FGB Free Clinic Case Studies

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 8 follow-up - Uniformologie - Success!

Band Practice

After our Case Study on Uniformologie, in which we reported an expert's view that the uniform in question was no French Army uniform and his speculations on what it could be (all wrong, by the way, but we are still grateful to him for his expertise) Monsieur R had no intention of giving up on the quest. Indeed no, he continued with heroic amounts of energy and determination and solved the riddle. With his kind permission, we give his account of the research below and hope that you may be inspired, even find new courage and ideas, to carry on your own research.

First, I would like to thank you, and tell you how much my wife (Madame R) and I enjoyed your "Uniformologie" Article, and your interest following our "needle in the haystack" search for the uniform identification and the ultimate confirmation of the identity of the man in the photo.

We were hoping to fulfill a dying wish of my wife's mother to learn about and tell her anything we could learn regarding her biological father. You see, due to the reasons unknown, my wife's mother, born in 1924, in Germany, was not told who her biological father was until well after she and her family had migrated to America in the 1930s. In fact, her mother was much older when her own mother (Madame R's grandmother) finally revealed who her biological father was. It was the handsome French man in uniform, in the old photo. The photo in question was always in my wife's grandmother's box of photos that she brought with her to America. They left their family village, located near the French Border, in search of work and a new life. We believe my wife's grandmother had met this man while across the border in France in search of work(?) Growing up in the Midwest, my wife had always been told by her grandmother that the man in the photo was a special friend. Eventually, my wife was told that the man in the photo was named Jules Martin, and that her grandmother had met him while in Sarrebourg, France.

So, in the last months of my wife's mother's life we began a search in earnest to confirm the identity of Jules Martin and perhaps of his life back in France. Unfortunately, to blur our endeavor, the name "Jules Martin" is about like Robert Smith in the USA. I always believed that the path to confirm the identity of Mr. Martin was along the route of first identifying the uniform, especially since it bore officer stripes. As you explained in your "Uniformologie" our search for the uniform identification was nearly in vain, even after exhaustive internet research. As a part of the search, my goal was to get this photo out on as many sites as possible, and to get the photo showing up in Google image pages as often and as early as possible-hoping someone may see it and know the man. We knew the photo was taken in Sarrebourg, France, by the photographer's imprint on the image. We also knew that the photo had to be taken in the early 1920s. We assumed the man, Jules Martin, to be about 20-25 years in age. We also searched under the assumption he was from that Alsace-Lorraine Region. At this time we were never able to confirm his existence through any mandatory military registration records, even though we reviewed many from Classes 1918-1924, in several "Departments." Nor, could any of the historical military forums I posted in, identify the uniform or insignia. Therefore, I began launching strategic darts, by way of emails containing the photo along with an explanation to civic officials in Sarrebourg and other Alsace-Lorraine Region Communes.

Finally, I received an email from a helpful director of tourism in Sarrebourg, whom I had contacted. She had distributed it to some folks in the Community, including the President of the Organization, "les Amis du Vieux Sarrebourg", translated as the “Friends of Old Sarrebourg.” And, thus, the needle was found! Through this Group, they identified the uniform as the "band uniform" of one of the local civic associations, known as the "Bengeles." (I suspect, that perhaps the uniform was from military surplus, because I had recently found that his uniform was remarkably similar to the Saint Maixent Military Academy uniform in the early 1900s.) One of the men of the "Friends of Old Sarrebourg" showed the photo to another friend in Sarrebourg, and this man identified the man in the photo, as indeed Jules Martin (aka Julius Martin)-his grandfather! He initially offered some sketchy information that his grandfather was born in 1899, and that he was a farmer, grocer and musician. Interestingly enough, the grandson has the exact same photo that was in my wife's old family box of photos.

With much pleasure, I shared this discovery with my wife and she listened with great emotion. Sadly, her mother had passed away earlier in the summer. Before we could tell her what we had finally learned of her biological father, Jules. My wife, Madame R, gave much consideration, thought, and prayer on how to take the next step. The dilemma of making contact with the living grandson, in France; considering the possible delicate situation arising from the relationship of my wife's grandmother and Jules Martin, long ago, in France, resulting in the birth of my wife's mother. Recently, my wife did send the email with an attached letter to Jules’s grandson. A letter she spent much time composing trying to be sensitive to the reader. After many rewrites, she finally had a friend, who could write and speak in fluent French, write a translation. We have now received a reply from the grandson still living in Sarrebourg, France. Though he was quite surprised, he offered more information regarding their common biological grandfather, Jules Martin. At this time, my wife does not know where this new relationship is headed. However, should they become friends, she hopes to visit Sarrebourg and so they may better share their stories of life and family.

A Happy Ending!

Note also how generous with their time and how interested in and willing to help with French genealogy puzzles the local official and history/genealogy buffs were. We have found this to be the case very, very often. There may be the odd over-worked official fed up with genealogy requests who will send a letter of rebuff to you, but most are keen to be of help and to connect with distant cousins in far-off lands. This post tells how you may find more about each department's local history associations. This website can be used to find the address of every town hall (mairie) in France, should you wish to emulate Monsieur R and write to one.

Monsieur and Madame R, thank you so much for sharing this research journey with us. (Suggestions for how to prepare are given here.) We look forward to a report on the discovery of Sarrebourg and family there.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 8 - Adventures in Uniformologie

1923 Sarrebourg

Back in March, we received the above photograph from a Dear Reader, Monsieur R., who hoped that we could help to identify the uniform. Not our strong point, uniforms, pretty as we find them to be at times.

Monsieur R. has very little to go one concerning the subject of the photograph: his name is uncertain but may be Jules Martin. The photograph was taken in Sarrebourg, Moselle in about 1922 or 1923, at a studio called Gaertner. The hope has been that identification of the uniform would lead to a regiment and, perhaps, a positive identification of the man himself.

Monsieur R. has done a great deal of research on the Internet about the Gaertner studio, about various fellows named Jules Martin (could there be a more common name?) and about Sarrebourg. He has tried posting the photo and his query on many uniform forums and websites. We also contacted the people we know who are passionate about uniforms. Many people suggested that the beret was surely that of the Chasseurs alpins, but theirs seems to be quite a bit larger and darker.

Uniform 6-2

 

Yet, as that is the only regiment that wears a beret, people kept coming back to it. No one, however, could find an example of the uniform in the pictures of the Chasseurs alpins. We had no success in identifying the uniform at all, nor, so far as we know, had Monsieur R. found the name of the regiment. 

Because there was none for that uniform, we have learned, and that is because it is not an official uniform. At a loss, we had gone to the military archives at the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes for, at times, one must go to the source. We do so adore going there, at the end of Metro Line 1, although the many changes in the archives administration have meant much more planning is required than in the past. The stumble down the long cobbled road past the chateau and jewel of a church brings one to the still musty but increasingly efficient archives. Once settled into our place, booked weeks earlier, we sought out our good friend, Madame B., and asked for help with a tricky uniform. She immediately rang Monsieur L..

Monsieur L. is no procrastinator and was at our side in a flash, studying the photo, as well as an enlargement of the part showing the collar and its insignia, which could be seen as GG or CC.

Col et beret

The first thing that Monsieur L. said was "This is all wrong!" He elaborated. "The beret, tunic and trousers do not go together; the tunic is iron grey and the trousers are white and such a mix is NOT acceptable!"

The beret is not of the Chasseurs alpins at all but it could help to date the photograph as after 1915. In the summer of that year, the army issued to all infantry regiments a beret of light blue, or bleu d'horizon. Monsieur L. identified the beret in the photograph as being such a one. The Chasseurs alpins apparently were furious that their unique uniform element of the beret had been given to all and sundry. In September of 1915, the light blue beret was withdrawn and no longer to be worn. Thus, it was available for only about three or four months though one can imagine that those already issued were not destroyed.

Yet, this is no help in identifying a regiment, since the beret was issued to everyone in the infantry. Nor does it help in dating the photograph as after 1915, as Monsieur R. already knew that it was from about 1922. The two bars on the beret and the tunic sleeve indicate a rank of lieutenant which, again, Monsieur R. had been able to discover already.

So, what is this hodge-podge of a military get-up? Here, Monsieur L. had no doubt at all. "He had to be either in a hospital or a prisoner, and patched together this uniform for the photograph. Perhaps it was from clothing the photographer's studio had." Others in the forums contacted by Monsieur R. had noted that no shoes or boots were shown in the photograph and Monsieur L. wondered if the trousers that had gone with the tunic might not have been ruined when the man might have been wounded, and that these two oddities could indicate a leg wound of some sort. 

Thus, from Monsieur L.'s most helpful advice, we can suggest to Monsieur R. to give up the hunt for a regiment to go with this non-uniform and rather to investigate military hospitals and prisons around Sarrebourg between the wars. Alternatively, he might concentrate on a Jules Martin with a leg wound or who had been a prisoner. Not much help, we know, but if Monsieur L. cannot say more, we doubt that anyone else can do so.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case No. 7 - Gleanings From Foundling Documents

  Un

 

We have received an interesting case from Monsieur S., who is researching a woman who was a foundling in Paris. He had already leapt some high hurdles in acquiring from the Archives de Paris the documents relating to her as an enfant assisté, which he sent to us with this request:

I am attempting to determine who the parents of this woman were. As you will see by looking at the attached documents, which I received from the Paris Archives, Marie Thérèse Charlotte Augusta was a foundling, and a very unusual one. She was born in a well-to-do section of Paris and her parents are listed as undisclosed. Apparently, however, they were married, as there is no indication that she was illegitimate. She appears to have spent only three days in a Paris orphanage before being fostered (or adopted) by a Vertus family.

Would you know any way of determining who her parents were?

We are afraid that the birth record is not at all unusual. The first document (see above) states that the child was born at the establishment of a midwife (sage-femme), Madame Girnet or Ginet; the parents could have lived anywhere else, so the place of birth indicates nothing of their financial circumstances. From this registration, as neither parent is identified, there is no way of knowing if the father were even alive or if the mother survived childbirth.

This first document is an informal attestation, made sixty years later and signed with the initials M. Th. Fr. - could those have been of the lady herself? The original would have been destroyed in the 1871 burning of the Paris City Hall (as we have explained here) and this copy would have been one of the millions that Parisians submitted to authorities (who were pleading for such replacement documentation) to prove their identities after that fire, (though it does not appear in the index of "reconstituted" Paris registrations online, which could indicate that she did not live in Paris or need to establish her identity there.)

Deux

 

The second document (above) shows she was assigned the number 1120, and that a surname, Michery, has been given to her, perhaps by the hospice. This is the name of a town and is not a surname much at all in France, as you can see on Géopatronyme. It may have been the home town of someone working in the hospice, or perhaps names were given simply by looking at a map of France. It also states that she was born in the (pre-1860) twelfth arrondissement, or borough, and that her birth registration number was 472. This, as we say, would have been burnt.

Trois

 

The third document (above) is a hospice form showing what happened to her since her arrival. She was baptised at the receiving hospice on the eleventh, the day after she arrived and three days after her birth, so she was given up almost immediately. That she was immediately placed in care indicates that the couple probably had no intention of marrying later and recognising her, something that often happened (reconnaissance of a child is explained here). On the 13th of March, when she was five days old, she was sent to a woman, probably a wet-nurse, named Marguerite Laurent Grognet (not Vertus, read on), living in the town of Coligny in the canton of Vertus. This town was amalgamated with others in 1977 to form Val-des-Marais, as Wikipedia states here. The column to the right of that document, for "Information on the child since she arrived at the hospice" is rather hard to read, but says that on the 5th of April 1851 a certificate confirming her birth was issued to the adjunct of the commune(?), for her to marry, of the town of Vertus (Marne), about fifteen kilometres from where she was sent as an infant.

Quatre

 

The fourth document (above) concerns her baptism, done jointly with the child received after her. The godparents were most likely employees of the hospice.

Cinq

 

Six

 

The fifth and sixth documents, a two-page spread, probably in a ledger, list the children placed with wet-nurses, giving the woman's name and town of residence. The Michery child is third from the bottom. As can be seen from the deaths shown in the columns on the sixth document, she was lucky to have survived. We have written about wet-nurses in France here.

Continuing the Search

How to proceed to learn more? Firstly, Monsieur S. should look for her marriage registration in 1851 in Vertus, if he has not already done so. The website of the Departmental Archives of Marne is excellent, free to use and has online the parish and civil registrations of its towns, including Vertus and its register of marriages from 1841 to 1851. Images 196 and 197 of that scanned register show the marriage of André Julien David and Marie Thérèse Charlotte Augusta on the sixth of May 1851. Here, Augusta is given as her surname, as it would have appeared on her birth registration, and presumably as the surname given by the hospice, Michery, was never added to her name legally. The Officer of Civil Registrations noted that he had received a copy of her birth details (most likely the one mentioned in the third document above) and that her parents were unknown. 

When a person married and his or her parents were deceased, copies of the death registrations had to be presented at the time and the details noted in the registration. This was not possible for the bride and the fact that she and her witnesses did not know where her parents lived or died is duly noted. Other details include that both of the couple were aged thirty-one, that "Marie Augusta", as she signed herself, was a resident of the town of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger at the time of her marriage, as was one of her witnesses, Jean Louis Hamé, a wine grower, aged fifty-three. It is also noted that the couple did not make a marriage contract with a notaire, which is a pity in terms of genealogical research.

The Departmental Archives of Marne also have on their website census records, from 1836 onward. We recommend that Monsieur S. look at those for Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Vertus and Coligny as they might show where Marie Thérèse lived and with whom. She would have to be sought under both possible surnames: Augusta and Michery as well as that of her witness, Hamé, and that of her original wet-nurse, Grognet or Grougnet.

Unfortunately, without further documentation, there is no way to find out who her parents were via traditional genealogical research. Hints that could, possibly, be of help are:

  • Her many names, which could relate to her parents or their friends or family
  • Any court documents concerning her, especially while she was still a minor
  • Inexplicable wealth, which could indicate that a wealthy father cared for her. As she had rather nice clothing when she arrived: a "green silk bonnet", a blue and white checked shawl, etc., it may indicate that one parent or the other wanted to show love or at least care before surrendering her to the foundling hospital.

However, each of these possibilities is nothing on its own but could, with more information, indicate a direction of research. The sad truth is that, if a parent, especially the father, did not want to be identified, he could ensure it and had the law on his side. Thus, we fear that, barring a surprise in the census returns or a lucky DNA match, the parents of Marie Thérèse Charlotte Augusta may never be identified.

 

N.B. - Do read the comments and our response below in the Comments to this post.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

 

 

 

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 6 - Surname To Place Name To Surname

Petits Soins

We have been asked by a Dear Reader to help discover the origins and meaning of his surname, which is Labrunière, not a common name. We thought that the search process might be of interest to others seeking to answer the same sort of question. 

Firstly, one must be armed with a good French dictionary. We use our grandmother's Petit Larousse illustré, the pink one. The word brun, which would seem to be the core of the name, means the colour brown; in a name it meant someone with brown hair or dark colouring. We then did a trawl of surname sites and books:

  • We looked on Geopatronyme. Though the earliest date is 1891, which is not very early at all, this still gives an idea of the distribution of the name. A strong concentration in a single region would be a very good indication as to the origins of the name, even, perhaps, of it deriving from another language or dialect. The name being scattered all over France would indicate that it derives from something more universal, such as religion or Latin. In this case, the name Labrunière is exceedingly rare, with just one occurrence and that in the Marne. Separating the article (La Brunière) brought no results at all. Eliminating the article (Brunière) brought nine results in two towns in the department of Ardèche. A rare name indeed.
  • With such a paltry usage of the name, we thought to check the telephone directory  -- l'Annuaire des Particuliers -- to see its usage today, again checking the three versions. It occurs as De La Brunière just thirteen times and as plain Brunière a few more times, many of them in Ardèche, indicating the growth of that family seen above, probably. Our Dear Reader has no ancestors from Ardèche. His Labrunière ancestors come from Savoie.
  • We looked at one of the many books on the origins of French surnames, in this case, Les noms de famille en France : Histoires et anecdotes, edited by that indefatigable workaholic, Marie-Odile Mergnac. Unsurprisingly, the name does not appear, though others based on the word brun are: Brun, Bruneau, Brunel and Brunet. All of their meanings derive from that indicating a person with brown hair.

There is a castle with the name Labrunière. There is a family linking the name to the de Medicis. Both are very tempting, but our Dear Reader Labrunière has no evidence linking his family to either. As this is a quest for meaning more than extending genealogical connections, we did not pursue the castle or the Italians.

We decided to look deeper into the meaning and usage of just the suffix -ière. A number of academics seem to be dallying in supposition. Monsieur Touratier in Morphologie et morphématique: Analyse en morphèmes made something of the fact that some words with the suffix mean small thing and some mean large things and that is confusing; then he wandered off into wondering how the word lumière fit into the small versus large dichotomy. Monsieur Cassagne in Villes et Villages en pays lotois announced that the suffix -ière comes from the Latin -aria, meaning territory or around a place. This would make Labrunière to mean "the place around the brown" which is rather baffling, unless it were to mean "the place around where the brown one, e.g Brun, is or lives", which is more promising.

We are much enamoured of nineteenth century academics, not only for their erudition and expertise but also for the occasional and unintentional humour of their outlandish arrogance. So we turned to the 1851 Grammaire française: lexicologie et lexicographie: ouvrage spécialement destiné à servir de base à l'enseignement scientifique de la langue maternelle dans les collèges, gymnases, écoles moyennes et autres établissements d'instruction publique by Cyprien Ayer and there found a reassuring plethora of suffix discussion, which we summarize.

  • In essence, the suffixes -ier, -ière, -er, and -aire all have been used to make a new word, sometimes and adjective, but usually a noun or proper noun. Thus the adjective originaire from origine, and the nouns libraire from libre and antiquaire from antiquité. 
  • The development of the word has to do with habitual use or behaviour. A place where there are always wasps becomes a guêpier,   for example. The habitual aspect of the suffix use has lead to 
    • nouns indicating a person's work or métier, such as joaillier, saunier, cloutier, fromager, chevalier, maraîcher
    • nouns indicating a plant, especially trees and of those, especially those that produce a fruit: bananier, cerisier, noisietier, sorbier, mûrier, laurier, osier
    • nouns indicating a tool, especially a receptacle, that is habitually used for the same purpose: brasier, collier, soupière, théière

Monsieur Labrunière, our Dear Reader who sent us on this search, thought the name might have had to do with Saint Bruno. We are inclined to think not for names related to saints usually contain the word saint in them: Saint-Martin (the most known saint in France, for he Christianized the Gauls), Saint-Georges, Saint-Gilles, Saint-Vincent and so on. An alternative that might indicate a religious derivation could be the honourific dom as in Dommartin or Dombrun. No, we think it may have more to do with some kind of repetitive or habitual use, as explained by Monsieur Ayer.

Two websites discussing local place names shed a lovely lumière, we think:

  • That on the history of Bournezeau in the Vendée has a page by Jean-Claude Couderc on the Origines des noms de nos villages. Here, he tells us that "in the Gallo-Roman period, it was common to name a place after its owner" and that many such hamlets and villages in the area provide examples of this custom, including:
    • La Brunière owned by the Brun family
    • La Borlière owned by the Borel family
    • La Martinière owned by the Martin family
    • La Louisière owned by the Louis family
    • L'Hermitière owned by the L'Hermite family
  •  Monsieur Henry Suter's website contains a great deal of study on the Noms de Lieux de Suisse Romande, Savoie et environs. He has a large glossary of place names, many of which follow the same pattern as above. There, also (and recall that our Dear Reader's family are from Savoie) can be found places called La Martinière and Martinière, La Borlière and La Brunière, as well as Les Brunières.

It would seem to us that Labrunière the family name comes from a place -- a village or even a single house -- known as La Brunière, which in turn took its name from owners named Brun or something close to that. What do you think, Dear Readers?

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 5 - Edme Gervais, traiteur parisien

Petits Soins

 

 
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 provided the following links to document transcriptions online at the website of the University of Florida, and to the 1783 Paris document found online at Geneanet, and indexed by Projet Familles Parisiennes.
 
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.

Transcriber’s Notes:

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.
 
Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.36.40
 
 
 
 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.
 
As to a professional association such as that for bakers and pastry chefs, you may wish to look at the site of the Compagnons du Tour de France.
 
Lastly, to learn more about Edme Gervais's profession, we suggest two special issues of Nos Ancêtres - Vie et Métiers:
 
 
You have many possibilities, Monsieur Grevais!
 
©2016 Anne Morddel
 
 
French Genealogy

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 4 - Laurent Desnoyers

Petits Soins

Monsieur Conroyd wrote:

I have several ancestors who were apparently in the French military, but I will pick one here, of whom I seem to have enough information to make a little bit of an interesting story, though I actually have more about his wife.  I have not been able to find his certain origin or baptism and would like to.  I suppose I am hoping that military records might unlock something about him, but I don’t know how to pursue them...

Laurent De[s] Noyer[s]  

  • abt 1697 born, perhaps native of Dain in Artois, bishopric of St. Omer [This is from a book by Winston Deville giving his wife’s origin]
  • "native of Dain in Artois" diocese Saint Omer [Saint Omer existed from 1559 - Revolution; 1801 merged with Arras] [Artois Province or County contained cities: Arras, Saint-Omer, Lens, & Bethune; now in Pas-de-Calais dept.] Dainville?, Pas-de-Calais?, just west of Arras; 54 km from Marconne (wife's native village)
  • [Natchez Post founded in 1716]
  • Perhaps about 1715-18 entered the French military, navy?
  • abt. 1718 married in France (marriage record not yet found, but a
  • baptism found for a apparently legitimate daughter Marie Angelique Desnoyers on 26 Dec 1718 in Marconne, France, dying 11 days later.) “fille legitime de Laurent” was inserted into the text.
  •  [1718, May 7 New Orleans founded]
  •  1720 Aug 20 departed France aboard the ship L'Elephant apparently with wife Angelique, sergeant in the Navy Regiment with hope of becoming Ensign, for New Orleans
  • 1722 Aug 15 a second sergeant at Yazoo[Mississippi], witnessed a testament of Father Nicholas Arquevaux a native of Verdun, Lorraine, aged 34 years [La. Museum, N.O., on-line, document 32 with signature of DeNoye[?]
  •  1729 Adjutant Major and manager of the Terre Blanche concession at Natchez. 
  • 1729 Nov 28 Slaughtered by the Natchez Indians at Fort Rosalie, later Natchez, he only arriving [perhaps returning] that morning, and like all the other French, not aware of the Natchez ruse: acting friendly, borrowing French guns claiming to go hunting, then upon signal using them to kill almost all the un-armed French men, and many women and children at close quarters instead.
  • He apparently married [no marriage record yet found in Hesdin or nearby Marconne, wife’s origin] Marie Anne Angelique Charton and had possibly 4 children; 1 in France, 3 in French Louisiana or Mississippi territory.

It is our experience that these very early settlers have been thoroughly researched and that what has not yet been found is not going to be found. Still, in genealogy research one must never say never, so here is what we suggest:

  • We spoke with the representatives of the Association Généalogique du Pas de Calais, who were very generous with their time and expertise, at their stand at the Congrès national de Généalogie in Poitiers. They checked their databases for the entire department and found no Laurent Desnoyers at all. They checked various spellings but found nothing. (They did find a great deal on his wife, Marie Anne Angélique Chartron, who, along with about twenty other women, is reputed to have been the inspiration for the story of Manon Lescaut. Monsieur Conroyd already has the Chartron information.) Mind, the content of their databases is what people have extracted from parish and civil registrations and one tiny variation in spelling means that a name could be missed. We would not continue searching the parish registrations with much energy without more clues.
  • All at the stand scoffed at a village named Dain. "There NEVER was such a place!" they all agreed. Possibly Dainville or Houdain (both of which Monsieur Conroyd has already searched) possibly -- based on the idea of pronunciation -- Dohem (which is in the modern arrondissement of St. Omer). Dohem's registers are not big and it would not take long to search them, bearing in mind that the spelling would probably be other than Desnoyers.
  • Desnoyers and Chartron my have had a marriage contract. If so, even if they married elsewhere, it may have been written in or near her home of Marconne or in St. Omer. Her father may have left a will. Checking the répertoires of the actes of the notaires who served Marconne for the relevant years, say 1715 through 1718 for the marriage, could reveal something that has not been found by others yet. A complete list of the notarial records for the department can be found here and it can be seen that not many go back as far as is required, so it would not be that much of a difficulty to look through them. However, only the finding aids are online. The search would have to be done in person at the Departmental Archives of Pas de Calais.
  • No search of the records for Louisiane and Natchez on the IREL search engine for the Archives nationales d'outre-mer brings up anything for Laurent Desnoyers. However, there is a great deal on Louisiana and Natchez, with quite a lot of correspondence, not all of which has been indexed online. Much of it is, however, digitized and can be viewed on the website. Reading the letters and reports for Natchez during the relevant years could yield something on Desnoyers.
  • The same holds true for correspondence and other documents held at other facilities, all of which are listed on the excellent government website La Louisiane française, under the heading Resources Documentaires. 
  • The Compagnie des Indes search page on Memoire des Hommes has the passenger and crew lists for ships to Louisiana from 1720, though these are not always complete.
  • It seems unlikely, given his military rank, but should Desnoyers have been one of the prisoners or his wife one of the women rounded up in Paris, then their names could appear in the records of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal

 

This will be a tough one for, as we say, it is unlikely that all of the above have not been combed by many researchers over the years. Nevertheless, we wish Monsieur Conroyd the best of luck. As always, suggestions from our Dear Readers would be most welcome.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 3 - Pierre Jacob Gaubert - at the XXIII Congrès national de Généalogie

CGLA

As we have written, the 2015 Congrès national de Généalogie seemed a subdued affair. The word going round was that the villain was the Internet, that people are now doing all of their research online and are no longer joining or purchasing from the many genealogy associations and that, as a consequence, the associations are struggling to keep going. If this be the case, it is a great pity, for these associations are invaluable. Clearly, the Internet is a boon to genealogical research, but it is a complement to and not a replacement of the accumulation of expertise to be found in the membership of the genealogy associations. Just as no library cataloguing system will ever take the place of the brain of an experienced reference librarian, so the Internet, which is a generalist, cannot replace the expertise of the genealogy specialists who populate the associations.

One of the things we most like to do at these conferences is to take our research bugbears to these experts and see what they can find in their own collections and among their colleagues. Just before leaving for the conference, we had this request from Mademoiselle G.:

My ancestor Pierre Jacob Gaubert was born in Nantes and left sometime between 1772 (b.) and around 1800 to come to Louisiana.  I have no idea if he made stops along the way.  I have kind of done a "hit and miss" search for him but nothing methodical and I don't know the sources to research.  Also, I know very little French so I'm at a disadvantage there.

We strolled up to the stand of the Centre Généalogique de Loire Atlantique when there was a rare moment of it not being crowded with visitors. We presented the above puzzle and the kindly lady started searching the private databases of the CGLA. (It is worth noting here that all of the cercles and associations have numerous databases from many sources, not only parish and civil registrations, and not all of these have been rented to the commercial genealogy companies. Usually, with membership to the specific association, some may be searched on their own websites. Not all; it may still be necessary to write a query.) She found nothing. Then, she rummaged in the heaps of books and cartons on the floor behind her, et voilà!

LAF 1


She hauled out a very battered copy of Les Acadiens en France : Nantes et Paimboeuf 1775-1785 by Gérard-Marc Braud. (ISBN 2-908261-47-2) On page 117 she found a very large amount of information on Pierre Jacob Gaubert and his family, listed under the name of his father, Guillaume, which we give here in part:

As family no. 173 in the book: Gaubert, Guillaume (s), born abt. 1742 in Eparsac, Tarn-et-Garonne, son of Jacques Gaubert and of Françoise Perier, a doctor, in the parish registers for St.-Similien, Nantes. He was married to 1) Marie-Modeste Gaudet, in La Rochelle, in the parish of Saint-Nicolas and 2) Marie Gaudet in Nantes. Pierre-Jacob Gaubert was his first child from his first marriage, baptised on the 21st of January 1777 in St.-Similien, Nantes. 

There is a great deal more information, running to two pages on the families concerned. It gives the names of the seven ships on which each individual travelled to Louisiana in 1785 as well as references to various other types of documentation in which they appear. The book is in both French and English, which will be of use to those who, like Mademoiselle G. have little French. Eventually, we would have come across it via the Internet, but it would have taken some time. Here, it took five minutes, because the expert knew where to look. 

Keep these associations going; join one, please.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 2 - Claude Guillaume Montet

Petits Soins

Our country home is in Périgord, a beautifully empty region in the southwest of France. It makes for a calming escape from the racket and excitement of Paris, allows for gardening, reading before an open fire and, most importantly at the moment, the concentration needed for our work on our next book. Yesterday was all blue skies and golden autumn sunshine; we harvested grapes, all twelve that remained after a visit of the blackbirds. Today, is rain and cold and fog, so we come indoors to address you, Dear Readers. As we are here, a suitable choice for the next FGB Free Clinic case is that of a man who came from this part of France.

Madame Millhollon writes to us about her ancestor:

My ancestor Claude Guillaume Montet was born on Jan. 23, 1737 in Cajolay (Perigeaux), France - at least that's how it was recorded later in life. Obviously, this was a misspelling as there doesn't appear to be a Cajolay. His parents were recorded as Francois Montet and Marie Martin. I'd love to know who his brothers and sisters and grandparents were. 

A snap trawl of the Internet shows that Madame M. is not alone in her search of Montet's origins, though others say that Montet gave not Périgueux, a city, but Périgord, a province, as the location of his town. Thus Cajolay would not be a parish of the city of Périgueux - and it does not turn up in any list of parishes for the city - but a town of the province of Périgord, which is now, more or less, the department of Dordogne. 

Madame M. has already searched diligently and found no such town, Cajolay, but in an effort to be thorough, we duplicated her search a bit. Indeed, no such town of Cajolay (which, we must say, does not "look right" as a French town name anyway) turns up on :

  • The list of old commune names for Dordogne
  • The list of current commune names for Dordogne
  • The communes found on the Cassini maps, which was nearly contemporary with Montet's birth

More tellingly, no town name beginning with the letters Caj appears on any of those lists (though there is a Cajarc in nearby Lot, that hardly seems close in pronounciation). This means that, almost certainly, there was a misunderstanding of a strong accent or a limited understanding of the notoriously difficult French spelling (not enough of those torturous dictées in the classroom) or both. We have written about just such a mangled town name and our struggle to solve the mystery here. In that case, Claude was pronounced "Glaude" and Vaugrigneuse was written as Vecin graingrouge, causing no amount of trouble.

So, we have to try to imagine what Montet was saying when the person listening recorded Cajolay. Recall that, given that  Périgord is located in the region of Aquitaine in the southern half of France, he may have spoken Occitan and his French may have had a thick Occitan accent. As no recordings of early eighteenth century speakers of Occitan exist, it is really anyone's guess as to how it sounded but, based on how modern accents in the region sound to us, we are guessing that the J could have had a bit of a ZH sound. Searching the same three sites above, the only town that is in Dordogne that -- to our ears -- has a sound that could have produced Cajolay is Cazoulès.

We are not entirely comfortable with this, but the only way to know is to check the parish registers to see if Montet may not be there. These are online and may be seen at no charge on the website of the Departmental Archives of Dordogne. Frustratingly, there seems to be no baptism register for the year 1737. Nor do searches on the Montet family details given by Madame M. on Bigenet or Geneabank reveal anything useful, which is to be expected if the relevant register is missing. 

What would we do at this point? We would start with a cursory glance through the registers of Cazoulès that do survive to see if the name Montet appears at all. If so, we would look deeper, seeking in those years closest to 1737 to see if Claude Guillaume and/or his parents appear as relatives or witnesses. We leave that to you, Madame Millhollon.

With such a conundrum, we do hope that many will write in with more suggestions as to finding the true identity of Cajolay.

Excellent suggests in the comments to this post have been rolling in.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 1 - Pierre Rouyer

Petit Soins

WHEW! Many, many cases have come through and we are not certain of the most elegant way to treat them, so we will just jump in and see how it goes.

Monsieur Al Rouyer writes:

My great-great-grandfather, Pierre Rouyer arrived in the United States in 1821 from Bordeaux France. In the 1850 US census he list his birth place as 'St Domingo' but in the 1860 census it is Bordeaux France. His wife, Marie Eyquem was born in Bordeaux and immigrated from that city in 1828. All efforts to locate Pierre either in Bordeaux vital records or those from overseas French records have proved fruitless. He was born in 1806 and emigrated when he 15, but from where? And who are his parents and ancestors?

Monsieur Rouyer, because it is easier, the first place that we would look is among the passports issued at Bordeaux. These are on the website of the Archives départementales de la Gironde. We wrote at length about the resource here; it contains the images of some 44,000 passports that were issued at Bordeaux between the years 1800 to 1899. You may also want to search on the year of travel alone, to see if that may not reveal something interesting.

Have you the arrival passenger list for Pierre Rouyer? Did the ship arrive directly from Bordeaux or elsewhere? Did he arrive alone or with family members? If he arrived as a child with his parents, you may have better luck searching his father's name on French genealogy websites, as there would be more records on an adult.

A search for the name on Geopatronyme.com shows that it is not at all rare, making your hunt more difficult, but it also shows that, nearly 100 years after your ancestor emigrated, the name was most common in northeastern France. It probably was more heavily concentrated there in 1821, a bit of knowledge that will not be of much use to you at the moment but may help to guide your search later. Searching Geopatronyme.com for Eyquem, however, shows that it is very clearly a name from the region around Bordeaux, and researching Marie Eyquem may be easier.

If Pierre Rouyer were born in Saint Domingue, the French colony on Hispaniola, you might want to search the surviving birth and baptism registrations for the colony on the website of the Archives nationales d'outre-Mer. Unfortunately, you would need to know the town where your ancestor was born for it to be a quick and easy search.

A quick look at his very impressive tombstone on Find-A-Grave shows that his date of birth was known by the family to have been the 13th of November 1806 (this would make it easier to search the Saint Domingue records, as for each town they are shown chronologically). That was bang in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, making it very likely that his father would have had a military record. IF you have the father's name and IF the father lived until 1857, you may try searching the website of the more than 400,000 surviving soldiers of Napoleon's Grande Armée on Les médaillés de Sainte Hélène

Please do write in the comments below to let us know how you get on. Any further suggestions from you, Dear Readers would be most welcome below also.

Update: Read the excellent suggestions in the comments to this post.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic

Petit Soins

The summer hols are over and we are back to work; la rentrée is in effect. Refreshed, we thought we might try something new. Regularly, we receive requests to advise on or help with genealogical research. From these, we can see that many people are struggling with the same difficulties and really could benefit from sharing and discussing their research. Why not here?

Our proposal is that you, Dear Readers, send us a specific French genealogy question, brick wall, issue, or some such. We will respond here with how we would do the research, where we would look and in what way. Those Readers more in the know could comment with further suggestions. If this sounds like a good idea, prepare your query:

  • Identify a single, clear issue and formulate it into one French genealogy question
  • Prepare all of the relevant documentation you have already found to send by e-mail
  • Decide if you wish to be Monsieur or Madame Anonyme or if you wish to have your name appear with your query
  • Send it all to us at the address here (Do not try to fit it all into a comment on the page)

We will then upload your query and documents (so do think about protecting the privacy of living individuals when you send your work) and discuss the issue and the research possibilities, explaining what we would do and why.

This is an opportunity, Dear Readers.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy