All Saints Day: Discovering a family’s history while restoring their final resting place

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)- Many local families spend All Saint’s Day remembering loved ones that have passed away and taking care of their final resting place.

Warren Bell’s journey to restore his family’s tomb has revealed a fascinating story. Bell is a former longtime news anchor in the city and he spoke to WGNO about why it’s important to him.

According to Bell, “This is a tomb built in 1917 for my grandmother’s father, who was one of New Orleans’ earliest jazz musicians. He died in 1916, but the family ended up commissioning the tomb, so his remains were transferred here in 1917.”

Bell’s ancestors are buried at St. Louis Cemetery #2. In starting the process of restoring the family tomb, Bell has learned more about their history.

“As I peeled back the layers and learned more, it turns out he was the baby boy of a slave woman and a French coal merchant, who had moved here from France, bought her, had 5 kids with her. Died in 1864 but then left everything he had to my great great grandmother, whose name was Agathe,” said Bell.

Heather Veneziano heads pubic engagement and development for New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries and understands the importance of families knowing from whence they came.

Veneziano states, “My favorite part of my job is connecting people to their history. The best place to start is our website. we have a lot of resources there. We have a burial database. We also have links to other sites that are useful.”

Bell’s project is also an attempt to tie the past to the future, “This is New Orleans history here also, not just some jazz drummer or a lady who made pralines, but everybody’s family. They need to pass about to grandbaby. My grandbaby knows who her Maw Maw Emma was, but she’ll never know my daddy was, likewise, I think those things matter.”

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