Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Michelle.

Michelle Ladner joined WikiTree back in October of 2012.  Among other things, she participates in our Louisiana Families Project and as a Greeter and an Arborist. Michelle especially enjoys helping other WikiTreers as one of our Mentors.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

A few of the names I am researching are Saucier, Ladner, Roth, Conerly, Cuevas, Necaise, DeLherbe, Wiese, and many, many more.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Louisiana, The Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was once Colonial Louisiana, The Carolinas, and Quebec, to name a few.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

I have always been interested in family history. My family was the pioneer family in Colonial Louisiana and came from Canada with D’Iberville in 1699. My maiden name of Saucier nearly fills an entire phonebook.  My heritage was spoon fed me from birth. My grandfather knew his history back to the early 1700’s and could tell stories about his great grandfather and beyond, handed down to him and then to me. I like to call his tales, Pioneers, Pirates, and Prohibition. Every summer we took a trip to my great Aunt’s in Alabama, where she would appease my questions of who was who with her own research, over one hundred handwritten pages of names from France, to Canada and finally to the Mississippi Coast. One summer she gave me the pages to take home for my personal perusal. I copied those names by hand and then typed them out on an old manual typewriter before mailing the original back to her. I was one happy 10 year old!

My people were few and far between in Colonial times and had to marry the daughters of the few other settlers along with having children on the side with Choctaw women. Therefore they married their own cousins because of the scarcity of available prospects. Because of this, I am related to nearly every pioneering family on the Gulf Coast. This means I am related to nearly every person I meet, including my own husband, who is my 5th cousin.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Gabrielle Savary, who was a Pelican Girl. She came from France along with twenty other girls to marry and help settle the Gulf Coast. Much like the Filles du Roi, who one of which, was to be her future mother in law, Marguerite Gaillard Duplessis.  Gabrielle was one of the last of the Pelican Girls to be married, she married Jean Baptiste Saucier. She took her time in choosing a husband and didn’t choose a soldier, but one of the few men who came on their own as an adventurer and pioneer. After his untimely death, she moved to New Orleans and there raised her family as a laundress and one of the first vendors of what is now known as the French Market.

She applied to the government for permission to move her family to Haiti where she felt they may have more opportunities. It was turned down because it was said they needed her and her sons in the colony. They instead gave her a stipend to help her which enabled her to send her youngest son to be educated in France.  Her sons went on to create a vast trade route along the Mississippi River helping to found such towns as Kaskaskia, Illinois. One son was a map maker and traveled the unexplored areas making maps for the King of France. Her descendants are spread throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri. I can not imagine coming across the ocean to a land of Indians, swamps, and uninhabited wilderness, surviving three husbands, bearing 7 children, and managing to leave a grand legacy behind.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

My maternal grandmother’s family are German and French from New Orleans, having come from Germany and France in the 1850s. She knew who her grandparents were and where they came from but not much beyond that. I obtained the baptismal record for her grandmother whose father was Phillipe Buhr. Using his name I began to search for any newspaper articles with his name. I came across an old newspaper written in German with the birth announcement of a daughter. But just two years after the birth one more article that I could not decipher. I posted on forums asking for a German speaker to interpret it for me. I received an answer back telling me that I may not wish to know what it said. I of course said please tell me no matter how bad it is.

He sent me the transcription saying  that Phillip Buhr was sadly found drowned in a canal in New Orleans. It was felt that he took his own life or was drunk and fell in the canal. His benevolent lodge was holding his funeral as the family were paupers. In it was also listed his birth place, enabling me to trace back to Germany and find his Christening record and the names of his parents. This cleared up the question my grandmother always had as to why her great grandmother remarried and had a huge family.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Eleanor of Aquitaine. I am drawn to strong women in history.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Traveling to historic places. History is my passion. Also reading, blogging and cooking.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I started out with WikiTree in 2012. I spend a lot of time going back through my tree and trying to add to the biographies and  enhance the profiles, as well as making sure I have sources for each. I am a Mentor so I also spend a great deal of time connecting with others who may need help or direction here at WikiTree.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I came across WikiTree in its infancy. I believe it was through one of Thomas MacEntee’s web articles. At the time I was frustrated with other sites and WikiTree was an answer to my prayers.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most? If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

It was a relief to me to find a site that allowed collaboration and at the time of my joining they were not as tough on sourcing but it was in the honor code. I really liked that they required sourcing and still do. People don’t realize how important sourcing is. I’m not sure I would change anything about WikiTree at all.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

WikiTree has helped me connect with many distant branches of my tree that I may never have found or been able to collaborate with. Thanks to Allan Thomas for the many times you have helped me out with our mutual family. Through WikiTree I was able to connect with a researcher who helped me find records in France to expand my DeLherbe family, which I had previously spent many years researching to no avail. I have enjoyed working on the many projects, and being a Mentor inspires me everyday to be a better genealogist.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, use G2G. Above all cite sources.


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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Michelle Ladner”

  1. Would it be possible for you to speak with me regarding a family tree situation? If so, please call me at 210 659 7923. It is too complicated for texting this way. If no, I understand

  2. Incredible personal story, I’m so impressed by your 10 year old self! You are an inspiration. Just a quick note of thanks for sharing your story. Wikitree is wonderful and I so enjoy reading these “Meet our Members”.

  3. Congratulations on your fine work. My great, great grandmother, Mary Louise Ladner married my great, great grandfather William Louis Havens and the two migrated to present day Beauregard Parish in western Louisiana after the War Between the States. The two are buried in the Havens Cemetery in Singer, Louisiana. William Havens was the son of John, called Jack, Havens and Sabra Ann Fletcher. Mary Louise Ladner was the daughter of Charles “Carlos” Ladner, Sr. and Vianana “Anna” Rester. William and his brothers, Henry C. Havens, John Flurry Havens and Jefferson Hill Havens served in the Confederate forces during that late conflict. While his brothers remained on the Pascagoula, in Van Cleave and Jackson County, Mississippi, William headed west. Again, well done on your genealogical work.

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