Coast has colorful history

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 10, 2016

GYPSY TALK: Genealogist Anne Anderson speaks to members and guests of the Pearl River County Historical Society about “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” Photo by Cassandra Favre

GYPSY TALK: Genealogist Anne Anderson speaks to members and guests of the Pearl River County Historical Society about “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.”
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Wednesday, the Pearl River County Historical Society welcomed professional genealogist Anne Anderson to their regular meeting who spoke about a group of people known to many as “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.”
PRC Historical Society President Juanita Gex said Anderson has spoken at many genealogical seminars and is a member of national genealogical and family research societies.
“I can tell you that Anne does family research and is very qualified to speak on this subject,” Gex told members and guests.
Anderson spoke about two groups of people, gypsies and Baleine brides, who she said helped form the basis for settlements along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Vampire and werewolf horror movies give the impression that gypsies came from Romania, Anderson said. However, they actually originated in India, she said.
Between the 6th and 11th centuries, they migrated en masse to work in the Middle Eastern courts, Anderson said, which ended badly for the group. They ended up becoming slaves, she said. They considered returning to India but were blocked. The group had no choice but to migrate into Europe, Turkey and North Africa, Anderson said.
By the 14th century, they had reached the Balkans and Bohemia. During the 15th century they entered Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
“To survive, they continued their normal way of life, which was robbing, stealing and kidnapping,” Anderson said. “As a result, they were hunted, slaughtered and imprisoned without a trial.”
Many Europeans became disturbed by the influx of gypsies and called for their removal, she said.
In 1530, England passed a law that required any gypsies to leave within days or face death, Anderson said. They were also expelled from France and Portugal. While some were sent to the Caribbean and other areas, some of the gypsies were sent to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, she said.
Next, Anderson recited the genealogical history of Marie Agnes Simon (1694 – 1743).
Simon’s ancestry can be traced to familiar coast family names including, Ladner, Lafontaine, LaPrairie and Legeres, she said.
“Simon’s daughter Jacqueline married Jean-Baptiste Rapheael from Martinique in 1725,” Anderson said. “This was the first legal interracial marriage on file for the early colony.”
Other coast families with gypsy connections, either by blood or marriage, include Saucier, Favre and Fayard, she said.
In the beginning, they were called gypsies, Anderson said. But, if they behaved, they lost the name given to them.
“Over time they became respected members of their communities and made the most of their situation,” Anderson said. “Several gypsies also married Baleine brides.”
Some were female criminals who had been branded with a fleur-de-lis symbol on their shoulder, Anderson said. They arrived via ship from Europe to marry eligible bachelors in the colonies. They first landed at Ship Island.
“The men were purportedly so excited to see women that they swam distances across the sound to meet them,” Anderson said.
Descendants of the Baleine brides include the Ladner, Necaise, Cuevas and Dedeaux families, she said.
Many of these brides who suffered great misfortune and were branded with the fleur-de-lis, turned their lives around after reaching the New World and added color and flavor to the history of this area, Anderson said.
Learn more about the historical society through Facebook a Pearl River County Historical Society.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox