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  1. Dear Aya,

    I have been reading with interest you articles about Jean Laffite and his journal. I have a suggestion on how you could authenticate the journal, although indirectly. You could have one of the male Laflin descendants take a Y-DNA test, along with a direct male descendant of Pierre Lafitte. A match would establish that the male Laflin was a direct male-line relative of the Lafitte family – proving that Jean really did escape and settle in St. Louis. This would support, if not confirm that the journal was authentic.

    I would be glad to tell you how to do this. DNA testing for genealogy is quite popular. A typical DNA test costs about $150 per person. You would definitely need to test two people (one Laflin, one Lafitte), but it would be to your advantage to test another Lafitte as a kind of insurance policy. If the first two don’t match, it might be due to an illegitimacy or an adoption in the family. So it would be a good thing to have a third person tested from a different Pierre Lafitte family line as a backup.

    I can explain more about how to do this if you want to write me at colleen@identifinders.com. I will also be glad to talk to you on the phone. I live in Southern California, but I am from New Orleans. I grew up hearing about Jean Lafitte and Dominique Yu. One of my good friends Diane Burkett tells me she is Pierre’s five times great granddaughter.

    FYI, in Jan 2012, I posted a quiz on my website http://www.forensicgenealogy.info relating to what was supposedly a treasure map by Jean Lafitte. Of course, I made it up and our readers caught me at it. But they had a lot of fun finding all the discrepancies, and I learned quite about about Lafitte at that time. (See http://www.forensicgenealogy.info/contest_337_results.html). I am presently writing an article for GAMES Magazine based on that puzzle. In my research, I came across your articles on the controversial journals, which I found very interesting and has inspired me to write you.

    DNA testing has the potential of authenticating the journals. Perhaps the Lafitte Society would be willing to cover the cost.

    Colleen Fitzpatrick PhD
    Identifinders International

    • Thanks, Colleen, for your comment and your suggestion.

      It is not clear that there are any living Lafflin heirs to test, and many people believe that John Andrechyne Laffite was an imposter who got the journal from one of the real heirs, such as Jules Jean Laffite, who died leaving no heirs surviving. But on the other hand, if we could locate the grave of Jean Laffite in Alton, Illinois, I suppose it might be possible to get a DNA sample there.

      • Yes that would be a great find. Curios as a cat. Why is there so little material on the details of such a historical period?

        • Hi, Chuck. Thanks for your comment. I think that it is not so much that particular historical periods are obscure. Rather, certain aspects of the events of those periods are kept hidden. But we aim to uncover as much as we can and encourage you to do the same!

  2. Hello, I have been working to write a biography of my 5th great aunt Cassandra Cockey Deye Owings Van Pradelles, wife of Benedict Van Pradelles. She disappeared from New Orleans in late August 1813. Family lore and story tellers say she was taken by pirates and made to “walk the plank”. This story closely mirrors that of Theodosia Burr Aaron Burr’s daughter. This is also known as “the dream” story. I have a copy of the letter where she relates a nightmare of being taken by pirates sailing from N.O. to Baltimore – the Owings family home state. She sent her children to Baltimore as she finished up her business ties in the city. Cassandra had a boarding house after Benedict died of Yellow Fever. One of her boarders was Gen. Wilkinson of the Spanish Conspiracy. He posted a cryptic ad in the newspaper possibly related to the conspiracy. I think Cassandra was murdered in N.O.. She was good friends with Gov. Claiborne. No missing persons report was made, no obituary exits, no interviews with her slaves, no ship manifest has her onboard, her sea trunks were not packed. The family hometown of Cockeysville, Maryland has only a oblisk stating “lost at sea” to remember her. A few conspirators were murdered while carrying the Spanish “pensions” (bribes). One of the main Kentucky conspirators was George Nicholas her brother’s father-in-law. One of the Kentucky attorney generals undertook a secret investigation of the conspirators and reported to Thomas Jefferson – in one letter he mentions “Owings murderers” which were taken to Ft. Washington. Any thoughts to solve this mystery?

    • Hi David, I do not think Cassandra was murdered. She apparently was ill in July 1813, as she made out her will then. She died sometime between then and March 1814, when one of her daughters took the will to probate court in Baltimore. She supposedly left New Orleans sometime after July 1813 on a ship bound for Baltimore which stopped at Beaufort, N.C., where it seems she had her nightmare and wrote about it. The folklore says she delayed her return for a few days in consequence, and got on a ship called the Corinthian, which was never heard from again. No contemporary newspaper has any ship by that name listed in its ship news for the time periods of 1812-1815, so the ship name is incorrect, at least. As for what could have happened to the ship, very doubtful it was waylaid by pirates: a much more likely scenario is it got caught in a storm and sank, especially given there was a hurricane off the east coast in late August-early September 1813. Some versions of the folklore have her having been a victim of some of Jean Laffite’s men, but that is highly unlikely, they did not cruise off North Carolina, especially not in 1813 when there was a British blockade off the East Coast of the US. This is not to say that the Laffite brothers did not know Cassandra: her boarding house was right across the street from the Exchange Coffee House in New Orleans where they frequently visited. Re ties to Gen. Wilkinson, that is possible. Her husband, Benedict, was somehow involved in land selling schemes in 1807-1808 and frequently advertised land for sale in the New Orlean paper. He also seems to have been some sort of business associate of Beverly Chew and Daniel Clark. Anyway, to summarize, much of the story about Cassandra did not come to light until around 1920, long after even her children were all dead, so it would seem a great deal of it has been tainted by fiction wrapped around a few facts verifiable from contemporary accounts and paperwork.

      • Thank you so much Pam for your insights. Is there an inventory taken after the raid on Barataria? On March 19th 1814 George Dorsey of New Orleans gave testimony that Cassandra left in late August for Beaufort, NC. Who is Dorsey? We have allied Dorsey family in Maryland but I can’t place him or Greenberry Dorsey. The hurricane would have hit the ship one or two days out of Beaufort – then she would have been in the protection of the Chesapeak Bay. Or why not just go overland 400 miles to Maryland? Was the British blockade stopping all ships? When did the hurricane hit – the British navy keep meticulious records? I have read a good many of her families letters and not a word about her. I have a good many of Col. Owings letters – same.

        • There was an inventory of items taken by Patterson and Ross and men in the raid on Barataria, but mostly of ships and goods, not of any personal effects found, nor private papers. George Dorsey was am attorney in New Orleans and a partner of Smith, Dorsey & Co., handling Bills of Exchange in 1813, according to an ad in the Louisiana State Gazette of May 29, 1813. The reason Cassandra did not go overland to Baltimore from Beaufort was the arduous nature of such a journey by coach at that time, given that she was sick when she left New Orleans, and was still sick at Beaufort. That’s why she left by sea again. So far I haven’t located the hurricane records, and when and where it hit, but there was one on the eastern seaboard around the end of the summer of 1813. One possibility about why the family letters do not mention Cassandra is they probably disapproved of her having left her young children to the care of her sister in 1811. The youngest child was only 3.

          • Good news and bad.

            First the bad: The Fort Worth office of NARA has not been able to locate the list of goods seized by Commodore Patterson at Barataria. The document was transferred from Washington, DC to Forth Worth in 2005, and apparently was not properly indexed upon receipt. It is now buried somewhere in a number of boxes.

            Now the good: I have been reading about 200 pages of the lawsuits from New Orleans, handwriting permitting, and although I have not found the name of Cassandra’s ship, or any other new information about her disappearance, I did find an interesting statement in one of the cases. The suit was brought by Cassandra’s heirs to recover possession of a house in New Orleans from the successors of Greenberry Dorsey. You may recall that Cassandra purchased a house at the corner of Bourbon and Customhouse Streets about June, 1813, then sold it to Edward Johnson 8/13/1813, the day before she set sail. Johnson died and the house came into the possession of Dorsey, as Johnson’s business partner, then Dorsey went bankrupt and his successors (creditors) took possession of the house. Cassandra’s heirs sued, on the theory that Cassandra’s sale to Johnson was void for lack of consideration (the heirs won). What is interesting about all this is a statement in the case that Johnson sailed from New Orleans on the same ship as Cassandra and was also lost at sea. It is even more interesting when you re-read Cassandra’s last letter to her mother where she says that a Doctor Johnson will be one of the passengers on her ship. Thus, it appears that the Doctor Johnson in Cassandra’s letter is most likely the Edward Johnson to whom she conveyed the house. This supports the theory that she died at sea, and also that her last letter (of which we have only a transcription) is genuine.

          • Hi Pam, just reading Cassandra’s “last letter” transcript and she mentions her pending trip August 15, 1813 with Capt. Betts on the schooner Independence with doctor Edward Jones and a Mr. Mayhew. There was a Baltimore mayor named Edward Jones – he was not a doctor but his father was and sometimes people confused this. The Times Picayune reported the Independence departure for Beaufort, NC with Capt. Betts. Interesting that the Independence was reported as disappeared in 1805-06 from the south Atlantic by the Sydney Gazette. It would seem one of two things happened: 1.) she never boarded the ship in New Orleans 2.) at some point she parted company with Capt. Betts and the others. The Independence was never reported missing again and the crew seems to have lived on without incident. Still the huge question remains why newspapers did not report Cassandra missing. Greenberry Dorsey tells the same story about Buefort but he could merely be repeating what he heard.

    • Hi, tried to place this reply in its proper place with your comments, but was umable to do so. Anyway, re the partial list of ships and goods seized by Patterson and Ross in the Barataria raid, that document is not at Fort Worth, but is in Texas, at the Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, as part of the Parsons Collection, specifically the case file United States vs Certain Goods Taken at Barataria Case 0746. I have a copy of that which i received many years ago, but it is buried in my Laffite files and would take some time to locate. I do recall that the handwriting on the paper list is atrociously difficult to decipher. Re your Mr. Jones, if he was prominent in Baltimore, he likely was involved with the privateering ventures out of that city, thus his business connections with New Orleans.

  3. Hello Ms. Keyes,

    Would you happen to have a list of the slave inventory for Daniel Clark and/or his daughter Myra?

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