Saturday, November 27, 2010

COG 100: There's One in Every Family

The topic for the 100th Carnival of Genealogy is "there's one in every family." One what, you ask? Well, it's up to each blogger to individually interpret and answer that question.

I'm always drawn to tall tales in family history: gossip about minor crimes, moonshiners, supposed ties to famous people, and the like. Everybody seems to have a tale, yet no one can provide a source for the information. They just heard the details as they were passed down through generations.

My own family has it's share of said lore. However, in researching our history, I noticed that many of the tall tales seem to be tied to the same ancestor. Moreover, the more I learn about that person, the more the tales prove to be true.

Who is the "one" in my family? No contest, it is my great-grandfather, Noel Holly Thibodeaux (1889-1962).

Here is the short story on Noel (known as Holly, but that confuses people so I'll stay with Noel). He grew up in French-speaking Louisiana. He never knew his father (who was the subject of my 57th COG entry). He struck out on his own as a teen, lying about his age as he crossed the country.

The collected records and interviews in my possession tell me he was a charmer. That must have been how he snagged such a pretty young wife from an upstanding Acadian family. I can't find a marriage record for them. Did her family disapprove? Did the young couple elope? Perhaps they traveled to New Orleans.

The tales tied to Noel include gambling, gunshots, kidnapping, boxing, jail time, Huey Long and "delivery fulfillment" during prohibition. At one point, he supposedly won significant southern California land holdings in a poker game. At another point, he supposedly lost his New Orleans tailor business the same way. Were either of these true? I don't know, but records put him in the right place and time for both, and the 1920 census confirms the tailor shop connection.

From 1917 through through the 1940's the Noel Thibodeaux family moved dozens of times to, from and around Louisiana and California. Was Noel looking for work or staying two steps ahead of the landlord and the law? The answer is probably all of the above.

Each family member I talk to has a different Noel Thibodeaux tale. So many so that it seems impossible that they could all be true. But you know what? The more I learn about my great-grandfather, the more these stories are fitting with the facts.

However, what makes Noel the "one" is the strong, affectionate impression he made on his family. For each tall tale I'm told about Noel, I'm also given three stories of how nice he was or how fun. The grandkids thought he was great. The facts shouldn't add up but they do, and it makes me want to learn more.

I started this research on Noel thinking he liked to embellish his life. Perhaps, but there's more than a grain of truth in each tale. I've yet to completely disprove any of the stories passed down by his kids and grandkids.

If there's one in every family, I'm glad to have Noel Thibodeaux in mine. He makes things interesting.


  1. Sounds like an interesting kinda guy, LOL! My COG submission was also about tall tales! Such fun when you dig into it and find they are mostly true! Great story, enjoyed reading it this morning!

  2. Gotta love this guy. You know, on my Dad's side of the family it was finding out that some of those "tall tales" were true that got me intrigued by genealogy. With so many stories about Noel, there must be at least a bit of truth behind them.

  3. I'm hearing Joan Baez singing "Rake & Rambling Boy". He looks like a complete charmer.

  4. Sounds like you could have your hands full researching this guy for a looong time. I think his life would make for an interesting book or short story!

  5. Love this man! So much fun to read about all the possible connections you found to prove family lore. He looks like a rascally by sweet guy. Especially love the dimple in the chin. Agree with Michelle, would make a great book!

  6. He surely is a charmer, has the twinkle in his eye and the good looks!

    I love my bad boys! LOL They are fun to research and frustrating at the same time, what else do we need to keep us interested for years and years!

  7. Wow! He's movie star handsome with charm to boot... What a guy! A great article, Amy. Thank you for being a part of the COG family reunion!

  8. What an endearing rogue! Sounds like you are having fun sorting out the stories. Great post, Amy!

  9. He's got those soulful eyes Amy! I bet there is more than a little truth to the tales. Kudos on a great post for COG 100!

  10. I wish I had a relative half as interesting!

  11. What a Mysterious and handsome looking dude! I am sure you will get to the bottom of it all.

  12. Noel Holly Thibodeaux was my grandfather. My mother Germaine Thibodeaux Taylor was his daughter. I only have good memories of grandpa. We lived in different towns so I didn't see him too often but he was good to me. He always had coins in his pocket when I wanted candy or icecream.