Louis "Louie" "Satchmo" Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. He was the son of William "Willie" Armstrong and Mary Albert. He claimed to have been born on 4 July 1900, according to most records, but his headstone gives a birth date of 4 August 1901,
which appears to be his true birth date. He was baptized at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in New Orleans.
His early life was rough. His father abandoned the family not long after he was born. Louis was left to be raised by his grandmother while his mother turned to prostitution. At the age of six, he attended a school for black children in the racially segregated school system of New Orleans. He was kindly taken in and given odd jobs by a family of Lithuanian Jews, the Karnoffskys, who fed and nurtured the fatherless boy. It was during this time that his interest in music became apparent. Morris Karnoffsky helped Louis to purchase a cornet from a pawn shop, which he learned to play by ear.
In 1910, at the age of eight years, he and his mother were living with her common-law husband, Thomas Lee, on Perdido Street, where she made a living as a laundress.
At the age of eleven, Louis dropped out of school, joining a group of boys singing and playing music in the streets. On New Year's Eve of 1912 he fired a blank shot into the air using his stepfather's gun without permission, and was immediately arrested and sentenced the next day to detention at the Colored Waif's Home. He joined the band there, developing his musical skills and rising to the position of bandleader. After about 18 months of militaristic and spartan living, he was released into his father's custody, but after a few months went back to live with his mother on Perdido Street.
In 1918, he registered for the draft during World War I, but was never called to serve. He worked as a musician for Peter Lala on Conti Street.
He played in New Orleans with a variety of brass bands, and on riverboats up and down the Mississippi, learning to read music and further honing his skills.
He was becoming more widely known in the world of jazz.
He married Daisy Parker on 24 March 1919 in New Orleans.
In 1920, he was boarding on Perdido Street in the household of Geogere Money, with 7 other boarders including his mother. Although the census shows he was married, his wife was not listed there with him. Louis worked as a musician for the theater, and his mother was a private cook.
Louis never had children of his own, but he did help support his cousin Flora's baby boy, Clarence "Hatfield," from the time he was 14 years old. After Flora's death, he assumed full responsibility. After his first marriage, he adopted the child, who had been renamed by his mother before her death as Clarence Armstrong. Louis raised him to adulthood and remained involved in his life.
Louis was invited to join an influential jazz band in Chicago in 1922, making enough money to live in luxury. There is where he met Lillian "Lil" Hardin, the band's pianist, who did much to encourage him.
They were married in Chicago on 5 February 1924.
He left Chicago to join another top jazz band in New York for about a year, switching to trumpet. He went back in 1925 to join his wife's band for a time, then formed his own band. This gave him the freedom to develop his own unique, personal style, and his group became the most famous jazz band in the United States. He returned to New York in 1929.
By 1930 Louis and Lil were enumerated together on the census of New York, living on 140th Street in Harlem, Manhattan Island.
Louis and Lil separated in 1931, and were divorced in 1938. They remained lifelong friends.
He then married Alpha B. Smith, with whom he'd had a previous relationship since the 1920s.
They were married on 11 October 1938 in Houston, Harris County, Texas.
They were enumerated together in the 1940 census, living at the Curry Hotel on West 145th Street in Harlem.
They divorced in 1942.
In February 1942, Louis was required to register for the draft during World War II. At that time he resided at the Braddock Hotel on 126th Street at 8th Avenue in New York. He was described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall and 170 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair, dark brown complexion, and a scar on the left side of his forehead.
Louis married Lucille Wilson, a singer at the Cotton Club in New York, in October 1942.
By then he was touring extensively, in the U.S. and other countries worldwide. He was well loved by fans of both jazz and pop. Even after a heart attack in 1959, he continued to perform and produce his music. The 1960s saw such pop hits as "Hello, Dolly!" and "What a Wonderful World."
Louis Armstrong died of a heart ailment in Queens, New York City, New York, on 6 July 1971.
He was buried in section 9 of Flushing Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.
He achieved many honors during his life, and the year after his death, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Notes about his ancestry. A slaveowner named Antoine Turcas purchased Daniel Walker, 32, from Richmond for about $600, a substantial price at the time. [when?] Walker, as further search of the records showed, had a son, also named Daniel, who married Catherine Washington, born in 1837 and brought with her mother and sister from a plantation in Madison County, Miss., to New Orleans, where they were auctioned off together. Catherine and Daniel Walker had a daughter named Josephine who later married Ephraim Armstrong. They had a son named Willie, the father of Louis Armstrong. Catherine Walker, Louis's great-grandmother, attended the baby's baptism in 1901 as a sponsor.
↑ 1.01.1Find a Grave, database and images (findagrave.com : accessed 21 Jan 2021), memorial page for Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (4 Aug 1901–6 Jul 1971), Find A Grave: Memorial #36, citing Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA, maintained by Find A Grave. Note: Grave photo shows birth date of 4 Jul 1900; memorial also includes unsourced biographical data.
↑ "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : accessed 1 Apr 2021), household of Thomas Lee, New Orleans Ward 3, Orleans, Louisiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 31, sheet 10A, family 281, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 520; FHL microfilm 1,374,533. See also Ancestry Record 7884 #9267832
"Louisiana Parish Marriages, 1837-1957," database with images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : 8 Nov 2020), Louis Armstrong and Daisy Parker, 24 Mar 1919; citing Orleans, Louisiana, United States, various parish courthouses, Louisiana; FHL microfilm 2,295,140. See also this record extracted from same microfilm. In addition, see this record from FHL microfilm 2,297,193, and this record from microfilm 2,322,672.
↑ "United States Census, 1920", database with images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : 1 Feb 2021), Mary Armstrong in household of Geogere Money, New Orleans Ward 3, Orleans, Louisiana, ED 38, p. 14A; Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 618, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C.; FHL microfilm 1,820,618. See also Ancestry Record 6061 #60424302
Name, Role, Sex, Age, Birthplace
- Geogere Money Head F 23 Louisiana
- Mary Armstrong Boarder F 37 Louisiana
- Lewis Armstrong Boarder M 19 Louisiana
- [and 7 other boarders]
↑Find a Grave, memorial page for Clarence 'Hatfield' Armstrong (8 Aug 1915–15 Oct 1998), Find A Grave: Memorial #72966185, citing Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA, maintained by the Chronicler (contributor 47037004); no grave photo given, but includes biographical data citing Louis Armstrong's account in Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans.
↑ "Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1968," database, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : 28 Nov 2018), Louis Armstrong and Lillian Hardin, 05 Feb 1924; citing Marriage, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago
↑ "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : accessed 1 Apr 2021), household of Louis Armstrong, Manhattan (Districts 0751-1000), New York, New York, United States; citing ED 31-986, sheet 5A, line 15, family 175, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1576; FHL microfilm 2,341,311. See also Ancestry Record 6224 #43377626
↑ Ancestry.com, "Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965," database on-line, Ancestry Record 9168 #26258854, Louis Armstrong and Alpha Smith, Harris County, 11 Oct 1938; Harris County Clerk's Office, Houston, Texas, Harris County, Texas, Marriage Records, no. 39992, book 81, p. 494
↑ "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (familysearch.org : 15 Dec 2019), household of Louis Armstrong, Assembly District 22, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States; citing ED 31-1962, sheet 63A, line 1; Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627, "Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007," RG 29 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 2672. See also Ancestry Record 2442 #15897999
Name, Role, Sex, Age, Birthplace
- Louis Armstrong Head M 39 Louisiana
- Alpha B Armstrong Wife F 33 Indiana
↑ Ancestry.com, "U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947," database on-line, Ancestry Record 2238 #193767880, Louis Armstrong, 12 Feb 1942, New York; Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 - 03/31/1947, 1376 boxes, NAI 7644743, Records of the Selective Service System, 1926–1975, Record Group 147, National Archives and Records Administration, St Louis, Missouri
↑ Ancestry.com, "U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014," database on-line, Ancestry Record 3693 #1679110, Louis Armstrong, 568109394; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Social Security Administration, Washington D.C., USA
Misc Travel records. Records also give birth date and place, and home residence address
Arrived from Southampton, England, 8 Nov 1932, at New York, New York, USA, ship Majestic, Ancestry Record 7488 #2015613292, Louis Armstrong and Alpha Smith, apparently traveling with John and Mary Collins