We have received the following query from Monsieur Gervais, who has done quite a lot of research already:
I have traced my Gervais ancestors from Louisiana to St. Domingue and now to Paris, where it looks like they lived in the parish of Saint-Jean-en-Grève, which I believe was part of the parish of St. Gervais (perhaps where my family took its name?). My St. Domingue ancestor was Jean Francois Gervais. His father, Edme Gervais is the oldest ancestor I can trace back. He apparently died in Paris around 1783.
I know the difficulties about finding information on one's Parisien relatives, but I am wondering if there are any resources on Edme through his profession. Edme Gervais was a "maître traiteur ancien" or something like that. I am told loosely translated that he was a "master caterer".
In a procuration that his son Jean had drawn up in St. Domingue, Jean gave a person named Francois Michel Jeanniot the power to govern certain affairs of the probate of Edme Gervais. Francois was called "officier de bouche" which I am told under the Ancien Régime was a general name referring to a variety of positions in the royal court involving serving at the King’s table, for instance, cutting meat. It leads me to believe the Gervais has some friends in high places in the catering/food world of the Ancien Regime! haha.
So I am wondering if there are any leads on information on my ancestor through his being a master caterer, and possibly linked to persons with positions in the royal court. Are there any royal court documents surviving that might tell if he held a position at the court or did work for the court? Was there perhaps a guild or association of caterers? Was his profession/standing a likely way for up and coming people like him to get obtain land in St. Domingue and maybe that is why one of his sons was out there on St. Domingue? The thoughts continue......
He also sent an excellent piece of work by an unnamed translator and researcher:
June 7, 1783
Marguerite Guebert, widow of Edme Gervais, former master caterer in Paris, appeared before me. In the attorney’s office, Widow Gervais sincerely and truthfully affirmed the contents of the inventory taken on May twenty-seven et seq. for the donation which occurred on June four by Mr. Fieffé, Esq., who has the official record in his attorney’s office in Paris. At her, Widow Gervais’, request and on her behalf due to the communality of the assets between her and her husband, the late Mr. Gervais, as is custom in cases of communality, for lack of an inventory at the present time, and according to the custom to which she [?] or [?] also in this Island Claude Louis Charles Seguin, master caterer [?] and 2nd husband and [now? son-in-law?] and [?] of Catherine Gervais, the oldest daughter, widow of Claude Philibert Mavault, her husband, on behalf of and as guardians and real estate trustees for [Anne?] Gabriel Danet and Jean Pierre Danet, emancipated minors, [?] present at [?] the king’s Joyeux Cout, representative of the king’s prt, who has also been authorized, who have been summoned due to the absence of Jean Edme Gervais me [?] and because Jean François Gervais is in St. Domingue. Jean Edme Gervais, Jean François Gervais, and Catherine Gervais, widow, represented by Claude Louis Charles Seguin, are each hereby deemed heirs to one-fourth of the late Edme Gervais, their father and [?]. In steps and presentation of depends also on him [?] Gervais Louis [?] sons of Jean Pierre Danet, hereby deemed [B…] [?] heirs to the last fourth of the late Edme Gervais, their maternal ancestor. Since the inventory considered completed on June six, one thousand seven hundred eighty-three was [?] it on that day and the comments made on [La…] on that day on June six that Widow Gervais appeared before me and affirmed [?] correct.
The document refers to the post-mortem inventory of the assets of Edme Gervais on May 27, 1783. The inventory can be found in the records and registries of attorney Éloi Fieffé (office XXVI).
Fieffé was an attorney [or notaire] in Paris from December 10, 1776 to September 5, 1789.
The document also refers to the daughter, Catherine Gervais, and the son-in-law, Claude-Louis-Charles Seguin. I was able to find a later document referring to them, which helped confirm the lineage and spelling of the names. See the post-mortem inventory for Claude-Louis-Charles Seguin, d. January 11, 1819, and for Catherine Gervais, his wife, d. January 1, 1816; March 2, 1819.
Monsieur Gervais does not say that he obtained copies of the documents found by the transcriber/translator, but to our mind, this would be the next thing to do. Both documents are "post-mortem" or probate inventories and both would almost certainly name all legal heirs, for they all would have had to be present or represented at the inventory. Their full names, ages, professions, addresses and relationship to the deceased may be given. Membership to an association might also be given. References to other documents that could be requested may also be given or the documents may even have been copied to go with the inventories.
To request notarial records from the Archives nationales
is not at all difficult anymore. We have explained here
before about the much improved website of the AN, the Salle des Inventaires
, or SIV. You must create an account, Monsieur
Gervais, and sign in. From the menu, choose Recherche multicritères, and then choose Rechercher dans les minutes de notaires
The translator's links to the probate inventory for Edme Gervais goes to the information page about it and gives the date of the document: 27 May 1783. You must then go to the list of the notaire, Maître Fieffé's, cartons of minutes in the archives and find the one containing records including that date. Click on that and the description, if any, with code, comes up. The code in this case is : MC/ET/XXVI/714. Back to the Rechercher dans les minutes de notaires page to type this code into the box labelled cote. You will then be offered the possibility to request a copy of a document. Type in the probate inventory title and send the request. The Archives nationales will send a bill. They will then send, by e-mail if you wish, copies of the document. It takes about three weeks. Get both of these inventories and see what they reveal!
We noticed that, on the wonderful site of Projet Familles Parisiennes
, there are indexed two documents concerning one Edme Gervais Trianon, maître rotisseur
, dated 1744 and 1754. These could be worth investigating as well.