Lafayette Genealogical Society

Meeting Minutes

 19 March 2015

The March meeting of the Lafayette Genealogical Society was held on March 19, 2015 in the Meeting Room of the South Regional Library, 1601 Johnston Street at 6:30 P.M. The meeting was called to order by President Herb Scheuermann. After a few welcoming remarks, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited followed by a moment of silence to remember our ancestors and our men and women who have served and are presently serving in the Armed Forces. Brenda Thibodeaux made a motion to dispense with the reading of the minutes. It was seconded by Caliste Breaux. The motion passed without opposition and everyone was encouraged to read the minutes on our website prior to attending the monthly meetings.

Warren LeBlanc was called upon to give the Treasurer's Report for February 2015:

February Beginning Balance                                                                      $3,301.12

Dues Collected                                                                                               100.00
Books Sold/Donations
Supplements Sold                                                                                            15.00
Acadiana Project
Publication Expense                                                                                       -76.73
Speaker Meals
Banquet Expense
Office Expense
Other Expenses/Rent
Library Book Project

ENDING BALANCE                                                                                 $3,339.39

New Members for 2015                                                                                         14
Members with dues unpaid                                                                                   47

President Scheuermann then discussed the constitution committee. There are about 6 Society members who are reviewing the current constitution. They should be ready by the fall to put forth a revised constitution. It will then be voted on.

Warren Leblanc gave us an update on the St. Peter and Paul Cemetery Project in Scott. Work has started on the remaining mausoleum left to chart. The information collected has been entered into the computer spreadsheet and proofreading has begun.

Everett Thompson gave a report on the website committee. Several people met at the Library to peruse the website and offered suggestions. The navigation bar has a new look and it should be easier to maneuver the website. The homepage has links to activities and news articles that members may be interested in. Please take a look at the website and make suggestions. Your input is important to the committee.

President Scheuermann showed a copy of Kinfolks, the news magazine of the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Society. It is published quarterly and highlights area family research. It was placed on the front table for anyone to look at.

It was also announced that those serving on committees share their email addresses with others on their committee for easier communication.

The Acadian Memorial event to be held March 21 in St. Martinville has been cancelled because of expected inclement weather. The events to be held in conjunction with the Grand Réviel in Acadiana will be published on their website as soon as the dates are finalized. There was a discussion about having a table for the event. The Society's cost would be in the $200/300 or more range. Volunteers would be needed to man the table. Pete Levergne suggested that as soon as the applications are made public, we should get our application in as soon as possible in order to get a better location than last time. Also, we should consider whether or not we would want to have a raffle to earn revenue for the Society.

Lona Bourque reminded us about the Hebert gathering at the Abbeville Public Library on April 11 from 9-4. It is an all day event. Your $5.00 dues to the Hebert Family Association pays for lunch. She also told us that other family associations are getting together in Breaux Bridge at Pont Breaux Restaurant to finalize their plans.

Brenda Thibodeaux said that Francis Doga is still under the weather but she wishes to thank everyone for their cards and good wishes.

Booklets are now available for new members. This is new and some members did not receive one when they joined. Those that wish a copy may borrow one and copy it. It contains family tree forms and other general information

This concluded the business part of the meeting. President Schereumann then introduced our guest speaker, Gerald J. Keller, PhD. Dr. Keller is an educator and published author, having served time on his parishes' school board and in school administration. He is of German descent, his family having been in Louisiana for over 200 years. They were originally from the Alsace region of France/Germany. He spoke to the group on German and Italian Prisoners of War housed in Louisiana from 1943 until 1946.

Men were being drafted to fight in World War II. This created a lack of farm and industry workers in the United States. There was still rice, sugar cane, and beets to harvest and lumber to be cut. During the North Africa Campaign there began to be prisoners of war. It was decided to ship them to America and this was the beginning of the Prisoner of War camps. They ranged all over the United States with a large concentration being in the Southern and Midwestern states. At one time there were about 16,000 prisoners in 50 camps all over Louisiana working in the sugar cane fields and rice fields of South Louisiana and in the forests of North and Central Louisiana.

Having these prisoners had a tremendous impact on the economy of the United States. The labor demands were high. High school student were recruited to work in the shipyard but this did not work out. "Jim Crow" sentiments kept people from using black workers and Mexican workers primarily were in the southwest. The prisoners filled a vital part of the workforce.

The government kept track of the prisoners by registering them with serial #'s with the letter representing the country they were from with numbers representing where they were captured. Louisiana had several Base Camps such as Camp Livingston, Camp Ruston, Camp Polk, Camp Claiborne and Camp Plauche in New Orleans. After going to Base Camp, the prisoners were then sent to Branch Camps depending on the need of the farmers. The farmer would fill out an application indicating how many workers needed and the type of work to be done. The County Agent then sent the application to the LSU Extension Service who then filled the application. Officers were not forced to work. Farmers paid the prisoner the going rate of 80 cents per day as well as any other fees due. 40 cents was given to the worker to buy things such as cigarettes and personal items. The other 40 cents was put into a savings fund to be given out at the end of the war. The prisoners soon adapted to the work and only a few tried to escape. About 5,000 prisoners died while in captivity.

Dr. Keller told an interesting story about how the prisoners were taught baseball and played against the guards. They were allowed to play soccer and had access to music and books. They were trusted by the guards and on occasion used to guard their fellow prisoners. He also spoke about the few Italian prisoners who were sent to Louisiana. The prisoners were returned to Europe in 1946; however, their labor was again used to help rebuild France and England for two years before being returned to their homelands. There was a question and answer session and judging by the questions, the talk was well received.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
Kathy Pellerin, Secretary