Documenting the Past
In 2007, during design of interpretive exhibits for the new USA Archaeology Museum, the University of South Alabama acquired several historic manuscripts linked to early French colonization of Mobile. These rare documents, some now on display in the USA Archaeology Museum’s permanent exhibit, demonstrate how the written record complements the archaeological record of our historic past. Signatures of many colonists appear on these documents, compelling first-hand links to names in history books.
The documents fall into two groups. The first tells the story of two brothers, St. Lambert and Mandeville. The second group relates to Madame Messier and her family. We have provided images of the original documents, along with French transcriptions (since the originals are often difficult to read) and English translations. Many aspects of French language, and particularly standard spelling, have changed over the last 300 years, so some words will look unfamiliar even to modern-day French readers. And some of the documents’ authors were more skillful at handwriting and spelling than others. Deciphering old documents can be challenging! We hope you enjoy perusing these rare survivors of Mobile’s early colonial past.
The tasks of transcribing, translating, and posting these historic documents to the USA Archaeology Museum website have been supported by a Mobile Bay Heritage Award in 2012 from the USA College of Arts & Sciences. This endowed award started with a gift from Ms. Judy Culbreth, a 1972 college alumna, along with matching funds from the University. Transcription and translation were joint efforts of Kimberly Roy, Greg Waselkov, Arnaud Balvay, and Barbara Filion, with document photography and webpage design by Sarah Mattics.