Sharing My Story to Inspire Others on Their Ancestral Research Journey

Michael N. Henderson, LCDR, USN Ret. Past President, Button Gwinnett Chapter SAR Photo credit: Gregory Smith, Atlanta Chapter SAR

If you follow my blog, you know I speak to genealogical and historical groups across the country about my genealogy research. I’ve shared the joy and excitement of having identified and documented ancestors from as far back as 1653, and my honor of being a member of several lineage societies. It’s always a pleasure to speak to my compatriots of those societies to share my genealogy research journey.

Michael N. Henderson accepts certificate of appreciation from Mark Bell of Atlanta Chapter SAR

Recently, I presented a talk to the Atlanta Chapter of the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR). Thanks to an invitation from Mark Bell, program coordinator for the chapter, I shared the complexity of my research journey to connect slavery and American independence to colonial Louisiana. 

Below is a segment of the PBS program on the History Detectives titled; “The Galvez Papers” where a Spanish Colonial document, a Manumission or freedom papers of my 4th generation great-grand mother, an enslaved woman named Agnes and her French consort Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo  linked to an interesting period in Spanish Colonial Louisiana and American history:

“The Galvez Papers” will play after PBS promo.

Anyone who has conducted research involving enslaved individuals knows the complexity of delving into property records (i.e. slave inventories, bills of sale) as well as some more common documents, such as birth, baptism, marriage, and death records along with military service and census documents. Add to that the complexity of linking enslaved, freed, and European ancestors through documentation, and you have a serious research project on your hands. 

In addition to the challenge of combing through these documents, I faced the challenge that many of the documents were written in French and Spanish, neither of which are my native language, making my research journey that much more complex.

Despite these challenges, I have uncovered a wealth of information linking my Louisiana ancestors to important events throughout American history, including the American Revolution. I was honored to share my journey with this audience, and introduce them to the Spanish contribution to the American Revolution. See short video below:

 In addition to the honor of speaking to the Atlanta Chapter, I had the pleasure of witnessing the induction of several new members to the NSSAR. The ceremony was quite moving, as each inductee shared insightful words of what being a part of this organization means to them and to their family. 

Edward Moses Anderson, Sr. and Michael N. Henderson, members of the Georgia Society SAR

As it turns out, one of the new members being inducted was a gentleman I met four years ago when I gave a presentation at another Georgia Society SAR meeting in Washington Wilkes County. Following that presentation, Ed Anderson had shared with me his interest in joining the SAR. His challenge at the time was linking one of his mixed-raced ancestors to a white patriot ancestor. Since I had shared my journey to do just that, he and I continued to compare notes and strategies to help him along the process. Over the years, Ed was diligent in his research and was able to document another ancestral line connected to a patriot ancestor named Walter Hanson. And that was his open door to become a member of the NSSAR.

Two more individuals were also inducted at the meeting, one a recently discovered cousin of Ed’s, who also documented his lineal descent from the same patriot ancestor.

Atlanta Chapter, Georgia Society SAR inductees. (l to r) Barry Neil Miller, Julius Waye Dudley Ph.D., Edward Moses Anderson, Sr.


It was truly an honor to welcome the new members into the SAR, and to meet many other new compatriots in the Georgia Society.

Jim Freeman, President, Atlanta Chapter SAR with Michael N. Henderson


(l-r) Paul L. Anderson (brother of) Edward M. Anderson, Michael N. Henderson, John James Smith, Barrett Hansen, and Julius Wayne Dudley, Ph.D.


Michael N. Henderson, Button Gwinnett Chapter SAR,  Photo credit: Gregory Smith, Atlanta Chapter SAR


Atlanta Chapter SAR members and guest,    Photo credit: Gregory Smith, Atlanta Chapter SAR


The Georgia Society SAR, awarded the NSSAR Bronze Good Citizenship Medal to Atlanta Chapter NSDAR member Dorothy Camerio for her Service to Veterans


John James Smith (white jacket) shares his common ancestral connection to both Edward M. Anderson and Barrett Hanson. All three men are descendants of Walter Hanson, patriot of the American Revolution.

A Proud Military Legacy Documented Back to 1665.

On this Veterans Day, I’m considering the historical military legacy bridged by my own military service and that of my Revolutionary War ancestors.

One of my proudest moments, after having served my country, was finding out that one of my documented French ancestors named Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo served in the local New Orleans militia under the command of the Spanish Colonial Governor of Louisiana Bernardo de Galvez during Louisiana’s participation in The American Revolution (1778-1783). See part of this ancestor’s story titled the Galvez Papers

Above is my certificate of membership in the National Society Sons of The American Revolution honoring the service and contribution of my 4th Generation Great Grandfather, a French National named Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo who served under the command of the Spanish Colonial Louisiana Governor and General Bernardo de Galvez.  See here, how three additional Colonial Louisiana Ancestors approved by the SAR.

You can also read about how my research, discovery, journey, and results were documented in my memoir titled Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation

See here those whom I descend, who also served at various times of War.

My Father Albert A. Henderson, Corporal, U.S. Army


My Paternal Grandfather, Nolden Henderson, U.S. Army, WW I


My maternal 2nd Great Grandfather Francois Legaux, Jr. had a brother named Florian Legaux see below record as a Civil War Soldier (1860-1865)  note side in which he served.

Although Florian Legaux, is not part of my direct line of descent, though I thought it was a significant ancestral military service discovery in learning, he served as a member of the 30th Regiment Louisiana Infantry (Sumter Regiment), Company G. In the Confederate forces.  I’ll have to do some further research later.


My maternal 3rd Great Grand Father, Louis Innocent Mathieu, (Dec 16, 1814 – 25 Mar 1815) Private, First Battalion, Free Men of Color, under the command of General Andrew Jackson at the Battle Of New Orleans, Jan 8, 1815.

See record and blog posts below for more about Innocent

See here blog posting: Yes, We Were There at the Battle Of New Orleans, Jan 8, 1815.



My Maternal 4th Great Grandfather, Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo, 3rd Company Artillery, New Orleans Militia- (1778-1783). Below is a copy of the Militia List with the name Mathieu Platillo.


Documented Patriot of the American Revolution. See more above in the Galvez Papers

My Maternal 9th Great Grandfather, Francois Trottain dit St Surin is currently the oldest documented Ancestor who served as 

a member of the first expedition of Royal Troops (Carignan-Salieres) Regiment to arrive in French Canada in 1665.


Establishing Victor Haydel and Marie Celeste Becnel’s Family after Slavery Ended

In another blog posted back in 2015 titled, Getting to Know Anna and Victor at the Whitney Plantation, we were able to determine the lineal descend of Victor Haydel, using a single document, his St John the Baptism church baptism record. Listed was the name of his mother, Anna,(an enslaved woman-owned by Marie Azelie Haydel) and his father who was listed as, Antoine Haydel, the brother of Marie Azelie Haydel, the last Haydel family member to own the Whitney plantation. 

Once again, So what is the significance of these 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 seen 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.

See ancestral chart starting at the progenitor of the Haydel family- Ambroise Heidel:

I also discovered whereas late as 1860, both Anna and Victor were listed on a property inventory of slaves being assessed after the death of Marie Azelie Haydel. 

Given those two documents, the baptism record, and slave inventory, evident is established showing, the white ancestral bloodline into the Haydel family via Antoine Haydel, then on back to the Progenitor of the Haydel family- Ambroise Heidel.

Victor Haydel, the Progenitor of the Haydel’s, Creoles of Color family.

Moving forward,  the use of U.S. census records (1870, 1880) helps us to reconstruct, the first generation of descendants, the children of Victor Haydel and Marie Celeste Becnel. 

In the census of 1870 below, we see for the first time, Victor is referred to as Theophile Haydel, age 50 (m) male, (m) mulatto and listed as a domestic servant.  We also see, Celeste Becnel, age 45, (f) Female (m) Mulatto listed as domestic servant. there are also 6 other individuals, assumed to be related, however, no indication of relationship stated on the document, other than seen living in the same household.

See below:

Next, we see Victor is listed as head of the household on the 1880 U.S. Census within the 2nd Ward of St John the Baptist Parish.  Celeste is shown on the 1870 census, as Celeste Becnel, however, she is now listed as a Haydel and referred to as Victor’s wife.  No marriage record has been found yet.  There are also nine children, 1 female and 8 Males ranging in age 22 to 1 year old.

Using the information found on the 1880 U.S Census of St John the Baptist parish, we are now able to construct a two-generation family tree showing the 9 children of Victor Theophile Haydel and Marie Celeste Becnel Haydel.

Based on the above information, we have now constructed a lineal ancestral descent from Ambroise Haydel to Victor Theophile Haydel to his first generation of Haydel’s descendants of Color Creoles. 

 So now, why is this first generation important to all the descendants of Victor Theophile Haydel and Marie Celeste Becnel? This is your lineal connection to another interesting aspect of the Haydel family and Spanish Colonial Louisiana history. 

First step, look for your Haydel ancestors listed in red here: finding proof of service