson v. Jim Jeffries World Heavyweight Championship fight in Reno, Nevada on 4th July 1910, an event which upset the racial sensitivities of early 20th century America. Johnson, the 32 year old black Heavyweight Champion, toyed with his taller and heavier opponent, a 35 year old white former Champion who had retired undefeated in 1905, and gave him a merciless beating for 15 rounds of the scheduled 45 round fight. Jeffries’ manager and trainer were forced to throw in the towel after the gallant but outclassed challenger had been knocked down three times in the 15th round.

Anita bought the Arcade Saloon in First Street in the then frontier town of Las Vegas, Nevada sometime about 1911, or earlier. That she was there by 1911 is confirmed by an interview on 12 November 1950 with her youngest brother, Dink Johnson, the text of which is held in the Hogan Jazz Archive of Tulane University, New Orleans. Dink said that he had gone to Las Vegas to help Anita when he was about 19 years old (that is, sometime in 1911 or 1912). There was a bordello attached to the saloon, but it is not known whether Anita also ran this part of the business. Whatever the fact of the matter, Anita ran the saloon very successfully until about 1917 when Jelly Roll arrived on the West Coast. Before that time her mother, Hattie Johnson, and some of her brothers (Martin, and probably Robert and Tunney Johnson) had also moved to California.

When Jelly Roll arrived in Los Angeles, he played in the Black and Tan Orchestra at the Cadillac Café with Dink Johnson on drums. Dink refused to tell him where Anita was, but he ran into Hattie Johnson in Los Angeles, and she got in touch with Anita in Las Vegas. Anita came to Los Angeles, and she and Jelly Roll lived together in a stormy common law relationship from late in 1917 or early in 1918, until shortly before he left the West Coast for Chicago in 1923. Jelly Roll’s elder sister, Amède Colas, asserted categorically that Jelly Roll was never married to Anita.
(letter from Roger Richard)

At first they lived in Las Vegas, but Anita turned the business over to Dink Johnson, and she and Jelly Roll moved back to Los Angeles where they ran the Anita Hotel in Central Avenue (near Twelfth Street) which was more likely a bordello than a hotel. The “hotel” was not a financial success and Anita blamed Jelly Roll for its failure. She said he was very jealous and would not let her do anything so they had to rely on hired help. [MJR 177-178] However, Jelly Roll had an entirely different story, and the boot may well have been on the other foot. Lawrence Gushee’s transcript of the materials at the Library of Congress dictated by Jelly Roll reads: “Anita was very jealous and sold to Blondie Robinson. Anything you offer — sold for $400.” (Letter from Lawrence Gushee, dated 4th April 2003) Readers may be forgiven for thinking that the name “Blondie Robinson” was more fitting for a Madam than a hotel proprietor.

After the hotel fiasco, their relationship cooled for a time, and Anita went to Jerome, Arizona, (incorrectly referred to as “Teroma” in Dead Man Blues) in 1918 to open a restaurant. Not many months later, they resumed their relationship and opened a nightclub in San Francisco called “The Jupiter,” which was located on Columbus Avenue, between Pacific and Jackson. After “The Jupiter” folded, Anita travelled with Jelly Roll to various band engagements along the length of the West Coast from San Francisco to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and back to San Diego, California. They were in Vancouver from about September 1919 to July 1920, and that appears to be the reason they were not recorded in the 1920 United States Census.

By the end of 1922 or early 1923 the relationship had cooled considerably, and Jelly Roll went to Chicago in April 1923, ostensibly to protect his interests in his popular composition The Wolverines, which the Spikes Brothers had written words to and sold to Melrose Bros. Music for publication in Chicago as Wolverine Blues by Spikes, Morton and Spikes. It has never been disclosed what Anita did when the break with Jelly Roll finally came. When interviewed by Lomax in 1949, she was very coy about the matter, but we have now discovered that she went back to Jerome, Arizona, a copper mining boom town of the period, 100 or so miles north of Phoenix, to operate a boarding house, or at least that is what was later said.

According to the New York Sun of 5th February 1903, Jerome was “the wickedest town in the State,” a hotbed for gambling, prostitution, alcohol, drug abuse, and other vices associated with the baser side of human nature. Its population grew from 2,500 in 1915 to over 15,000 by the late 1920s. The town must have been as colourful and as tough as the language used to describe it: “As the 20th century grew older, Jerome became an around the clock town boasting 13 hotels, 21 bars and 8 houses of prostitution, with names like ‘The Cuban Queen,’ and the less elegant ‘Cribs.’ Belgian Jenny, the honky tonk queen of the houses of light love, was Jerome’s most famous Madam.” There is no doubt that Anita would have been equal to both the place and the occasion.

The star boarder at Anita’s boarding house was none other than a copper miner by the name of Jack Ford. John Francis (Jack) Ford was born in Wyoming on 22nd September 1892
(California Deaths Index 1940-1997), the son of an Irish immigrant father and a mother born in Nebraska. Little is known of Jack’s early years but he was intensely proud of his Irish heritage. He told the census enumerator in 1930 that his father was born in the Irish Free State, which was not strictly correct. The country made up of 26 of the 32 counties in Ireland only came into existence on 16th December 1921, when the Irish peace agreement was signed in London to conclude the Anglo Irish War.

The first documentary evidence we have of Jack Ford is in the 1920 United States Census, which found him in the mining town of Miami, Arizona, about 50 miles east of Phoenix.

Name (Sex Race)

John F. Ford (M W)
Vera G. Ford (F W)
Relationship

Head
Wife
Age

27
27
Occupation

Miner — Copper Mine
Housewife

(U.S. Census 1920, Arizona, Gila County, 4th Precinct, Miami township, SD2 ED48, Sheet 1A, Lines 13 and 14, household at Cottonwood Avenue, owned free of debt, Census date 1st January 1920, enumerated 3rd to 5th January 1920)

In Jerome, Jack and Anita befriended a Mexican saloon-keeper and his wife, referred to in Dead Man Blues by the name of “Villalapando.” [DMB 37-38] A search of the 1920 U.S. Census for Yavapai County, Arizona, where Jerome is situated, shows that the surname should be “Villalpando,” an old and relatively common name among the Spanish Mexicans there. The couple were Francisco and Guadalupe Villalpando, (The Oregonian, 6th March 1996, obituary of Henry V. Ford) but they are not listed in Arizona in the 1920 Census. They had a number of children including a son, Enrique, who was born in Jerome on 15th August 1923 and later became known as Henry Ford.

Francisco Villalpando was said to have been the Mayor of Jerome. He was killed in a wild brawl in his saloon sometime in 1924, and his wife died soon afterwards. It is not clear what the relationship between Jack and Anita and the Villalpandos was, but Anita did not want to see Henry (Enrique) become a ward of the State after the death of his parents, so she and Jack took Henry and left Jerome as quickly as they could. They arrived in Canyonville, Oregon in 1924 when Henry was about one year old and told everyone that Henry was their son.
(Letter to the author, dated 8th April 2003 from Lillian Stevenson) Henry was not aware that he was adopted by Jack and Anita, and not their natural son, until after Jack’s death.

This date is different from that contained in Henry Ford’s obituary, mentioned above, which gave 1927 as the date of their arrival in Canyonville. Be that as it may, Jack and Anita bought a seven-acre property with an old house on it from a local prune grower and his wife, William and Clara Willis. The property was located about 2 miles north of Canyonville on the old Pacific Highway 99 to Portland, and had a frontage to the South Umpqua River. The title deed to the property was not transferred to Jack and Anita until 8th May 1941, which indicates that they were paying off the purchase price during the period from 1924 to 1941.
(Copy of entry in the Deed Book in the County Courthouse at Roseburg sent to the author by Lillian Stevenson) Ford’s Restaurant was opened in 1927, and by 1928 Jack had established a garage and service station, selling gasoline under an agreement with the Standard Oil Company of California.

Name (Sex Race)

John F. Ford (M W)
Anita Ford (F Mex)
Henry Ford (M Mex)
Relationship

Head
Wife
Son
Age

36
36
5
Occupation

Proprietor — Service Station
None
None

(U.S. Census 1930, Oregon, Douglas County, Canyonville Election Precinct, SD6 ED10-17, Sheet 1A, Lines 1 to 3, Census date 1st April 1930, enumerated 7th to 9th April 1930, service station/residence owned by the head of the family with a value of $10,000 at the date of the Census)

Life in Canyonville must have been near idyllic for the Ford family. They were hard working, successful in their business, and well respected by the local community. Jack is remembered as a happy-go-lucky person with a string of amusing Irish stories, while Henry is remembered as very popular, a good athlete, a pampered son with a lead foot, and an eye for the ladies. Anita, however, was always referred to as “Mrs Ford,” very close with a dollar, and held in awe by the younger people. She told a number of stories about her origins. At various times, she said she was a French Creole from New Orleans, a Mexican, an opera singer, and had been on the stage in both New York and San Francisco. There is no doubt that she led the locals a merry chase.

It is interesting to read the recollections of Canyonville residents about the Fords, even after the passage of some 50 or 60 years:

“Now, about Anita and Jack Ford. Considering that it has been about 60 years, give or take a few years, since I saw them, I’m not sure how much help I will be. I remember Jack Ford as being of average size - average height and average weight. He always seemed to be in good humor. Mrs. Ford (we were taught to be respectful to our elders in those days) had a matronly build, and probably of average height. She wore quite a bit of make-up, but I didn’t realise that perhaps it was to make her look lighter skinned. They were both taken for granted in the area — no one that I knew of considered them to be different or ‘foreign.’ The only thing that I considered to be a bit intriguing about Anita was that she would come into the phone company office, where there was the only public phone in town, and make phone calls to Los Angeles. I always thought that was a bit strange since I knew there was a phone in Ford’s Café. (Letter to the author, dated 21st March 2003)

“ . . . Anita had quite a temper, and had definite ideas as to how she wanted things done. But, contrary to what many people thought, Jack Ford wasn’t a ‘door mat’ — he would take just so much from Anita and no more.”
(Letter to the author, dated 6th April 2003)

Phil Pastras in Dead Man Blues [DMB 38-39)] made much of Anita passing for white, perhaps even as far back as 1910. With this in mind, I sought independent evidence to the question of whether she could have passed for white. The text of the two responses I got from residents of Canyonville is set out below:

“As for Anita - I don’t see how she could have ever passed for white. Her skin was darkish, and her features were tending to the Negroid. I am sure that everyone around here thought she was ‘Negro’ in spite of what she said about her roots. . . . But everyone accepted them as they were.” (Letter to the author, dated 21st March 2003)

“I also notice that it, that is, the book Jelly’s Blues, mentioned Anita’s ‘golden skin.’ Perhaps her skin was golden when she was young, but it certainly wasn’t golden when she lived in this area. I remember it being more of an ashy color (not ashen). Sort of a gray color. But that may have been from all the powder she wore. (I still don’t see how she could possibly have passed for white).”
(Letter to the author, dated 4th June 2003)

The above information clearly indicates that Anita could not have passed for white, and the photographs published of her certainly support this view. What did happen is that she was the wife of a white man, who was well-liked and accepted for his good humour and happy-go-lucky attitude towards life, and no one questioned her ethnic origins. She may have passed for a non-Spanish Mexican, but even that has a strong element of doubt attached to it.

Ford’s Restaurant continued to be very successful, and was a major attraction in the area with diners coming from considerable distances to enjoy Anita’s fine cooking and the ambience of the place. The restaurant was in the old house on the property right on the highway and the living quarters were in the back of the restaurant next to the kitchen. For those who cared to notice after mid-1941, Jelly Roll’s long, sleek black Cadillac was parked at the rear of the restaurant, maintained in immaculate condition by Jack Ford. The height of their success came when Duncan Hines gave the restaurant a citation in the 1946 edition of his Adventures in Good Eating.

Sometime in the 1940s, Jack and Anita bought a motel and seven acres of land at the bottom of Topanga Canyon, next to Malibu in southern California. About 1947, they handed the restaurant over to Henry who, by this time, had married Betty Covey, a girl from Salem, Oregon. They went to Topanga Canyon to run the Topanga Court Motor Inn where they remained for the rest of their lives. The Ford’s Restaurant property was resumed by the government in 1953 for the construction of Interstate Highway 5. Henry moved to Portland with his second wife, Jeanne Grensky, to establish another restaurant there, which he ran with the help of his sons Mike (from his first marriage) and Brian (from his second marriage). He died from cancer of the larynx on 1st March 1996.

When Jelly Roll, very sick and prematurely aged, went to Los Angeles in November 1940, he resumed his friendship with Anita, presumably with Jack Ford’s agreement, and she lent him money to get through a difficult period. In the result, she became the principle beneficiary in Jelly Roll’s controversial will, made little more than a week before his death on 10th July 1941. She was the informant on his death certificate and arranged his funeral, claiming to be Mrs. Morton. Despite her apparent grief, she filed a Creditors Claim against the Morton estate on 15th August 1941 for $538.00 owed to her.

Anita died in Los Angeles on 24th April 1952 of a coronary occlusion due to arteriosclerotic hypertensive heart disease. Jack Ford continued to live on at the Topanga Court Motor Inn until his death from a heart attack on 31st July 1956.

Although she was engrossed in her business activities, Anita did not abandon her natural daughter, Hattie Seymour, and Hattie’s two daughters. She kept in regular contact with them and gave them financial assistance when she considered they needed it. Not much is known of Hattie Seymour, but she ultimately became the executrix of the Morton estate, when she was known by the name of Hattie Holloway.

Perhaps it is best to let Harold Drob (1923-1997), a minor jazz entrepreneur in the late 1940s and 1950s, have the last word on Mamanita. Drob had become very friendly with Anita and her brother, Dink Johnson, and the following is a colourful extract from a 1969 interview by William Russell:

“In the Spring of 1947, I was living in Los Angeles and, with a friend, Charlie Mordecai, often went to Dink’s Place, which was on Avalon. Well, one night we met Dink’s sister out there - Anita Gonzales, Jelly Roll’s widow. I never saw Mr. Ford, to whom Anita was married. She was with Jelly’s nephew, Gene Colas, who looked just like Jelly. So his Aunt Anita was very sweet on him. While we were there she bought us some drinks and paid Dink with a twenty-dollar bill. I remember he said, ‘I can’t cash it.’ So Anita said, ‘Well, we’ll come back later and I want my change.’ Then she took us to dinner at Ivy Anderson’s Steak House and afterwards we went back looking for Dink, to get the change from her twenty-dollar bill, but he had closed the place up.

“Anita was a very buxom woman. At the time she was about fifty years old, but very good looking and seemed very well. She looked like a real whore-house madam, with a lot of diamonds — a big diamond around her neck, diamonds all over her fingers. Anita was very friendly and nice, and invited me to come up to her motel in Canyon(ville), Oregon at anytime and stay as long as I pleased.”
[OMJ 538]

MABEL BERTRAND

Mabel Bertrand was the other person whose love and dedication to Jelly Roll was unstinting. She had quite a successful career in vaudeville herself and travelled widely with her partner, Billy Arnte, in the south and mid west, which she recounted for Alan Lomax in Mister Jelly Roll. She said her father was French and practised as a doctor in Rampart Street, New Orleans at the turn of the last century.

Whether Mabel was actually married to Billy Arnte is not known, and it is still unclear whether she actually married Jelly Roll in Gary, Indiana in November 1928, as she claimed. Jelly Roll wrote to Mabel from Los Angeles on 30th November 1940, and stated at the end of his letter — “I never told anyone you wasn’t my wife.”
[MJR 254]  In all probability, this meant that Mabel was not his wife, but he had not told anyone that she was not.

Postscript

Information about Mabel Bertrand Morton has been difficult to find, to say the very least. Nevertheless our search for documented information has continued over recent years, and we have had some success, the results of which we present in the form of the following Ancestry and Chronology:

Mabel Bertrand Ancestry and Chronology




Born


Died


Father



Mother

Mabel Bertrand (also known as Mary Lewis, Mabel Stein, Mabel Stine, Mabel Arnte, Mary Bertrand Morton, and Mary Morton)

22nd December 1888, New Orleans, Louisiana


7th November 1969, New York City, New York


probably Pierre Auguste Bertrand (1853 or 1860-1890), white, son of Pierre Auguste Bertrand and Marguerite Rapp. Mabel described her father as Doctor Bertrand, of Rampart Street, New Orleans.
(Alan Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll at pp 202-203)

Louisa Lewis (1865-1905), mulatto and part Shawnee Indian
(Mary Bertrand Morton, Application for Social Security Number, 29th April 1943, Alan Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll at pp 202-203)

1842




1851




1853



1860







1861





1865

New Orleans City Directory
Name:  P. Auguste Bertrand (probably Mabel’s paternal grandfather)
Occupation:  Apothecary
Address:  199 Royal Street

New Orleans City Directory
Name:  P. A. Bertrand (probably Mabel’s paternal grandfather)
Occupation:  Chemist and druggist
Address:  Corner Royal and Bienville Streets

Alternate birth date of Mabel’s father, Pierre Auguste Bertrand, 29th August 1853
(see 1880 U.S. Census entry and Death Certificate in 1890)
See entry for 1860 below:

Birth certificate issued in Orleans Parish
Name:  Pierre A. Bertrand    Male    White
Father:  Pierre A. Bertrand
Mother:  Marguerite Rapp
Date of birth:  29th August 1860
Place of birth:  New Orleans

(Orleans Parish Birth Records, Volume 28, page 218, index entry)

New Orleans City Directory
Name:  P. A. Bertrand (probably Mabel’s paternal grandfather)
Occupation:  Chemist
Address:  20 Louisa Street
Residence:  61 Clouet Street

Birth year of Mabel’s mother, Louisa Lewis    Female    Colored
Age 40 shown on her death certificate in 1905

(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 136, page 1129)

Mabel told Alan Lomax that her father died when she was very young and she was put into boarding school until she was fifteen (that is, about 1903). She then said her mother died two years later (that is, 1905) and left her all alone in the world. (Alan Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll at page 203)

1880                                U.S. Census (1st June 1880) entry for the Bertrand family in New Orleans

Adolph Rapp
Marguerite Bertrand
August Bertrand
Louise Konnegar
Head
sister
nephew
niece
M W
F W
M W
F W
 age 55
       58
       28
       48
Clerk in store
Keeps house
Works in Drug Store

born La
born La
born La

(1880 U.S. Census as at 1st June 1880, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, ED59 SD1, page 4, residence at 144 Urquhart Street (old numbering), enumerated 2nd June 1880)

Note that in 1880, the Péché and Monette families lived across the street at 153-155 Urquhart Street (old numbering).

1888


1890

Mabel Bertrand born in New Orleans on 22nd December 1888, probably with a birth name of Mary Bertrand.
(Application for Social Security Number, 29th February 1943, by Mary Bertrand Morton)

Soards’ New Orleans City Directory
Name:  Pierre A. Bertrand
Occupation:  Druggist
Address:  20½ Annette Street

Annette Street runs into St. Bernard Avenue just above where St. Bernard Avenue joins North Rampart Street. Pierre Bertrand’s address was only a very short distance from Rampart Street where Mabel said he had his “doctor’s office.” The occupation of chemist, apothecary, and druggist, at that time in the early days of the modern medical profession, is consistent with Pierre Auguste Bertrand being referred to as “Doctor.”

Although Mabel said her father’s name was Louis Bertrand, she could scarcely have remembered him, and can be forgiven for not remembering his Christian name, especially as her mother died when she was barely seventeen.

21st June 1890








14th December 1905







1910

Death certificate of Pierre Bertrand
Deceased:  P. A. Bertrand  Male  White
Age:  36 years 10 months
Date of death:  21st June 1890
Place of death:  20½ Annette Street, New Orleans
Cause of death:  Cerebro Spinal Sclerosis (Exhaustive)
Certificate of Dr. J. N. Charbonnet

(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 97, page 459, from certified copy of Certificate)


Death of Mabel’s mother in New Orleans
Deceased:  Louisa Lewis  Female  Colored
Age:  40 years
Date of death:  14th December 1905
Place of death:  New Orleans

(Orleans Parish Death Records, Volume 136, page 1129, from index entry)
Refer back to entry in 1865 (birth of her mother)

1910 U.S. Census (15th April 1910) entry for Mary Lewis, Female Black and single.

This may be Mabel, although we cannot be sure, but it is at least a possibility. Mary Lewis was one of two lodgers in the residence of Houston Cross and his wife, Louvina, at 1331 Gravier Street, New Orleans. Her occupation was listed as cook for a private family, and her age was given as twenty two. She was born in Louisiana, and so were both her parents. (1910 U.S. Census, Louisiana, Orleans Parish, 3rd Ward, Precinct 2, SD1 ED31, Sheet 7A, Line 9, residence at 1331 Gravier Street, New Orleans)

1914 Entry in Blue Book circa 1914 edition for Mabel Stein.
Bordello at 1426 Iberville (formerly Customhouse) Street in Storyville.

Somewhere between North Liberty and Villere, or maybe between North Liberty and Marais. Small “houses” with one to three “boarders” or "girls," as Jelly Roll called them. Interestingly, 1426 Iberville was run by a Mary Yokohama, supposedly born in Japan, at the time of the 1910 U.S. Census. Both Harrison Smith and Willie (The Lion) Smith commented that Mabel looked rather Japanese in appearance, quite possibly as a result of the admixture of French Caucasian, African and Native Indian blood.

1916




1917



12th September 1918

Began career in vaudeville with Billy Arnte as her stage partner, not 1906 as she told Alan Lomax. They worked together until about 1922, but see Mabel’s version of the story in Mister Jelly Roll at pp 203-204. There are many notices in The Indianapolis Freeman of their various appearances, and also a photograph of Mabel and Billy in a 1920 edition.

The Chicago Defender, dated 29th September 1917. An item noted that “Billy Arnte and Mabel Stine were stopping over in Louisville, Kentucky for a few days. Mail will reach them, care Billy Arnte’s Dixieland Show, Bowling Green, Kentucky.”

World War I Draft Card for Billy Arnte.
(courtesy of Millie Gaddini)

Billy Arnte was travelling for a vaudeville show organised by Rubin & Cherry, and they were performing in Greenville, South Carolina at the time he registered for the draft. He claimed he was born on 9th February 1877, although he may have been born as early as 1869. His permanent home address was listed as Indianapolis, Indiana and his nearest relative was given as Mabel Arnte.

1920


1922


1927




1928

The Chicago Defender, dated 4th September 1920, page 5. “Billy Arnte and Mabel Stine were headliners at the Lincoln Theater during the past week, prior to their opening on the Ontario circuit.”

The Chicago Defender, dated 27th May 1922. Mabel Stein was recorded as playing in a show at the Lincoln Theater in Baltimore.

The Chicago Defender, dated 17th September 1927 and 24th September 1927. Mabel Stein had a minor role in Johnnie Lee Long’s production of “Dixiana.” The show opened at the Lincoln Theater, New York City on 8th August, the Koppin Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 5th September, and toured the TOBA Circuit. The show played at the Douglass Theatre in Macon, Georgia on 7th February 1928.

Mabel commenced to live with Jelly Roll in Chicago, Kansas City and then New York. She claimed that she married Jelly in Gary, Indiana in November 1928.
(see Mister Jelly Roll at pp 204-206 and p 207)

Jelly Roll’s sister, Amède Colas, categorically said that he never married anyone. (letter from Roger Richard)

1930




29th April 1943








1944















1949

7th November 1969

U.S. Census (1st April 1930) entry for Mabel Morten (line 7) and Frederick Morten (line 10) in a lodging house at 119 117th Street, New York. Mabel’s occupation was listed as “Actor—Theater,” and her age as 28. (1930 US Census, New York, New York, 17th Assembly district, Block I, SD23 ED 31-792, Sheet 12A, boarding house at 119 117th Street, New York)

Application for a Social Security Number
(copy of application)
Name:  Mary Bertrand Morton
Address:  262 West 133rd Street, New York City
Father:  Lewis Bertrand
Mother:  Louisa Lewis
Date of birth:  22nd December 1888
SSN 073-20-6957

Mabel made a claim in the Superior Court in the county of Los Angeles “to be declared the surviving spouse and as such an heir of the Estate of Ferdinand J. Morton also known as Ferd J. Morton, Deceased.” The court issued a Citation dated 19th June 1944 to Mabel to appear before the Judge of the Court on Monday, 17th July 1944. According to the AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE OF CITATION, the process server received the Citation on 10th July 1944 and served it on Mabel on 13th July 1944.

There is no indication where service was effected, whether it was in Los Angeles, New York or elsewhere. In the event, Mabel did not appear at the court hearing on 17th July 1944. On 13th October 1944, Judge Thomas Gould of the Superior Court ordered that the Citation be discharged, leaving the bequests under the will undisturbed.
(Phil Pastras. Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001, at pp 203-204)

Dave Stuart, the former owner of the Jazz Man Record Shop in Los Angeles, said in 1969, in an interview with William Russell, that Mabel was in Los Angeles in 1944 and he lent her the scrapbooks Jelly Roll had given him in 1940 or 1941. Stuart said she never returned them.

Interviewed by Alan Lomax.
(see Mister Jelly Roll at pp 201-222)

Death Certificate for Mary Morton
(from copy of Death Certificate)
Deceased:  Mary Morton
Date of death:  7th November 1969 at 1.30 pm
Place of death:  Apartment # 6, 315 West 113th Street, New York City
Usual residence:  as above
Cause of death:  Natural causes
Date of birth:  25th December 1887
Birthplace:  New Orleans, La.
Name of father and mother were left blank
Informant:  Cora Washington, a friend, of 315 West 113th Street, NYC
Buried at Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens, New York on 10th November 1969

Social Security Death Index entry
Name:  Mary Morton
SSN:  073-20-6957
Date of birth:  23rd December 1888
Date of death:  November 1969
Death State:  New York
Last known residence:  New York, New York 10027

© December 2007 Prof. Lawrence Gushee and Peter Hanley

CONCLUSION

An examination of the available records on Morton’s ancestry indicates that the information in the records is often inconsistent and often confusing. These inconsistencies do not necessarily indicate evasiveness or deception by Jelly Roll’s ancestors, but rather that birthdays and exact age were not an important part of their culture. They were, with few exceptions, either illiterate or scarcely literate, and can be forgiven for lacking the preciseness about these matters that we, as a more affluent but less creative society, expect today. Nevertheless, we are left with the fact that the Morton ancestors lived in what appears to be an almost marriageless society and they were, in the main, a Creole society closed to outsiders. This, in many ways, explains Jelly Roll’s Creole attitude on most matters which so upset the musicians, publishers and promoters he had to deal with in Chicago, New York and other places in the eastern states. It was an attitude which he was unable to change because it had most likely been the attitude of his ancestors for many generations.

What I have attempted to do is to bring all the available primary and secondary sources together to present a larger picture, with all the inconsistencies intact, but with a precise reference to the source material. It is my hope that this will stimulate further research, so that many of the inconsistencies and contradictions may ultimately be resolved.

© 2002 Peter Hanley

APPENDICES

    A  —  Explanation of terms used

    B  —  Alphabetical list of ancestors and relatives of Jelly Roll Morton

    C  —  Bibliography and References

APPENDIX A

Explanation of terms used








Father



















Mother









Paternal grandfather









Paternal grandmother









Maternal grandfather









Maternal grandmother



Paternal great-grandfather
   male side



Paternal great-grandmother
   male side



Paternal great-grandfather
   female side



Paternal great-grandmother
   female side



Maternal great-grandfather
   male side



Maternal great-grandmother
   male side



Maternal great-grandfather
   female side



Maternal great-grandmother
   female side

Paternal great-great-
   grandfather male side 1
Paternal great-great-
   grandmother male side 1

Paternal great-great-
   grandfather male side 2
Paternal great-great-
   grandmother male side 2

Paternal great-great-
   grandfather female side 1
Paternal great-great-
   grandmother female side 1

Paternal great-great-
   grandfather female side 2
Paternal great-great-
   grandmother female side 2

Maternal great-great-
   grandfather male side 1
Maternal great-great-
   grandmother male side 1

Maternal great-great-
   grandfather male side 2
Maternal great-great-
   grandmother male side 2

Maternal great-great-
   grandfather female side 1
Maternal great-great-
   grandmother female side 1

Maternal great-great-
   grandfather female side 2
Maternal great-great-
   grandmother female side 2

APPENDIX B

Alphabetical list of ancestors and relatives of Jelly Roll Morton

Name

Adams




Baudoin

Boulin

Bozant

Colas




Duplessis

Hardin



Haynes


Jailliot


Lamothe









Lamotte

Monette



















Morales







Mouton




Oliver


Péché










Pellas

Penn

Prats







Eliska (Marguerite)
Joseph
Laura
Viola (m. Haynes)

Félicie

Louise

Louise (née Colas)

Eugénie Amède (née Mouton)
Eugène Ernest
Ignace (Ennis)
Louise (m. Bozant)

Adélaïde

Eula
J. A.
Louise (née Monette)

Frank
Viola (née Adams)

Henriette (m. Lamothe)
Lorentine

Alice
André
Edward Joseph
Edward Joseph Jr.
Henriette (née Jailliot)
Isidore J.
Laura (m. Morales)
Martin Joseph
Olivia Mary (née Warnick)

André Martin

Arthur B.
August
August Jr.
Edouard
Elmo
Henry
Julien Joseph
Laura
Leonie
Lionel
Louise
Louise (née Boulin)
Louise (m. Hardin)
Nelusco (John)
Neville
Octavia (née Lavigne)
Philomène (née Poydras)
Pierre
Seymour J.

Adrienne
Alma
Estelle
Florestine
Henri
Laura (née Lamothe)
Paul

Eugénie Amède (m. Colas)
Frances (m. Oliver)
Louise (née Monette)
William

Frances (née Mouton)
J. P. (Dr.)

Aurélia (Amélia)
Charlesia (m. Prats)
Elina
Emile
Félicie
Henry H.
Hortense
Jean Baptiste
Laura (Eléonore)
Pierre

Aline

Marie

Charlesia (née Peche)
Inez
Joanne
John
Lillian
Marguerite
Born

1890
1840
1854
1888

1835

1810

1914

1897
1916
1892
1914

1803

1898
1875
1875

1882
1888

1843
   ?

1860
1817
1865
1898
1843
1899
1859
1836
1874

   ?

1882
1875
1903
   ?
1917
1874
1836
1854
1906
1904
1871
   ?
1875
   ?
   ?
1882
1858
1794
1885

1883
1877
1880
1886
1879
1859
1885

1897
1900
1871
1870

1900
   ?

1867
1881
1856
1859
1835
1873
1861
1803
1854
1831

1882

   ?

1881
1900
1915
1877
1898
1913
Comments

Half-sister of Louise Monette (JRM)
Step-grandfather, husband of Laura Monette
Grandmother (née Péché), known as Monette
Half-sister of Louise Monette (JRM)

Great-grandmother, wife of Pierre Péché

Mother of Julien Monette, wife of Pierre

Niece, daughter of Ignace and Amède Colas

Half-sister, wife of Ignace Colas
Nephew, son of Ignace and Amède
Husband of Amède
Niece, daughter of Ignace and Amède

Mother of Pierre Péché

Granddaughter of Julien and Philomène Monette
Son-in-law of Philomène Monette
Daughter of Julien and Philomène Monette

Husband of Viola Adams
Wife of Frank, half-sister of Louise Monette

Maiden name of Edward Lamothe’s mother
Father of Henriette Lamothe

Daughter of Martin Lamothe
Probably father of Martin Lamothe
Father
Half-brother, son of Edward and Olivia Lamothe
Mother of Edward Lamothe
Half-brother, son of Edward and Olivia Lamothe
Sister of Edward Lamothe
Grandfather, father of Edward Lamothe
Step-mother, wife of Edward Lamothe

Probably father of André Lamothe

Son of Julien and Philomène Monette
Brother of Louise Monette (JRM)
Son of August Monette
Half-brother of Julien Monette
Son of August Monette
Brother of Louise Monette
Father of Louise Monette
Grandmother, mistress of Julien Monette
Daughter of August Monette
Son of August Monette
Mother of Jelly Roll Morton
Mother of Julien Monette
Daughter of Julien and Philomène Monette
Brother of Louise Monette
Brother of Louise Monette
Wife of August Monette
Wife of Julien Monette
Father of Julien Monette
Son of Julien and Philomène Monette

Niece of Edward Lamothe
Niece of Edward Lamothe
Niece of Edward Lamothe
Niece of Edward Lamothe
Nephew of Edward Lamothe
Sister of Edward Lamothe
Nephew of Edward Lamothe

Half-sister, later wife of Ignace Colas
Half-sister later wife of Dr. J. P. Oliver
Mother
Step-father

Half-sister, wife of Dr. J. P. Oliver
Brother-in-law, husband of Frances Mouton

Daughter of Pierre and Félicie Péché
Daughter of Emile Péché
Daughter of Pierre and Félicie Péché
Son of Pierre and Félicie Péché
Great grandmother
Son of Emile Péché
Daughter of Pierre and Félicie Péché
Father of Pierre Péché
Grandmother
Great grandfather (?), husband of Félicie Péché

Adopted daughter of Emile Péché

Mother of Henriette Lamothe (née Jailliot)

Daughter of Emile Péché
Daughter of John and Charlesia Prats
Daughter of John and Charlesia Prats
Son-in-law of Emile Péché, husband of Charlesia
Daughter of John and Charlesia Prats
Daughter of John and Charlesia Prats

APPENDIX C

Bibliography and References

Primary Sources

•    California Deaths 1940-1997.

•    Certificate of Baptism, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 1802 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana for Ferdinand Joseph Lemott.

•    Certificate of Death, State of California, Public Health Department, Vital Records for Anita Julia Ford.

•    Certificate of Death, State of California, Public Health Department, Vital Records for Laura Hunter.

•    Certificate of Death, State of California, Public Health Department, Vital Records for Ferdinand Morton.

•    Civil War Pension Application 682,471 dated 27 August 1898.

•    Civil War Pension Index.

•    Civil War Service Records.

•    Louisiana Confederate Soldiers.

•    Louisiana Land Records.

•    L.M.I. — Louisiana Marriage Index 1718—1925.

•    Marriage Certificate, State of Louisiana, Orleans Parish for William Mouton and Louisa Monette.

•    Soards New Orleans City Directories for 1890 and 1891.

•    Social Security Death Index.

•    U.S.C. 1810 — Third Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1820 — Fourth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1830 — Fifth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1840 — Sixth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1850 — Seventh Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1860 — Eighth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1870 — Ninth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1880 — Tenth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1900 — Twelfth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1910 — Thirteenth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1920 — Fourteenth Census of the United States.

•    U.S.C. 1930 — Fifteenth Census of the United States.

Note that U.S.C. 1890, the Eleventh Census of the United States, was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1921, thus removing an important link in researching information on early jazz musicians and their families.

Note also that “ED” stands for Enumeration District and “SD” stands for Supervisor’s District in Census records.

Secondary sources

APCJRM

Lawrence Gushee — A Preliminary Chronology of the Early Career of Ferd (Jelly Roll) Morton, American Music Volume iii, pp 389—412.

DMB

Dead Man Blues : Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West — Phil Pastras, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2001, 246 pp.

FL1999

Eric Foner — Freedom’s Lawmakers, Louisiana State University, (softcover), revised edition, 1999, 336 pp.

Genealogy.com — Message Boards.

Mexican Visa — dated 7th October 1921, courtesy of HNOC.

MJR

Mister Jelly Roll — Alan Lomax, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1950. Page references are to the University of California Press 4th edition 2001, (Soft Cover) 344 pp.

MJRLG

Lawrence Gushee — Afterword to Mister Jelly Roll as above, pp 317—339.

MSS

Monrovia Sound Studio — Jelly Roll Morton Website.

OMJ

Oh, Mister Jelly — A Jelly Roll Morton Scrapbook, compiled by William Russell, Jazz Media ApS, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1999, 720 pp.

WYBFM

Lawrence Gushee — Would You Believe Ferman Mouton? Storyville Magazine, Issue 95, June—July 1981, pp 164—168.

Soards — New Orleans City Directories for 1890 and 1891.

JHAM

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns — Jazz: A History of America’s Music, Alfred A. Knopf Inc, New York, 2000, 489 pp.


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