Missing Man Found After Decades: Louis Rail (abt 1798-1854)

recherche theme_1After such a busy month (ChallengeAZ 2016) and vaguely dealing with the idea of rewarding myself with well-deserved time off, I—guess what?—ended up on the Web. I then realized that the Holy Family Parish records for Cahokia, St. Clair County, Illinois were available on Family Search. For those unfamiliar with the area, Cahokia and St. Louis, Missouri almost face each other across the Mississippi River.

Like many genealogists, I had trouble finding out what happened to Marie-Louise Tourville, daughter of Toussaint Tourville and Marie-Reine Calvé, after her marriage to Louis Rail, a native of Cahokia, Illinois, on July 28, 1828, at St. Ferdinand Church, in Florissant, Missouri. I identified a son of them, Louis Toussaint, born on July 25, and baptized on October 3, 1830, in St. Ferdinand, but ever since, no clue at all.

My first breakthrough came from the discovery of a will on Ancestry a few months ago. A man named Louis Rail wrote his will in July 1853 and same—having been initially filed on February 11, 1854, in Illinois’ St. Clair County—was presented in court for probate on March 15, 1854. Under the terms of said will, his wife, Marie-Louise, became his sole legatee. I was kind of excited at the time but how can I prove this is the right couple?

Further research led me to the 1855 Illinois State Census. One M. L. Rail was listed in St. Clair County. If she wasn’t my Marie-Louise, she was likely the legatee indicated in the above-mentioned will, as only the head of the household is listed on that census.

My second breakthrough occurred last weekend while digging into the Cahokia Catholic Church records. I reviewed such documentation from February 11, 1854, going backward and there it was:

This Sunday, February fifth [1854], I, undersigned Priest, have buried in the cemetery of this parish, the body of Louis Reil, husband of Marie Louise Turville, deceased yesterday, at age fifty-six years old [translated from French].

Louis RelleUp to now, I have not found the burial record for Marie-Louise but I decided nevertheless to peruse through the church records. Two entries proved to be helpful. An excerpt of the first one reads as follows:

On February fourteen of the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, I, undersigned Priest, have baptized Elisabeth, born on October seventeen of the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three, born from the legitimate marriage of Louis Relle and Louise Touvil. The godfather and godmother are Louis Gervais and Julie Relle [translated from French].

Elisabeth RelleWell, that’s interesting! You see, I did not have any parents’ name for Louis from his marriage record, I only knew he was from Cahokia. I did some research and Louis Gervais might be his stepfather, and Julie Relle, his sister. The parents of Julie are Louis Relle and Françoise Bergeron. Louis died in 1804 and Françoise remarried in 1807 to Louis Gervais. His other sisters would be Eulalie and Marguerite. He would also have two stepsisters, Marie, and Thérèse. Below, an excerpt of the second one :

On the thirteen of July of the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five, I, undersigned, have buried in the cemetery of this parish the body of a child of [space left blank] Relle, of about five years old [translated from French].

Enfant RelleThat child could be Louis Toussaint, born in 1830.

Since I couldn’t get anything else in the church records (I intend to go through them again later, though), I turned to the census, determined to find the family in St. Clair County.

The 1840 Census revealed that one Lewis Rail has been enumerated. In the house are living one man and one woman, aged between 30 and 39 years old, so we might have a match here. I believe they probably lost their daughter Elisabeth as well prior to the 1840 Census.

In the 1850 Census, I came across a trustworthy indication about them—yet under a slightly different identity this time—Lewis Renn, aged 52 years old, born in St. Clair County, and Mary, aged 42 years old, born in Missouri.

And finally, in the 1855 Census, as mentioned before, M. L. Tourville, aged between 50 and 60, and one white male, aged between 10 and 20, are living in St. Clair County. I am not sure who that child might be.

I lost trace of Marie-Louise thereafter. Was she buried in Cahokia without her burial having been properly recorded? Or has she moved from the area? Well, that’s for me to find out, isn’t it?


Map of Louisiana and Mississippi River from the Library of Congress Website: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3700.ct000666/