Searching for Ellis P. Savoie
Updated: Feb 19
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Ellis P. Savoie was one of the first members of the Rum Boogie crew for whom I tried to find a living relative. It was March of 2013, and the only information I had about Ellis was that he was most likely born around 1920 (an educated guess), his birthplace was Louisa, Louisiana (according to an old military document I had), and he was listed as the Engineer on the official Rum Boogie crew list. However, I needed more information about him before I would ever be able to locate a living relative. As it turned out, without Cynthia Fatchett Daigle, a woman I didn't know at the time, it's very likely I would have never found out anything more about him than those three details.
I did many searches for Ellis on my computer. Even though I always got a lot of results, only one ever referenced him personally by name. That link consisted of a page full of alphabetically arranged lines of "S" last names from a Rootsweb site (pictured above). The entry for Ellis was one of 23,554 entries on that site and included what appeared to be the name of a newspaper and a date, most likely referring to his obituary. I spent hours trying to find a copy of the newspaper or the obituary, but I never could. As helpful as this clue should have been, I just couldn't make it work.
At first, I didn't really understand what Rootsweb was, but it turned out to be a free genealogy platform that hosted millions of names from hundreds of genealogy-related websites for locales, societies, and individual family trees. The information for Ellis was part of the Fatchett and Authement Surnames and Ancestors/Descendants database. That database included notes and sources for over 155,000 people, all of it assembled by one person, Cynthia Fatchett Daigle.
Since the database happened to contain Ms. Daigle's email address, I wrote to her for help. She told me that although her database contained a lot of Savoie's, she was not related to Ellis, and she could find next to nothing about him. That actually made me feel better. She did, however, supply a key piece of information: the obituary for Ellis's brother, Horace, the only record she could locate for their family. Luckily for me, the obituary listed seventeen different Savoie relatives, many of whom were still alive. I was able to find two of them on Facebook, and actually spoke to them on the phone. That was a thrilling and surreal first for me which I will never forget.
As I was researching this blog, I discovered that Cynthia's information actually had existed in two different places, Genealogy.com and Rootsweb, both part of the larger Ancestry.com. She seemingly had her bases covered. Sadly, on September 30, 2014, she announced the dismantling of her Genealogy website. The company decided to retire all member activity on Genealogy: the information would be viewable only. Cynthia would not be able to add or correct information. She had a back-up, though, since all of the information on Genealogy.com was also available on Rootsweb, complete with all her notes and sources.
It was a stroke of luck that I found Ms. Daigle's website when I did because on December 23, 2017, Ancestry.com announced that thousands of RootsWeb usernames and passwords had been hacked. Affected accounts were users of the RootsWeb surname list, exactly the list where I had first found Ellis.
If you go to Rootsweb these days, you get the following message: "Rootsweb is currently unavailable. As RootsWeb is a free and open community that has been largely built by its users, we may not be able to salvage everything as we work to resolve this issue." In other words, the very list where I had found Ellis does not exist anymore in either place where it once had been. The old adage, timing is everything, certainly applied here.