Finding Famous French-Canadian Cousins

March 13, 2017 MHenderson Blog

Extreme Genes Henderson And Fisher

Me and Scott Fisher, host of Extreme Genes Radio at Rootstech  2017. (Photo credit: Anita R. Henderson)

For many genealogy researchers, we want to connect ourselves to a famous ancestor. It’s no secret. In all my research uncovering my military ancestors and those who have helped settle what would later become thriving cities, I, however, have yet to find a historically notable ancestor, or even connect myself lineally to a contemporary celebrity or dignitary; that is, until now.

As a follow-up to my introduction to Scott Fisher — host of the Extreme Genes podcast — at RootsTech 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah, I was invited to be a guest on his show. What a nice surprise!

In that interview, I spoke about my ancestral research journey that led to my discovery of my fourth-generation great-grandparents — a Frenchman named Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo and an enslaved woman named Agnes. If you follow my Got Proof blog, you know that I published details of that journey in my memoir, Got Proof!

During my interview with Scott, I also shared how my research of other family lines has uncovered six ancestors who served in militia groups under the command of Spanish Colonial Governor General Bernardo de Galvez, each of whom has now been recognized as a Louisiana patriot of the American Revolution. In addition, I’ve uncovered German-Swedish, African, Native American, and French Canadian ancestors, all tied to Louisiana and French Canada. I enjoyed sharing these and other genealogical discoveries with Scott as a guest on his podcast.

Well, a few days after the podcast episode aired, I received an email from a gentlemen in France who had heard the podcast. He asked if I would be interested in learning a bit more research about my French and French Canadian ancestors I spoke about. Wow! Who doesn’t want that, right! I responded that I would appreciate anything he could share, and mostly figured I’d never hear from him again.

Much to my surprise, less than forty-eight hours later, he emailed me a detailed pedigree chart showing my documented ancestral line to one of my known French ancestors, Pierre Etienne. I already knew of Pierre, as I’ve identified him as my ninth great-grandfather.

The new information this listener brought to my attention, however, was an unlikely family connection to a current-day cousin that I was unaware of.

On the pedigree chart that was sent to me, all of the dates and names link from Pierre Etienne to myself and to none other than Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada. What a shock!

French Canadian Cousins without dates

French Canadian cousins discovered after interview on Extreme Genes. Click image to enlarge.


My new French research comrade had quickly built a pedigree chart showing Justin Trudeau as my tenth cousin, making his father, the former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, my ninth cousin, one time removed. Unbelievable!

Of course, I had to make sure my comrade had his research correct. So I compared his notes with mine, made a few slight corrections, added a few photos, and was able to confirm his results. When I emailed my thanks, he extended an invitation to me to attend,  XXIVe Salon et Congrès National de Généalogie a conference in France, which he believes would benefit me and my research. What a kind and thoughtful gesture; one that I will give some serious consideration to.

You never know where help can come from. While I was focused on traveling back in time documenting my ancestors, someone who found my research interesting took it a step further and connected my lines to two modern-day cousins that I was totally unaware of. This is why I love doing interviews about genealogy and sharing my own genealogy research.





My Descent From French Ancestor Michel Messier dit Saint Michel Certified

March 12, 2017 MHenderson Blog

Michel Messier dit Saint Michel

Michael Nolden Henderson is confirmed as a descendant of Michel Messier dit Saint Michel who arrived in Montreal Quebec Canada in 1653

Once again, I have come to the end of yet another successful research journey with the completion of documented evidence and submission of an application to have one of my 17th century French ancestors named Michel Messier dit Saint Michel,  an early settler in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, recognized by the Order of the Founders of North America (OFNA) 1492 to 1692.

The OFNA is a lineage society whose purpose is to memorialize the individuals who founded North America through Colonization; including the Caribbean and offshore North Atlantic Islands during the period of 1492 to 1692. Members may descend from Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Scottish, Swedish, German, Danish, and Italian royalty, explorers, settlers, and seamen transporting and supplying these colonists. To learn more click here OFNA.

Michel Messier dit Saint Michel, lieutenant of militia, seigneur, fur trader; was born about 1640 at Saint-Denis-le-Thiboult in the diocese of Rouen, France. He was the son of David Messier and Marguerite Bar; buried 3 Nov. 1725 at Saint-Anne de Varennes. See more about him here:

In a previous blog post titled Family’s Female French Progenitor Discovered, Documented and Claimed,  I submitted an earlier application after discovering and documenting my lineal descent from one of our family’s earliest known female French ancestors named Anne LeMoyne.

As always, it is my sincere hope that each of you on a similar journey continued to be inspired by the many success stories and achievements such as this one.




236th Anniversary Since Agnes Mathieu Gained Her Freedom

December 16, 2016 MHenderson Blog

Agnes Manumission Document (Freedom Papers) , Dec 16, 1779

On December 16, 1779, Agnes Mathieu, my 4th generation-great grandmother, with the assistance of her French consort, Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo, was granted her freedom. This portion of the document shown here is part of an 8-page record detailing the necessary action taken to secure freedom from her previous owner. Not until the Spanish Colonial Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez signed this document was Agnes’ freedom  finally acheived.

I invite you to view if you haven’t already, the PBS program, “History Detectives” segment titled “The Galvez Papers“.  It is my sincere hope that this research, documentation, and amazing story continue to inspire you as you continue your journey of discovering your ancestors’ stories.

My family and I,  as  descendants of Agnes, stand today as living memorials to the memory of her achievements. We mark this day, 16 Dec 2016  as the 236th anniversary of freedom from slavery for Agnes Mathieu.

See a recent interview at “The Writing Well. If you wish to order a signed copy of my book, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey through the Use of Documentation, please click here .




NCSSAR makes History in Harlowe County, North Carolina by Chartering a New SAR Chapter

September 5, 2016 MHenderson Blog

Patriot Isaac Carter SAR

The North Carolina Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NCSSAR) made history when the male lineage society chartered its newest chapter, the Patriot Isaac Carter Chapter, in Harlowe township, Craven County, North Carolina on Saturday, September 3, 2016.

Harlowe Patriot Marker1

Maria Williams Cole, Member of the National Society Daughter of the American Revolution “Mother of the Patriot Isaac Carter Chapter”. Photo Credit : Debra Newton-Carter

Patriot Isaac Carter is the first SAR Chapter named after an African American patriot who was one of fourteen patriots from the Harlowe communities that served during the American Revolution. Earlier this year, a memorial marker was erected and dedicated to those “forgotten patriots” from Harlowe County at the Havelock-Harlowe Senior Center.  To read more about the Harlowe Patriot (SAR) Historical Memorial Marker Ceremony, see blog post by Debra Newton-Carter titled: double click here: Honoring our Ancestors: Free Black Patriot of the American Revolutionary War 

The four small communities that make up what is now known as the Harlowe area were settled by a group free African-American families who came from Virginia and Maryland well before the American Revolution. This new chapter is dedicated to those fourteen free African-American patriots whose service and contribution was nearly forgotten during the War of Independence. The chapter will serve as a beacon of light on a part of history that was once held in the shadow of the narrative of American Revolutionary war history.

President General SAR

The Honorable J. Michael Tommy, President General National Society Sons of the American Revolution and other distinguished members of the NSSAR and DAR. Photo credit: Mrs. Anita Rochelle Henderson

Many dignitaries were in attendance, including the Honorable J. Michael Tomme, Sr., President General NSSAR, as well as several former NSSAR Presidents General, state officers, and chapter presidents. Representatives from the South Atlantic Region of the NSSAR — which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida — representative of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), community leaders, and a number of descendants of the fourteen African-American Sons of Harlowe were on hand to witness history in the making.

Compatriot Edward Earl Carter

Compatriot Edward Earl Carter, Chartered President of the Isaac Chapter, North Carolina Society, National Society Sons of the American Revolution

In addition, ten new members were inducted into the chapter: Elwood Becton, Marcus Elwood Becton, Napoleon Carter, Dennis Windell Ellis, Beleather, ”Butch” Fisher, III, Max Allen Fisher, Alan Deline Frazier, Sr., Ricky Darnell Frazier, Tyrone Lamar Frazier, and James Christopher Kelly, Jr.

The event culminated with the presentation of several awards, installation of the new officers of the Patriot Issac Carter Chapter of the North Carolina Society, Sons of the American Revolution, and remarks by the newly installed President Edward Earl Carter.  To summarize Compatriot Edward Earl Carter’s remarks: No longer will these fourteen Free African Americans Sons from Harlowe County be known as forgotten Patriots of the American Revolution.

Their descendants, many of whom are now becoming members of the newly chartered Patriot Isaac Carter Chapter in the NCSSAR, stand as living memorials to their ancestors’ service. They also represent their ancestors’ contributions to this nation’s freedom and liberty secured during the War of Independence.

This was truly a proud moment for my wife Anita and me, as history was made in the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution.

Here are a few photos taken during and after the Chartering Ceremony of the Isaac Carter Chapter.


NSSAR National Color Guard

National Society Sons of the American Revolution, National Color Guard,


Master of Ceremony, James H. Wood, Past President NCSSAR

Master of Ceremony, James H. Wood, Past President North Carolina Society SAR


Induction of New Members of the Patriot Issac Carter Chapter NCSSAR

Induction of New Members of the Patriot Issac Carter Chapter NCSSAR


Installation of New Officers of the Patriot Isaac Carter Chapter NCSSAR


Installation of Compatriot Edward Earl Carter, Chartered President Isaac Carter Chapter NCSSAR


Isaac Carter Chapter Charter

Compatriot Edward Earl Carter, Chartered President Isaac Carter Chapter NCSSAR receives Chapter Charter September 3, 2016.


President General J Michael Tommy and Marie Williams Cole

NSSAR President General J Michael Tommy congratulates Marie Williams Cole as the DAR Mother of the Patriot Isaac Carter Chapter


Compatriot Mark Anthony, Michael Nolden Henderson, Allen Greenley

(L-R) Compatriots Mark Anthony, Michael Nolden Henderson, Allen Greenley and his wife,Mrs Greenley and Mrs Cillia Tommy.


PG J M Tommy and Henderson

The Honorable J. Michael Tomme, Sr., President General, National Society Sons of the American Revolution and Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret, Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR



Mrs Anita Rochelle Henderson and The Honorable J. Michael Tomme, Sr. President General, National Society Sons of the American Revolution


African American Descendants of ARW Ancestors

African American members of the National Society Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution


Henderson And Higgins

Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson Past President, Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society SAR and Compatriot Guy Higgins, Registrar for The Isaac Carter Chapter, North Carolina Society SAR.


New members and Descendants of Harlowe Patriots

New members and Descendants of Harlowe Patriots


(L-R)New Inductee, His Mother and Michael Henderson

(L-R)New Inductee, His Mother and Michael Henderson



African American members of the DAR,  Evelyn McDowell, Karen Sutton and Marie Williams Cole with a commissioned Portrait of the Harlowe Patriots of the American Revolution.


Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR. USN Ret. Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SARjpg

Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret, Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia SAR standing next to a commissioned Portrait of the Harlowe Patriots of the American Revolution.


Compatriot Henderson and Carter

(L-R) Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret, Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR and Compatriot Edward Earl Carter, Chartered President, The Patriot Isaac CARTER Chapter, North Carolina Society SAR.





Homer Adolphe Plessy’s Ancestral Connection to the American Revolution, A legacy in the Struggle for Freedom and Civil Rights

April 16, 2016 MHenderson Blog

Homer Plessy ancestral connection ARW1

My Ancestral link to Spanish Colonial Slavery and Louisiana’s Involvement in Support of the Patriot Cause for Freedom and Independence was through my maternal Grandmother Nellie Mathieu. It was discovered that another Cousin named Homer Adolphe Plessy shares the same connection as a Descendant of A Patriot of the American Revolution and former enslaved female name Agnes.  (double click picture to see chart).

I wrote a blog post on December 16, 2014 titled, Freedom for One, Citizenship for the Other, Two Signatures 235 Years Apart.  In it, I share how a series of events in my family’s Louisiana colonial past brought three individuals — an enslaved woman of color named Agnes, a white French national named Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo, and the Spanish colonial Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez – together in the cause of freedom and independence. Both Devaux and Galvez have been recognized as patriots of the American Revolution for their contributions as soldiers in the cause for America’s freedom from Great Britain. You can see the story played out in a segment of the PBS programs History Detectives titled see here the Galvez Papers.

Their lives and historic actions have forever changed my awareness about knowing and claiming my family’s history. With the stroke of two penned signatures, history was made: Freedom was granted to Agnes on December 16, 1779 by  Bernardo de Galvez, and 235 years later, on December 16, 2014, citizenship was granted (posthumously) to Galvez himself by President Barack Obama, an amazing connection of which my family and I can forever be proud.


Louisiana Historical Marker sponsored by Crescent City Peace Alliance. Double click link :

As we approach the 120th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, a concerted effort is being waged to acknowledge his long overdue impact on the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1892, Homer Plessy, a fair-skinned, mixed-race man of color, was arrested in New Orleans, LA for taking a seat in a train car designated for white passengers only, despite the fact that he had paid for a first-class ticket. How interesting that a man of mixed race would be treated in such a way.

What would have happened if the train conductor and the whites who opposed him had known then that Plessy is the descendant of Agnes (mentioned above), a formerly enslaved Afro-Creole woman who fought in court and gained her Freedom, and Mathieu Devaux, a Frenchman and patriot of the American Revolution who fought for America’s freedom well before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and statehood in 1812? Would he still have been denied his full rights and privileges as an American citizen under the constitution of the United States?

Plessy’s case was taken to the local courts and later to the Supreme Court, where it was upheld, thereby ushering in the era known as Jim Crow in America. However as was stated by those who took this case all the way to the supreme court said:

“We, as freemen, still believe that we were right and our cause is sacred.”  ~ Statement of the Comité des Citoyens 1896’

Long before the modern Civil Rights Era, Plessy and the Citizens Committee, with whom he planned the event, made history. Yet because the Supreme Court case was not decided in his favor, Plessy has since stood as a scar in the struggle for civil rights for all people in America. Homer A. Plessy has never been officially acknowledged for his sacrifice on the altar of freedom. Those who know the truth of Plessy’s actions, look upon him as a figure of immense historical importance. The time is now for all of us to acknowledge his rightful place in the history of American Civil Rights.

Be a part of removing the burdensome legacy of Jim Crow history from Plessy’s name. The Presidential Medal of Freedom will give him the recognition that he and his fellow civil rights activists so richly deserve.

A new petition created on We the People website asks for your support in helping to recognize Homer Plessy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his significant role in American civil rights history.

I am proud to have signed this petition. Will you add your name to mine? If this petition gets 100,000 signatures by May 15, 2016, the White House will review it and respond!

We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

You can view and sign the petition here, which asks the Obama Administration to:

Award Homer Plessy the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his significant role in the American Civil Rights Struggle.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

Please support his nomination by signing this petition before May 15, 2016.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” ~ Martin Luther King

Your help in this effort is deeply appreciated. See here to learn more about the Plessy v Ferguson case.






30th Anniversary, California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS) conference 17-19 March 2016.

March 25, 2016 MHenderson Blog

(l to r) Anita R. Henderson, Kenyatta Berry, host of the  PBS program, "Genealogy Roadshow", and Michael N. Henderson.

(l to r) Anita R. Henderson, Kenyatta Berry, host of the PBS program, “Genealogy Roadshow”, and Michael N. Henderson.

On 17-19 March 2016, I had the pleasure of participating as a speaker at the 30th Anniversary, California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS) conference held in Los Angeles, California. This year’s theme for the CAAGS conference was “African American History is American History: Reaching In, Reaching Out”.

Also among the lineup of speakers was Anita R. Henderson, publisher of my book, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation.

One of the highlights of  this conference was meeting Kenyatta Berry, host of the popular PBS program, “Genealogy Roadshow“. Kenyatta presented the closing plenary session titled, “The Changing Face of Genealogy”.


Michael Nolden Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

I presented two sessions — Manumissions and Motivations: Decoding Freedom Papers to Uncover Family Connections, and Black Women, White Men: Embracing the Forbidden Fruit of Genealogy. I also co-presented a session with Anita titled, Publishing to Leave a Legacy, which highlighted the importance of publishing one’s genealogical research as a means of leaving a compelling footprint of your research for future generations to appreciate.

While at the conference, I connected with  several of my old friends, one in particular was Margeret (Marti) Lewis, president of the San Diego African American Genealogy Research Group (SDAAGRG).  When I lived in San Diego several years ago, SDAAGRG was the first genealogy group I joined as I began developing my genealogical research and speaking skills. Returning to California, and participating in the CAAGS 30th Anniversary Conference was like coming home to the group that helped me begin my research journey.


Anita R. Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016


Anita R. Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016

While at the conference, I had an opportunity to sit in on a few of the sessions. Two sessions I attend were: Who, What, When Where? Using Journalism Techniques to Write Your Story, and Nuts and Bolts of Storytelling, both presented by Anita R. Henderson of Write Your Life. These two sessions were particularly interesting to me because many of the techniques Anita shared were used during my own storytelling journey when I published my memoir, Got Proof! Attending these two sessions gave me a chance to be an example of the outcomes possible for those seeking to write and publish their own stories.

Another informative session I had the pleasure of attending was presented by Janice Lovelace, a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in child and family therapy.  Her presentation was entitled Is the Trauma of Slavery in Your Genes? A Look at Epigenetics and Health in African Americans. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes that occur without a change in the DNA sequence, a fascinating study with far-reaching consequences when considering the trauma of slavery and its effects on African Americans.

Many thanks to Dr. Edna Briggs, President California African American Genealogical Society and members that helped make this year’s conference a success. A special thanks to the members of CAAGS, who made my participation in this year’s conference enjoyable.

See a few more picture taken at the conference:


Michael Henderson and Monika R. Hall, a Member of CAAGS who purchased a signed copy of my Memoir, GOT PROOF! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation


Michael CAAGS2016

Michael Nolden Henderson at CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary Conference in Los Angeles, California


Anita Henderson At CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary conference. Los Angeles, Ca

Anita R. Henderson At CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary conference. Los Angeles, Ca



Ms Kenyatta Berry, Host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show and Michael Nolden Henderson, Author of Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation




Getting to Know Anna and Victor at the Whitney Plantation

February 3, 2016 MHenderson Blog


The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana

In a previous post, I described my experience visiting the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. The plantation was the home of a prominent German family named Haydel who owned many slaves. The property has been restored and serves as a museum dedicated to those enslaved inhabitants who built, lived and died there. I found myself interested in both the property and in the Haydel family because, through my research, I discovered an ancestral connection to them.

During my tour of the Whitney Plantation, we visited the big house. In one of the bedroomsScreen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.20.53 PM is a four-post bed and a cast iron statue standing next to it. The statue depicts the image of a young girl, who the tour guide explained was an enslaved child named “Anna”. Having seen Anna’s name on the Wall of Honor earlier, and now seeing the lifelike image standing in the room, I felt that her presence had somehow come to life. Suddenly, I had a desire to understand as much as possible about her.


Young Enslaved girl “Anna” standing in the bedroom of her mistress Marie Azélie HAYDEL in the “Big House” on the Whitney Plantation

Anna’s life has been recorded by one of her descendants, Curtis M. Graves, according to oral history of his grandfather, Elphége Haydel (1879 -1959). Graves’ story about Anna is included in the book, BOUKI FAIT GOMBO, by Dr. Ibrahima Seck. In the book, Seck quotes Graves as follows:

     “Anna was bought from the slave market in New Orleans by Marcellin Haydell (his full name is Jean Francois Marcellin Haydel, who was Azélie’s husband) and brought to the plantation and given to Azélie as a gift. Azelie had no children and always wanted a girl.” 

The story goes on to explain what many descendants in the family believed Anna’s ancestry and racial make up was.

     “My grandfather also said that she was not real black. So they thought she might have been mixed with Indian [I have done my DNA and I have no Indian. So I think her father was white]. . . . Azélie raised her in the big house. She had a child in her teen years with Azélie’s brother Antoine, and never liked him. So I think it was rape (since a slave girl could not say no!). She did not marry anyone and also had no other children.”

Oral history passed down from elders can be valuable; however, these memories should be researched carefully to separate fact from fiction. As a researcher, you should locate any documents to support these oral histories, if possible. In the case of Anna, this is exactly what I set out to do.

As an enslaved girl, Anna bore a child named Victor. Victor Haydel’s lineage has been proven through ecclesiastic records and other documents housed at the St. John the Baptist catholic church in St. John the Baptist Parish and various archival depositories in Louisiana.

According to stories told at the Whitney Plantation:

“Victor was the son of an enslaved woman named Anna, who was herself a mulatto. Victor’s father was Antoine Haydel, the brother of Marie Azelie Haydel, the last Haydel family member to own the Whitney. It is known that [Antoine] was married, and that refusing to engage in sexual relations with a white man was not an option available to [enslaved] women.” (Source: The Whitney Plantation – Wall of Honor)

Through birth, marriage, and death records, I have connected my own lineage to the Haydel family through two sisters — Ann Marie Schoff and Marguerite Schoff. This pedigree chart traces my ancestry to the Haydel family through my maternal line (Henderson, Phillips, Mathieu, Legaux, Clereaux, Schoff (Chauf)) leading to the two Schoff sisters. Double click charts below for closer viewing.

My Connection to Victor Haydel

Michael Nolden Henderson Pedigree Chart connecting to two sisters of the SCHOFF family one of which married Ambroise Haydel, the Progenitor of the Haydel family on the German Coast of Louisiana

Below is a baptism record of Victor Haydel, listing his father as Antoine Haydel and his mother as Anna.

Victor Baptism Rec

Certificate of Baptism for Victor HAYDEL, the Mixed race offspring of Antoine HAYDEL and the Enslaved female ANNA.

There is also a record showing both Anna and Victor as part of an inventory of slaves being assessed after the death of Marie Azélie Haydel.

Azelie Slave Inv Anna Victor

Source: SJB -178-1860 Inventory of the estate of Widow Marcelin Haydel (Marie Azélie Haydel); 10-12 November 1860. Anna and Victor Haydel in the last inventory of the Haydel Plantation.

So what is the significance of these two documents?

  1. The name of Antoine Haydel (who is a white member of the Haydel family) is listed as the father of the mixed-race child, Victor Haydel on the certificate of baptism. Records in other states rarely show documented evidence of white slave owners as parents of black slaves. However, in Louisiana there are many instances where these relationships are documented.
  2. The baptism record can serve as the beginning paper trail in gathering evidence of a bloodline connection to the white Haydel family on the German coast of Louisiana.
  3. This mixed-race person born of a mother who was enslaved makes the child enslaved, according to the Code Noir in Louisiana. This law states that the status of the child will follow that of the mother at the time of birth. These laws were enacted in Louisiana as early as 1724 during the French colonial period in Louisiana. They were later modified, yet still defined the status (free or enslaved) of individuals born during the time of Victor’s birth.
  4. The child identified as Victor is given the surname Haydel, which is the same as the white family that owned him and his mother, Anna. Consequently, it is the same surname as the man identified on Victor’s baptism certificate as his father, Antoine Haydel.
  5. Since the father, Antoine Haydel is the brother of the slave owner, Marie Azélie’s Haydel, that makes Victor Haydel not only Azélie’s slave, but her blood nephew.

The slave inventory of the estate of Widow Marcelin Haydel (Marie Azélie Haydel)  indicates that both Anna and Victor Haydel remained as her property and lived on the  Haydel Plantation until her death.

See below chart of the Victor Haydel family lineage.

Victory Haydel

Stay tuned for a follow-up story in my next blog post describing Victor’s life as an adult after 1860. I’ll explore the first generaton of Victor’s offspring born after slavery was ended in Louisiana, and more of what I learned while visiting the Whitney and surrounding community.




Henderson received Meritorious Service Medal From Georgia State Society Sons Of the American Revolution

January 27, 2016 MHenderson Blog

Henderson SAR 2016

Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret, Past-President Button Gwinnett Chapter SAR and Compatriot Thomas Owens, President Georgia State Society. SAR

I was honored to receive the  National Society Sons of the American Revolution Meritorious Service Medal from the Georgia State Society SAR.

This award was in recognition of notable service in behalf of the Society’s American Principles. The award was presented at  the Annual SAR State Conference held in Atlanta January 2016.




My Visit to “the Habitation Haydel”,The Whitney Plantation in Wallace Louisiana

January 26, 2016 MHenderson Blog


Mr. John Cummings,
owner and visionary of the Whitney Plantation.
Photo Credit: Whitney Plantation

I had the pleasure of visiting the Habitation Haydel, known today as the Whitney Plantation several years ago after meeting Mr. John Cummings, the owner and visionary behind this amazing project. He invited me to see what he was planning to do with the property he had purchased.

Since that meeting, Cummings and his staff have turned the sprawling site into a living museum, dedicated to those whose lives helped build this place. Their enslavement fueled the wealth and prosperity of the Haydel family.

Got Proof Front Cover 9-29-14-1

Michael Nolden Henderson
Photo Credit – MNH

I was excited and curious to visit The Whitney Plantation because I had earlier traced part of my ancestry back to an eighth generation great-grandmother, a French immigrant named Ann Marie Schoff, daughter of Hans Jacob Schoff and Marianne Foltzlouer. Ann’s sister Marguerite Schoff was the wife of the progenitor of the Haydel family, Ambrosie Heidel. Mr. Cummings has built on the property several memorials dedicated to the over 100,000 slaves who were researched, compiled and documented in Dr. Gwendylon Midlo Hall’s Louisiana slave and free database. Many of them lived on Habitat Haydel, the Whitney Planation.

This database over the years has helped me identify and document several of my enslaved Louisiana ancestors who lived during the French and Spanish periods in Louisiana’s history. One such person was Agnes, an enslaved women born in 1758 in St. Charles Parish. By 1779 she had gained her freedom with the assistance of her French consort, Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo. Agnes and Mathieu are my fourth generation great-grandparents.  Their story, along with my personal research journey, was told in my memoir, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation (The Write Image 2013).

During my visit to the Whitney Plantation, I was hoping to locate the name of Agnes and any of her enslaved family members on the site’s memorial wall. On this particular sunny day in late April 2015, I returned to see what had become of Mr. Cummings’ grand vision for the place now called the Whitney Plantation.

As I drove up to the entrance of the plantation, I started to sense that Cummings’ vision, spoken of many years earlier, had finally been realized. I prepared myself to step back in time and learn a few new things about slavery in Louisiana.

2015-05-02 12.48.35

Michael Nolden Henderson and Dr. Iberiam Seck
Photo Credit- MNH

As I approached the visitor’s center, I was met by Dr. Iberiam Seck, the Director of Research at the Whitney Plantation. I met Dr. Seck in 2010 while attending a Louisiana Creole genealogy research conference in New Orleans. In fact, I was introduced to him by Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, who had worked with him to develop the Louisiana Slave and free database. I was pleased to see Dr. Seck that day because I wanted to bring him up to date on my ancestral findings, connections to several members of the Haydel Family, and several of the enslaved persons hopefully included on the stone memorial walls on the property.

2015-05-02 14.07.45

The Antioch Baptist Church
Photo Credit -MNH

Dr. Seck and I sat for a few minutes, while I showed him some of my ancestral family pedigree charts linking me as a descendant to the Schoff and Haydel families. He also shared with me some of his research, which has been published in a book, BOUKI FAIT GOMBO: A History of the Slave Community of the Habitation Haydel (Whitney Plantation) Louisiana 1750-1860. After our short conversation, we agreed to connect later that afternoon after my tour of the plantation. As I began the guided tour with several other visitors, I immediately knew we were in for a different perspective about slavery in Lousiana, particularly plantation slavery at the Whitney.

Our first stop was at The Antioch Baptist Church that had been moved from another location and brought to the Whitney as part of a preservation effort. The building had a musty smell and featured several life-sized figures of depicting the enslaved children who would have lived on the plantation.

2015-05-02 14.24.59

Slave Memorial wall of some those who actually lived on Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit -MNH

Next to the church is a large granite memorial wall dedicated to the many enslaved individuals documented as having lived on the Haydel Plantation during the Antebellum period.

As our tour guide spoke briefly about the many persons listed, she mentioned two individuals who were identified as being direct ancestors to the Haydel’s and who were also Creoles of color. This mixed-race family is a branch of the white Haydel family of the German Coast of Louisiana, who were descendants of an enslaved woman named Anna and a white male member of the Haydel family named Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.20.53 PMAntoine Haydel. The male child born of this illegal relationship was named Victor Haydel. As the guide explained the family ties, I suddenly realized the missing piece in my own Haydel family research. At that moment, I Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.47.43 PMknew how Victor Haydel was also related to me.

My ancestral connection to the Haydel family is via two sisters, Ann Marie Schoff and Marguerite Schoff.  Marguerite Schoff married Ambroise Haydel. Together they had three daughters and seven sons: Regina, Marie Françoise, Anne Marie, Jacques, Nicolas, Mathias, Jean Christophe, Jean Georges, Jean, and Jean Jacques.   Jean Jacques Haydel, their youngest son, is credited with building the Big House on the Whitney Plantation. He later passed ownership on to two of his sons. It is through the line of his brother, Mathias Haydel and his wife Marie Magdeleine Barb Huber, that the bloodline of the mixed-race enslaved child Victor Haydel can be traced back to Ambroise Haydel. See chart below; double click to enlarge:

Chart Schoff and Haydel 2a

Pedigree chart showing a common ancestral link to two sisters and where Michael Nolden Henderson is a 4th cousin, 4x removed to Victor Haydel.

Mathias had a son named Alphonse Haydel who was married to Marie Troxler. They had a son named Antoine Haydel. Antione had an illicit affair with Anna, the slave of his sister, Marie Azelie Haydel, the last Haydel owner of the property. Anna was the mother of the mixed-race son named Victor Haydel (pictured on right side of chart above).

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Michael Nolden Henderson standing in the door way of one of the Slave Cabins
Photo Credit- ARH

As the tour continued, we stopped at several other buildings, including the slave prison, pigeonniers, slave quarters, kitchen, blacksmith shop, Wall of Honor, Allées Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, and The Field of Angels. I thought  about those who once lived on this plantation and how challenging their day-to-day lives must have been. Knowing that I share an ancestral connection to both the white and mixed-race Haydel members who lived on this planation gave me a deep sense of ownership of this troubled history in Louisiana.

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Michael Nolden Henderson
At the Entrance of the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit -ARH

On this visit, I came away with a sense that Mr. Cummings’ vision has been realized. He has turned the Whitney Plantation into the first ever museum dedicated to the lives and stories of individuals enslaved along the German Coast of Louisiana. While more projects and research are still underway, I believe this amazing educational site promises to help fill in some of the gaps in the narrative of the lives of those who worked, survived, and died as a result of plantation slavery in Louisiana’s history.

So I hope on your next visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, you will plan some time to visit the Whitney Plantation. It will be well worth your time; it sure was well worth mine. Stay tuned for more on my discovery about Victor Haydel and his bloodline connection to the Haydel family in Louisiana.   Stay tuned for more, as we come to know Anna and Victor Haydel at the Whitney Plantation.

See more photos of the Whitney Plantation below:


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Memorial dedicated to the many enslaved Children who died on the Whitney Plantation, Statue and place titled :The Field of Angels
Photo Credit -ARH


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Slave Jail on the Whitney Plantation


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Slave Children depicted in these images throughout the Ole Church on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


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A little Slave Girl representing the many children on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – MNH


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Several Buildings and Sugar Pans in the Back of the Big House on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


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Robin’s BlackSmith Shop on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


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Oak Alley front of the Whitney Plantation Home
Photo Credit – ARH



Habitation Haydel, The Whitney Plantation, Wallace Louisiana
Photo Credit – ARH


Allees Gwendolyn Mildo Hall

Large Memorial dedicated to the 107000 African Slaves who are documented in the Louisiana Slave and Free Database. Area is titled Allées Gwendolyn Mildo-Hall
Photo Credit – MNH


See more here: Getting to Know Anna and Victor at the Whitney Plantation




GOT PROOF! Wins the 2015 Indie Book Award.

June 19, 2015 MHenderson Blog

Got Proof Front Cover 9-29-14-1

Michael Nolden Henderson’s Memoir, The Writer Image, 2013

Indie_Book_WinnerI am incredibly honored to have received the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award from  the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. My book, Got Proof! is the Winner in the Memoir (Historical  /Legacy/Career) and received Finalist in the African American category. This is truly a tribute to my Louisiana ancestors whose lives inspired me to write Got Proof.

The 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors.


Got Proof! is the Winner in the Memoir (Historical /Legacy/Career) and received Finalist in the African American category

“Our awards program is known as the ‘Sundance’ of the book publishing world,” said Catherine Goulet, Chair of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards program. ”Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” adds Goulet. “They aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.”

A complete list of 2015 winners and finalists is available at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards website at

To learn more here about click here,  GOT PROOF!



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