Guest Post - Au revoir Monsieur! - Part 4

Annecy

Episode 4: Who is Claude Marie?

You can imagine my excitement when, surfing on the website of Désarmement Havrais, my laptop screen revealed Claude Marie’s name - spelled a bit differently though. Moreover the fellow was from Annecy-le-Vieux, where Antoine D, the father of the 14 children, was born in 1821, on the hills above Annecy. For the first time, I held a tiny clue that someone from the D family had been to America and that the family story might be true. In the transcribed report I found much interesting information collected by the website’s owner from the Inscription Maritime of the port of Le Havre :

  • Name: Claude Marie D.
  • Age: 28 years old
  • From: Annecy-le-Vieux, Haute-Savoie Department, France
  • No job nor address mentioned
  • Embarkation: 1 February 1850 in Le Havre on the Robert Surcouf
  • Destination: San Francisco where he disembarked on 14 August 1850

SAN FRANCISCO in 1850: the Gold Rush. Would it be possible that Claude Marie had run to California just as many Europeans in the middle of the 19th century to look for gold?Could he be the famous and wealthy uncle of our childhood legend?! What an awesome discovery! Stay realistic and focus is my motto: many serious and dedicated researchers offer tons of indexed data on their websites but using primary information items is a basic standard in genealogy. (I am a good student!). First, I had to get confirmation of the data through original records (1) from the Inscription Maritime of port of Le Havre and (2) from the vital records in Haute-Savoie.

(1) As the name was not exactly spelled the same way, I wanted to have a look at the writing in the volume of the Archives and check the correctness of the information. I easily found the Robert Surcouf vessel file in the Inscription Maritime of Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime as the classification code was provided on the Désarment Havrais website. It was amazing to read the armement of the Robert Surcouf, that is to say, the fitting out of the ship and the list of crew (with function and salary) and passengers. Claude Marie was among the 88 passengers, with his name correctly spelled and I had no doubt now that he was from the D family. He was the only one not to have presented a passport but a visa issued by the Prefet de Police on 26 January 1850, probably because he was coming from Duchy of Savoie which was not yet part of France. I would have to find where he got it. Passengers had begun boarding on February 1 and the ship sailed off on the 17th. I was really thrilled to find the log book at the end of the file disclosing the stopovers: on March 18th Claude Marie probably set foot on land and discovered Praia in the Cape Verde archipelago (just like Darwin on his way to America in 1832!)

Archipelago archipelago

Praia

Praia roadstead in Capo Verde

Five days later, the ship headed directly to Valparaiso (Chile), one of the most important seaports in the South Pacific Ocean, and arrived on June 5th where she stayed six days.

Valparaiso

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Valparaiso, Chile

Customs clearance in the center of Valparaiso

The final destination was San Francisco where Claude Marie disembarked on 14 August 1850 just a week after the arrival of the first French consul in the Californian city. He was among the first Argonauts, adventurers in the quest for gold!

Californie

Source Gallica.bnf.fr/ Bibliothèque Nationale de France

My first intention was to follow Claude Marie once he set foot in California. But I needed to validate his identity.

Yerba BuenaCalifornia Historical Society

(2) In my mind I was bathing in the beautiful cold bay of Yerba Buena – the original name for San Francisco – and feeling the Californian summer sun on my face, but I obliged myself to fly back to Europe to the tiny village of Annecy-le-Vieux and chased our gold hunter in the birth registers. According to the information given in the file of the ship, he was 28 in 1850 so born approximately in 1822. On the website of the association of Marmottes de Savoie, I spotted the births of Claude D. in 1811 and Claude-Marie D. in 1846. They could not be our golden boy but possibly from the same family as parents in the past would preferably go for a traditional first name already used in the family.

Surfing on the online archives and playing with the decennial tables and the birth, marriage, death registers, scratching tirelessly in my notebook to get a proper ascending tree, the French Revolutionary calendar making me tear my hair out, I discovered a completely new family, not a different one but one of the older generations. Claude Marie was born in 1818 and was actually 32 when he left for America. His father Claude was born in 1761 and died in 1845. From a first marriage with Marie T, Claude had one daughter Josephte born on 8 Fructidor year 3 (25 August 1795) and my ancestor Antoine born on 22 Pluviose year 6 (10 February 1798) who would become the paternal grandfather of the 14 little souls. You follow me? Claude had Antoine who had Antoine who had Hubert Michel who had Fernande, my G-grandmother…...You will not believe me if I tell you that Claude’s father was also called Antoine…
But who was Claude Marie? I finally got the clue: he was actually the half brother of my ancestor Antoine and thus the half granduncle of Hubert-Michel. Born in 1818 the last child of the second marriage of Claude who married Françoise B in 1808, he had a sister Benoîte, born in 1809, and a brother Claude who died at the age of 6 in 1817. His father had died five years before he decided to leave to San Francisco.

Naissance

Did Claude Marie make fortune in San Francisco? Did he stay there or move to another country as many poor miners did? Was he joined by one of Hubert Michel’s siblings? Did he have a family in North or South America? Claude Marie could not be the dead uncle of 1830-ish from my grandmother’s childhood. Actually I found out that most of the last born ones died at an early age. Among the boys, one remains a mystery to me, Antoine, who was born in 1847. This is another story that I will be happy to share with you in the future!

Many thanks for your interest in my Au Revoir Monsieur installments... et à bientôt!

 

We are extremely grateful to Madame S for this delightful series about her research and hope that you, Dear Readers, have found it to be both entertaining and inspiring.

©2020 Madame S

French Genealogy




Guest Post - Au revoir Monsieur! - Part 3

Annecy

"Absolutely intriguing! Am loving these installments!!" 

"It is always interesting to see how someone else pursues research."

"I see a book developing in your interesting story!"

 

Above, are some of the kind comments received about the current series of blog posts, written by Madame S. She is most gratified by your support and gives you the third installment (with some of her characteristic and delightful humour):

 

Episode 3: A typical large and deprived family of Savoie

Before internet time, a genealogical hunt would require spending most of your days in the Departmental Archives where are filed all kinds of documentation under the 1841 classification system called cadre de classement. As our dear Anne taught me, the Archives départementales were created by the law of 5 brumaire an V ( 26 October 1796), modified by many other laws and can be found nowadays in each department’s main city, all governed by the Archives de France. They all have the same indexing system for the same kinds of documentation with the same administrative structure. Any member of the public has access to any Departmental Archives in France, can register and drown for ever in the A to Z series covering the Ancien Régime, revolutionary and modern times: jurisdictions, hospitals public education, clergy, finance, notarial, military or prisons… you can dig up so much from the past…Stay realistic and focus is my moto: the basic step is to start with Series E for it contains the parish and civil registers. Happily, most of the them have been filmed and are now online along with Napoleonic maps (cadastres napoléoniens), census returns, military conscription lists and notarial records. Fantastic! I could work from home at any time of the day…and night! Get set, go!

I was on the track of an uncle – potentially a few others, even aunts - from my grandmother’s maternal side and he was supposed to have emigrated to the Americas. I had to find him - or them - by establishing the ascending tree of my grandmother. I knew the birth date and place details of her mother, my G-grandmother Fernande D. whom I had well known (my sisters and I loved her slender hand knitted dolls): 9 February 1896 in Annecy (Haute-Savoie). I remembered how as a child I was impressed that she was born in another century! It was easy to find her birth record as I had her full name, date and town of birth. In her record, I found much interesting information:

Fernande Françoise D. born on 9 February 1896 in Annecy (Haute-Savoie)

  • Father: Hubert Michel D, Court clerck, born on 30 January 1866 in Annecy
  • Mother: Franceline G. born on 8 April 1868 in Annecy
  • Address: Faubourg Ste Claire 13 in Annecy, Maison Decoux
  • Grandparent’s names: the late Antoine D. and Jeanne C.; François-Marie G and Jeanne Augustine D.

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The striking fact that my grandmother’s maternal grandfather Hubert Michel was the last child of a family of 16 children has always been pointed out in our family but actually it was a really common situation in Savoie and other regions in the middle of 19th century as I will find out later in other family searches or reading local history books such as La fabuleuse odyssée des savoyards en Argentine by Claude Chatelain. (The fabulous odyssey of the Savoyards in Argentina)1. Strong women would give birth to countless number of babies...and most of them would die or emigrate due to lack of bread! Sad story!


I continued my search to find his elder siblings among whom was supposedly my fellow! I got ahold of my G-G-grandfather Hubert Michel’s birth record as I knew his date of birth. I knew also from Fernande’s birth record that his father was Antoine who had died before 1896 as he is declared dead on Fernande’s birth record. It will be helpful to find his death record. But for now, I had to gather new information to build the tree:

Hubert Michel D. born on 30 January 1866 in Annecy ( Haute-Savoie)

  • Father: Antoine D, cotton spinner, born on 1st December 1821 in Annecy-le-Vieux ( Haute-savoie)
  • Mother: Jeanne C. born on 17 May 1825 in Annecy
  • Address: Faubourg Ste Claire 19 in Annecy, Maison Fontaine
  • Grandparent’s names: late Antoine D. and late Marie B. C.- late François-Marie G and late Jeanne Augustine D.

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There appeared the dates and places of birth of the parents of the 16 children, provided these little souls have really existed. Where did Antoine and Jeanne get married? While Jeanne was born in Annecy, Antoine was coming from Annecy-le-Vieux, a farming village that lay on the hills gently rolling down to Annecy where stood the cotton manufacturing company (La manufacture de coton d’Annecy), a regional major employer in the 19th century where Antoine was working in 1866 as a spinner. I bet on Annecy as marriages usually took place in the bride’s village or town. There was a good chance that the couple would have also lived there after their union and thus I could spot their children in the birth decennial tables.

I estimated that they had married around 1845 (Jeanne would be 20 years old) and only one volume proved to be helpful for this period: the decennial table from 1838 to 1862 indexing by year birth, marriage and death. Click on, click on, click on….you remember? I had to go through the birth folios 1838 –1850 before getting to the marriage ones. When I arrived at D names in the birth columns, I had a look, just in case, and well… here they were! François in 1844, Marie in 1846, Antoine in 1847, Louise in 1850, Françoise in 1849, Jeanne in 1850. The name was not always spelled in the same way so I will need to get the confirmation with the full birth records that they were children of the same couple but I was pretty sure it was the case. I rounded the first birth table off and found easily the date of marriage of Antoine and Jeanne: 17 May 1843. In the following birth tables, I picked Claudine in 1852, Rose in 1853 ( my god! Poor mother Jeanne!!!) Louis Antoine in 1854, François Léon in 1854 (but from December and April so I had no doubt we had two mothers there!) Pierre in 1855, Jacques in 1856, Jean in 1857.

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I carefully noted each name and birth date and looked for each record into the corresponding birth year register. At first I was unlucky and found nothing but then I realized that there were two parishes in Annecy, Notre Dame and Saint Maurice. And my little souls belonged to the second one. This was a souvenir of the Sardinian period in Savoie (1815-1860) when parish priests were in charge of the vital records. Some children were from other couples indeed but I was really gratified to draw up a list of 14 children, 8 girls and 6 boys born between 1844 and 1866. A really good job, Jeannette!

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 6.39.35 PM

I downloaded, filed and captioned all the birth records before wondering, Damn! How will I now find out which one(s) could have emigrated? But you are never left alone in the genealogical world: hundreds of websites give you tremendous tips but my favorite one is definitely… the FGB! It took me through the census that took place in France every five years from 1861 to 1936, which gives you by street the full name, age and sometimes job of the persons living in the same home on the year of the census. And...they are online in Series 6M of the Departmental Archives. Better than a chocolate cookie for your dopamine level!!!

Now here is the story of the D. Family based on the census records. One warning: do not mistake streets or avenues as I did. In my case there were a Faubourg Sainte Claire and a Rue Sainte Claire and I started by the wrong one. In 1861, the happy family lived on 17/19 Faubourg Sainte Claire in Annecy: there were Antoine, the cotton spinner father, Jeannette the mother and their children François (17), Marie (15), Louise (14), Franchette (12), and François Marie (3).

 

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The four elder children worked also at the cotton factory located quai des Cordeliers. It was not very far from home, just across the Thiou river, a couple of streets away. Some were weavers, others “rattacheurs”: as they were small and agile, they had to go under the looms to reattach the various ends of broken threads and clean the clogged coils. Their maternal widowed grandmother Jacqueline was helping to take care of the young François.

In the 1866 census, François the eldest one was now 21 and he has left home… or has he emigrated? Who knows? The other four children have stayed home and Jeannette has given birth once more to a now 4 month old baby Albert, my ancestor. His official name was Hubert Michel but nobody called him this way.

In the 1872 census, it was a bit gloomy at 19 Faubourg Sainte Claire. Grandmother has passed away and the girls have left home. Little Albert, now 7, was playing with his elder brother François Marie after work. Food was surely more abundant.

In the 1876 census, a sensible improvement and what I considered as great news, Albert was going to school. While his brother François Marie was a tinsmith, making and selling sheet metal objects, François the elder son was back as a cowherd and he has married Marie Louise C. They were living 8 rue Sainte Claire not very far from Antoine et Jeannette, who could easily visit her 3 year old granddaughter Louise Marie, born in Paris. Had François traveled to Paris and maybe made it a bit further?

In the 1881 census, the family has moved to 15 Faubourg Sainte Claire and Albert, now 16, was a lawyer’s clerk. How proud were his parents!

In the 1886 census, the couple had only one son home, Albert, but two little school girls had joined the family: it will never end had probably thought Jeannette! She was in charge of her two grand daughters Louise Marie now 13 and Eugénie, 8 born in Annecy. Their parents may have gone back to Paris or elsewhere to make a fortune.

In the 1891 census, the daughter Françoise ( Franchette), a domestic, has come back at her parents’ but Albert has left, Antoine was still a cotton spinner at 70 year old

In the 1896 census, the patriarch Antoine had passed away and Jeannette, his wife, now the family head, has moved to 13 Faubourg Sainte Claire with her son François Marie the tinsmith and Albert’s family. He has married Françoise G. and their daughter, my G-grandmother Fernande was 43 days old.

In the 1901 census, Albert was now the chef de famille (head of household) and he and his brother François Marie were grieving for their wonderful mother Jeanne. Albert and his wife has expanded the family with a baby boy, François, now 3 and were happy to find some help from Eugénie, a cook, their 23 year old niece.

In the 1906 census, hard times came back on 13 Faubourg Sainte Claire as Franceline, not even 38, died and  left behind her three children: Fernande Françoise, 10 years old, François Auguste, 8 years old, and a baby. Thankfully the maternal grandparents moved in and Albert would continue to work at the court as clerk.

 

Analyzing the census documentation would give me plenty of new directions to investigate.

  • Why has the elder son gone to Paris?
  • Where were the two elder daughters Louise Marie and Jeanne?
  • Where were the missing children never mentioned?

 

While following the tracks, I was reading books and articles about the emigration of Savoyards, transport, daily life in the Alps, etc.. I checked passenger lists to the Americas. I visited the Diplomatic Archives of Nantes where you can find records of French people living abroad, hoping I would find the D. name in a French consulate in Argentina, Columbia or Uruguay. I watched webinars from genealogical associations and one day, I found out the fantastic website of the Désarmement Havrais which indexed lists of sailers, boats and passengers all related to Le Havre port. I entered the first letters of my D. fellow's surname and just by chance a  Claude Marie D., born in Annecy-le-Vieux came up. But who was Claude Marie?

  1. La fabuleuse odyssée des savoyards en Argentine by Claude Chatelain. - Edition La Fontaine de Siloe

©2020 Madame S.

French Genealoggy


Guest Post - Au Revoir Monsieur! Part 2

Annecy

We are most gratified by the positive response and messages from you, Dear Readers about the first installment in this series of guest posts by the talented and experienced researcher and genealogist, Madame S.  We are confident that you will find this second installment to be equally interesting and intriguing, and that, as you follow her research story, you will discover hints and detailed knowledge that will inform your own genealogical research.

 

Episode 2: On the traces of Felix the confectioner

Genealogy search is a long-term process and as you may know very time consuming. Specially if you decide to chase a fellow who was born in a remote hamlet on the hills of the French Alps and who supposedly ended up to be a sweet tooth artist in Egyptian palaces. A new clue disperses the frustrating feelings of lengthy sessions in front of your computer screen consulting mechanically the online records to eventually find the evidence - click on, click on, click on - or waiting for answers from specialists, archivists or kin. When my grandmother suggested that Félix the confectioner had gone to Geneva for training, it was as an illumination to me, a big step forward. We kissed each other good bye, both of us pleased but for different reasons...she would not miss a Scrabble meeting!

On my way home, I planned to go the Archives d’État de Genève (Archives of State of Geneva) as soon as possible. The following day, I was climbing up the streets of the old town of Geneva towards the old Arsenal building - and its famous five canons - where the Archives were located. I entered an impressive room with high-beamed ceiling and shelves full of dated volumes. I had no idea of where to start and exposed my doubt to the pleasant archivist in charge that day: “You are looking for a foreigner so the first thing to do is to check the Permis de séjour (resident permits) records which are chronologically filed,”she explained to me. I did not know Felix’s year of arrival in Geneva but luckily she handed me an old carton box with alphabetical index cards.

 

Index card box Marie Félix

 

I was thrilled...there lay a chance to continue the search or...to hit a wall! I started to look for Felix’s name in the B cards. Fantastic! Here was his name B. so I kept going with excitement: B. Antoine, B. Claude, B. Elise Marie, B. Joseph….oh! no! I went over the F letter for Felix…. What a disappointment! It was not possible! He had to be there and suddenly it struck me that his full first names was Marie Félix. In the past the last of a person's first names was the one used and funny enough for us nowadays his first one was Marie (Mary). I got my breath back and resumed my search. Eureka! I had found him! B. Marie-Félix born in 1843, from Rumilly (Savoie).

 

Index card B. Marie-Félix

 

He had arrived in 1861 and had been registered in the Dh15 record. It was then easy to find the entrance and I delightedly discovered the following information:

 

  • N° resident permit 36247
  • Date of permission: 20 February 1861
  • Renewal of permit: 3 months by 3 months during 4 years
  • Cost: 75
  • Age : 6 9bre 1843 (I first read 9bre as September but (I had no doubt: it was him! )
  • Origin: Rumilly (Savoie)
  • Profession: pâtissier (baker)
  • Adress: Rive 201 chez Duburger
  • Departure: destination Paris on 30 March 1865

 

Etrangers Dh15 Marie Félix

 

This chart shows the old abbreviations for months:Abréviations mois

 

I had made tremendous progress: I knew now that Félix had moved to Geneva during the 1861 winter and that he had been living there four years. He was listed as a pâtissier, a baker or pastry chef. I was wondering whether the address Rive 201 would be his training place. Following the extra advice of the archivist, I checked the Annuaire général du commerce suisse et des pays étrangers, Almanach des adresses volume 1860 - a Swiss trade directory with addresses and, in the confection-er/baker section, I found Leclerc Fils, rue de Rive 201.

 

Almanach des Adresses 1860 - confiseur pâtissier - AEG

 

What a coincidence! Félix may have been working for Leclerc. I had a good feeling and I enjoyed tracking the address but there was no rue de Rive 201 in modern Geneva. Well! Nothing could stop me now and I found in “the Index of Dénominations and Changes of street names from 1814 to 1926” that the state council has ordered a change to rue de Rive on 28 December 1860 and it concerned the numbering. On an old map of Geneva published by Briquet between 1854 and 1862, I spotted rue de Rive 201 right at the corner of the old trajectory of rue de la Fontaine. And what I discovered struck me: at this exact location, rue de Rive 4 was a chocolate factory which might have been a long time ago the Leclerc fils confectionery but, moreover, it was Auer Chocolaterie, our chocolate-addict address where I frequently bought the most delicious chocolate-powdered almonds. My ancestor Félix might have worked there more than 150 years ago!!!! A damn wink from the past!

Auer

It was time to leave the AEG archives as it was closing for the day. I had now many leads to follow and the most important one was that Félix left Geneva in March 1865 to go to Paris. What did he exactly do in Geneva? How did he find a new job in Paris? How long did he stay before leaving for Egypt? Did he go with his family? I was wondering how to handle the case the most efficiently. Next time I visited my grandmother, I told her of my new findings and my doubts, She tackled my self-questioning with her usual alertness : «You’d better take care of my great-uncle who emigrated to Americas»


During our conversations my grandmother often mentioned one of her mother’s uncles who emigrated in the Americas as she used to say. As he belonged to a poor and large family of 16 children, he supposedly left Annecy and went most probably to Argentina but she was not sure. She even thought that maybe more than one of the children among the eldest had taken the same way. How many? Together? When and where exactly? So many questions she could not answer. But when she was a little girl she remembered her father coming back home with a letter from the Court and announcing to her mother: “ You know, you have an uncle who died in America” and that’s all, he had gone to America: AU RE-VOIR MONSIEUR, that’s all! To my sister she gave another version: one uncle had actually sailed back to France and died on board the ship after being robbed. I imagine her adding with her little mischievous smile: “maybe he was rich and we are related to a wealthy family in America!”


A couple of months later, we lost our grand-maman. I owed it to her to investigate the uncle and I promised myself that I will! I was facing a new adventure and I will be thrilled to share it with you in the next episode….

 

©2020 Madame S.

French Genealogy


Guest Post - Au revoir Monsieur! Part 1

Annecy

1. A story of love, ties, roots and jam...

Here is a story of love, ties, roots and jam...My grandmother passed away five years ago, one month before her 94th birthday. She was an energetic, blue-eyed, lovely lady full of life, with daughters, sons, grandchildren and G-grandchildren. Had she lived a few more months, she would have met her G-G-granddaughter born in Rio de Janeiro. I am certain that you already can visualize a beautiful descendant tree for her, extending its branches from France to Brazil.

She was an educated woman who worked her whole life as clerc de notaire in her husband’s notarial office but family was her main preoccupation. I spent countless delightful summer afternoons in her company making her famous apricot jam and climbing up and down the ladder of the generations of our family tracing a first cousin once removed who died at the age of five, the G-G-grandfather who emigrated in the Levant to be a confiseur (confectioner) or my latest new born cousin, with whom I share my four grandparents. At an early age I already had in mind my family tree and I believe that this time with my grandmother was my first step towards my interest in genealogy. Many years later our dear friend Anne became my guide.

Born in Annecy, in the French department of Haute-Savoie, close to the Swiss border and the town of Geneva, my grandmother pleasantly claimed herself to be “Savoyarde” more often than French. As a matter of fact, the duchy of Savoy, part of the kingdom of Sardinia was annexed to France in 1860,1 a pretty recent date for a woman born in the beginning of the 20th century. Our story will take us back to the Sardinian time of Annecy where my search begins and where treasure can be found in the Archives Départementales de Haute-Savoie

It is now time to open the case and to follow the fragile hints I gathered to begin my investigations.

During our conversations my grandmother often mentioned various generations not only of her family but of her husband’s as well. She had an acute vision of all members of both ascendant trees: a story was running about my dear grandfather’s family that we, his grandchildren, considered as a pure legend: that our great-grandfather had been a confectioner to Ismael Pasha, viceroy of Egypt ! In a family of notaries, lawyers or pharmacists in the conservative, peaceful, mountainous town of Annecy, this ancestor seemed an alien! While it was well known to our grandparent's generation that many young people had fled from Savoie in the 19th century due to poverty and lack of work,2 for we children, this G-Grandfather was a fanciful figure who faded away to an exotic country. Later, when our dear Anne began to tell me how genealogy searches could take us through delightful and brilliant stories, I remembered Félix the confectioner. I was now living in Switzerland so close to his homeland, I decided to chase him to know more about him and his adventures in the Levant…

What did I know about him? Felix B. was the father of my mother’s grandmother (or, my maternal grandfather's maternal grandfather) who died in La Roche sur Foron, 30 km from Annecy and he had three children. My G-grandmother Louise was the youngest, born in 1891, many years after her two brothers Laurent and Louis (1878-1889): she was a consolation to her mother Annette who lost her second son at the age of ten from rubella, my grandmother always added when talking about the deceased young boy. And it was certainly the case, as she bore the female name of her late brother. The dates I got would match: she was born 2 years after his death. There were inconsistent elements about the date of Felix’s journey to Egypt. Before or after his son’s death? It was important to get a clear idea of the chronology.

I had to dig for Félix’s birth, marriage and death certificates. Thanks to the pictures of La Roche sur Foron cemetery transcriptions that my grand mother had recorded on her birthday notebook, I knew that he was born in 1843 and died in 1914. It was a good lead but it needed to be confirmed. Félix was most probably living in La Roche Sur Foron when he died so I had sufficient elements to begin. As I did not know his exact date of death, I checked the website of the Archives Départementales de Haute-Savoie to find the alphabetical decennial tables in the death register of La Roche sur Foron but none existed for 1914. To avoid to lose too much time, I had to find that date and Geneanet gave me the clue. Searching for Félix’s name, the city and the date of 1914, I got two results and one was an obituary stating that Félix died on Sunday 11 January 1914. It was moving to read these lines and informative. It revealed that he died suddenly at the age of 71 year old - which actually implied the 1843 birth date - and showed that Félix was a public figure of the town of La Roche sur Foron..I noticed that there was an alphabetical table at the end of the 1914 volume which could have given the exact death date...I would remember to check next time. I learned by reading the death certificate that:

• his full name was Marie Félix B.
• his birth date 6 November 1843 ( just like my daughter many years later... !)
• the birth place in Saint Maurice, a village nearby
• his wife’s name was Annette C.

I easily found the birth certificate online in the birth records of Saint Maurice de Rumilly but I now needed to spot his marriage certificate as it would gather a lot of information from his adult life. Nothing was recorded under his name on the website of the local genealogical association that I joined, Les Marmottes de Savoie. But I found there some information about the village and its change of name from Saint Maurice to Saint Maurice de Rumilly to finally be attached to Saint Pierrre en Faucigny in 1965. It will be helpful to surf on the records online for further searches.

I checked the Saint Maurice de Rumilly decennial tables for the marriage period I estimated could be between 1863 (Felix would be 20) and 1878 (birth of the second child). Here they were!, Félix and Annette. Married on the 16 September 1874. It was simple to get the 3 folios record in the 1874 marriage register. Next day I visited my grandmother and discussed with her my findings. Felix was born in the Saint Maurice village in 1843, married Annette at 31 in 1874 and died in La Roche sur Foron, the town nearby in 1914. But how could I trace him as a confectioner in Egypt? I felt lost and a bit disappointed. Suddenly my grandmother added: “ You know, I remember hearing that he went to Geneva to get a training in baking and confectionery” Wouahhh! What a great new thread to follow!!! I had now my investigation agenda for the following days in the right city where I was living….

 

©2020 Madame S.

French Genealogy

1 See our post on when Savoie joined France here.

2Read about the Savoyards who went to Paris, hoping to escape poverty, here.


On Fire and Food

Fire

We recall being about twelve years old, at a fondue restaurant in Tahoe City with our mother and younger brother. It was, perhaps, ten o'clock in the evening and he and I were desperately hungry, as was often the case because our mother did not really like to cook and did like to dine late. It may be that the service was a bit slow for her liking. She began to pull the wooden skewers meant to be tools for dipping bread into the fondue pot, whenever it would arrive, from a cup of them on the table. Each skewer was about 20 centimeters long. She began to build a structure of them. We and our brother looked at one another. We always wondered how she managed to do it. She must have had half a bottle of Jack Daniels in her by then, yet her hands were perfectly steady and the structure she was building on the table was a thing of beauty. It was an intricate, square tower that looked like scaffolding with diagonal supports; no Lincoln log stack, it was airy and elegant. Where had she learned these things? We were so hungry that we began to eat salt from the packets. She sat back to admire her creation and to take a gulp from her cocktail. Still, our dinner was not served. "I've had it with this place!" she said and lit a match. "No!" we both said at once. "Kate, no. Please. We're really hungry." She ignored us and put the match to her tower. It did not burst into flame. The single skewer she had lit turned red and the small flame it produced raced from one skewer to another, like a madman in a maze, until, for a second, it was a tower of embers and ash, wavering in the air, and then it collapsed onto the table. The restaurant owner rushed over. "Kate, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. NOW." 

That was not the only time we were thrown out of a restaurant. In fact, it happened fairly often. We do not know why the local restaurants allowed us back in, except that business must have been bad in the off season. The skewer tower was possible only in the fondue restaurant so her methods were different in others. Kate was one for grand entrances and for being greeted with adoration; woe to anyone who did not acknowledge her arrival. As we would be seated at our table, she would smile and wave to acquaintances, or go over to their tables and chat while we and our brother lunged at the bread basket. Restaurants were her element. "I grew up under the table of the original, the only real Trader Vic's. Daddy and Vic were great friends." Why she courted being thrown out of so many remains a mystery. When some friend did not notice her, or did not want to do so, she would return to our table, take a long drink from her cocktail and begin to fume, then to fiddle with her paper napkin. She folded it into a paper airplane, then struck a match and lit it, and sent the flaming rocket sailing across the room toward the person who had offended her. People shrieked. That one got us thrown out every time.

We did not develop a distaste for fire but remain as fascinated by the beauty of flame as much as are the rest of us indebted to Prometheus. Fire has been crucial to civilization, for warmth, for defense, for firing pots, for cooking. There are theories that cooking food and eating cooked food have contributed to human beings having such large brains. The French, with their haute cuisine, (and who invented matches, by the way) would certainly agree. Food traditions are a crucial part of cultural identity. Recently, Gena Philibert-Ortega offered an online course on making a family recipe book, from a genealogical as well as culinary point of view, and with the intention of preserving family food traditions. (As Kate taught us only how to torch a restaurant and to make a perfect Jack Daniel's Old Fashioned, à la Trader Vic, a Frenchman by the way, we did not enroll in Ms. Philibert-Ortega's enticing course, sad to say.)

In France at least, cooking traditions are much more local than national, which is why we have written about them so often here, in the hope that a family food tradition might be of aid in identifying your French ancestor's place of origin within France.

The last in the above list alters the search a bit. Instead of using food traditions to find an ancestor, one uses an ancestor's known culinary skills to know more about his or her life and movements.  On this theme, we are very pleased to present in our next post the start of a series of guest posts about one genealogist's pursuit of an emigrant ancestor with remarkable culinary skills.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Growth of Recreational DNA Testing in France

Illegitimate children

There are times when we do wish that our Internet service providers (as they so inappropriately like to term themselves) had a face, a person at a desk in an office, windowless or not, for then we should be able to place a pistol on the desk in front of said person and urge an act of honour as we leave and shut the door behind us. Alas, we will never hear that shot of honour behind the door and no provider will ever accept responsibility for the failure to provide. So, we are back at our post, posting on The FGB, but cannot say for how long.

We have worked our way though most of the presentations given at La Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie. As ever with such events, virtual or not, quality varies. We shall focus on a subject of interest not only to those outside of France, but increasingly within this country, DNA testing for genealogy. We do this in part in response to a fiery comment which Monsieur Pierre Gendreau-Hétu left on our post announcing the programme of the Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie and which we reproduce here:

 

"This program shows how spaced out French genealogy is. I'm sorry to break the news, but genetic genealogy has been solving longstanding problems for two decades now! The best strategy the FFG has come up with is to close the conference with guardians of the French orthodoxy regarding DNA data: attention danger! The grand guignol show is not over yet, unfortunately. (Sigh.) Pauvre France! Rich archives combine so powerfully with yDNA data, and amazing results keep coming day in day out in countries likes Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland..... What a French waste in the name of state control! Olivier Henno, commissioner to the French Senate committee on bioethics, assessed the number of tests ordered by French citizens and came up with the figure of one million kits. In 2019. Yet the FFG will still look the other way. This behavior belongs to a bird that is not the rooster. This is called denial and is unworthy of a scientific field. In the meantime, English-speaking universities (Leicester, Strathclyde, etc.) have made genetic genealogy mainstream. France, pays des Lumières? Not in genealogy at any rate. Obscurantism stole the show. France is left with good archival research nonetheless, for sure, even though one can only dream of what could be if it were enhanced with genetics. Just like looking for a treasure without using a metal detector..."

 

Monsieur Gendreau-Hétu certainly has a point (and he makes  some more in the comments section at the end of this post); there was but one presentation on what the French law terms "recreational DNA testing", given by Brigitte Billard, one of France's more interesting bloggers on genealogy Though the lone talk, it was very interesting. Her entire presentation, "5 questions à vous poser avant de faire un test ADN" (5 questions to ask yourself before taking a DNA test) can still be seen online. We summarize and comment here.

The overall tenor of the talk seems to be one of stern warning. Before taking a DNA test for the purpose of genealogy, one must know that :

  • Such "recreational "DNA testing is illegal in France
  • The fine for such test taking can be up to 3500 euros
  • Prosecution seems never to have occurred
  • If you are seeking a specific ancestor or person, the DNA test will not be enough; traditional genealogical research will be necessary
  • You may have to ask all of your relatives to test their DNA as well, which could lead to ethical issues
  • It could be expensive
  • The privacy of those who test will not be protected to European standards, as corporate headquarters and laboratories of the more popular DNA kit producers are not in Europe
  • All those who test must be prepared to cope with a possibly traumatic discovery of a family secret (e.g. the discovery that a male relative fathered numerous children unbeknownst to his family)

Madame Billard, after such severe and well-informed discouragement, ends on a chirpy and positive note, that DNA testing can lead to some very fun genealogy. There is probably no better explanation of the French situation concerning genetic genealogy at this time than Madame Billard's talk.

To quell Monsieur Gendreau-Hétu's fears that the French are falling behind in the DNA game, there are, as Madame Billard pointed out, many, many YouTube videos of French people taking such tests. Most are quite humourous. Most contain someone being surprised at the test results showing no "French blood". This, in turn resulted in a clip being added to one of them in which a trusted geneticist had to explain that "there is no such thing as French blood" just people who  have lived in France for a long time. Here are links to just a few:

 

  • A dashing young man who took a test because he wondered if his slightly narrow eyes might not mean that he had oriental ancestors.
  • A charming young pair claiming to be shocked by their test results. (Surely the use of the word is a marketing ploy or are we so jaded in this life that what shocked them seems quite inane to us?)
  • A whole troupe of journalists who took their tests and read their results at the same time. (A bit disturbing, this one, with smugness on the parts of those feeling "more French" and suppressed fury on the part of one who did not like her ethnicity one bit. Unsurprisingly, this is where the geneticist steps in.)

 

There are dozens more. It is, clearly, quite the fashion to break this particular law in France and to be oh, so surprised at the results. We suspect that this is a barn door that will never be locked again, whatever laws may be passed. 

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


How It's Going at the Gene@Event2020 - La Maison de Généalogie

Screen Shot 2020-09-29 at 4.43.51 PM

We write in a state of virtual breathlessness, Dear Readers, as we bounce from one video presentation to the next at this online French genealogy conference. We thought that you might appreciate a summary of the best that we have seen so far.

Generally, the presentations fall into one (very rarely, two) of three types:

  1. Those that aim to build research skill, to explain a website, to improve one's methodology, etc.
  2. Those that share the presenter's genealogical research, case studies, etc.
  3. Those that are history lectures

The following, listed according to our own classification within the above types, are those we can recommend (Be forewarned that problems with people using just their computer microphones continue. By now, they really all should know to buy a proper headset, but no.) Apologies that we are not qualified to assess the talks given in German or Spanish.

SKILL BUILDING TALKS

• “S’initier à la généalogie grâce aux associations” by Valérie Arnold-Gautier – The introductory talk by the president of the FFG. Her point is that the many genealogy associations in France have done and still do so much to further genealogy activities that one should begin one’s introduction to genealogy via such an association. Recall that the FFG is a federation of associations, not of genealogists. This will be more pertinent to points we will make in a future post.
• “Mes premiers pas en généalogie” by Isabelle Calone. Everyone has to begin at the beginning.
• “Les ressources disponibles dans FamilySearch” by Sylvain Athénour A very thorough and basic introduction to the French FamilySearch portal and collections. We consider ourselves to be rather expert at using FamilySearch, yet we learned a few new tips from this talk.
• “Comment effectuer des recherches avec FamilySearch” by Sylvain Athénour – Again very methodical, again very thorough, Monsieur Athénour explains every screen and every aspect of searching via the French screens of FamilySearch.
“Présentation du site « Le désarmement Havrais » : les différentes façons de rechercher un marin, un navire, des chantiers navals…” by the creator of the site – Perhaps the gem of the first three days, this talk presents a website that serves as a superb index to the thorny, awkward to use shipping and passenger records of Le Havre.
• “De L’archive Numérisée à la Base de Données, la Data au Service du Chercheur…” [Mémoire des Hommes] – Digging deeper into what is offered on the brilliant military archives website. This is a good thing because, since the site was redesigned, it is not very clear. 

 

CASE STUDIES

• “De Philippe Leplastre, laboureur Beauceron à Hugues Capet” by François Côme, shows how he used Capedia to trace much of his ancestry, lucky fellow.

• Sur les traces d’une famille d’origine juive polonaise - parties 1-3- par Virginie Drocourt – Part 1 could certainly go in the skills building section. Very thorough.
• “Raconter la vie de ses ancêtres (1914-1945), une Histoire ordinaire d'une famille comtoise pendant les deux conflits mondiaux” par Romain Ecarot. This case study is rather interesting, for the speaker explains how he used local administration documents to reconstruct the life of an ancestor from 1914 to 1945.

 

HISTORY LECTURES

(Note for hope: It would seem that the subject of the oppression of women in these two talks is of increasing relevance to family historians. Forcing women to have unwanted children and then depriving those children of legitimacy and/or the prostitution of women both tend to result in genealogical brick walls. Could it be that this passionate hobby of ours will help to end the oppression of women? Now, that would be cheering in these dark times.)

• “Les conséquences de l’illégitimité” par Carole Lejuez. Though primarily an academic lecture, Madame Lejuez discusses quite a lot of the relevant documentation.
• “La prostitution à Lyon au XIXe” par Alexandre Nugues. This is a very nicely done recording of a history lecture presented in the old, pre-COVUD days, to a live audience. Rather nostalgic.

 

More to come, Dear Readers, but do, if you can, listen to as may ass you can.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French  Genealogy


Coming This Weekend - La Semaine Virtuelle de la Généalogie

Socially distanced

Not long ago, Dear Readers, in these ethereal and electronic pages, we wondered if there might not be more virtual conferences on the subject of French genealogy. Little did we know that plans were already afoot and the announcement soon made that the Fédération française de généalogie (FFG) would be presenting online an entire week of French genealogy talks and a virtual exposition hall with stands and avatars, no less, in La Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie. The announcement that went out only about two months before the event was the call for exhibitors and speakers, which was, to our mind, perhaps cutting it a bit close. At that point, there was no discussion of how, when or where attendees might register. For these reasons, we decided not to add the announcement here on The FGB  until 1) there was a way to register and 2) the talks, lectures and presentations calendar appeared. Both appeared on the website two days ago so we are, at last, pleased to share the news of this online conference with you.

When: 26th of September to the 3rd of October

Where: online, on a newly launched website, Maison de la généalogie: www.france-genealogie.org

How to register: Complete the form, currently the only page on the website above; you will receive a confirmation e-mail

What Talks on Which Subjects: The full calendar is here. The opening speech will be by the President, Madame Valérie Arnold-Gautier (and, just to give a sense of how differently the French do these things,  you can hear her warble her invitation to the conference on the FFG's facebook page, which also happens to be the best place to get updates about the event.) A couple of the talks have been presented elsewhere. A large number of talks seem to be more historical rather than genealogical. The one talk in English is by the feted Napoleon expert, Alexander Mikaberidze. Two or three talks are in Spanish and an equal number in German. Many talks are on subjects not covered before and by speakers not included before.

This looks to be quite an energetic improvement on past conferences (and we dearly hope that microphones will be of a better quality than in the past). Keeping socially distant and looking outward (as do the ladies above), see you (virtually) there.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Is There a Statue of Your Ancestor in Paris?

Statue in Paris

Would it not be ever so lovely to be able to see one's ancestor honoured in Paris with a grand monument, a work of art? In these sad times, when the sheer crush of the planet's excessive human population (the antecedents of whom we so enjoy researching) is smothering all so that there is not enough space, not enough air, not enough water, not enough food for our children, and when celebrity is the goal of any poor soul who can crawl to the top of the heaving mass,  how pleasant it is to think of earlier times when accolades were accorded for accomplishment and to find one's own ancestor among the recipients. To be sure, the adage that "history is written by the winners" applies to the erection of statues as well, and many statues in public spaces were erected by vile rulers or generals wishing to honour themselves or their own ignominious ancestors. This is currently going through a period of correction and balance as angry crowds haul down statues and dump them in rivers or smash them to bits.

Schoelcher down

Personally, we do not much mind this emotive vandalism, though our brother in Oregon is outraged and says it is the equivalent of book burning. To this we say: Nonsense. A book contains information that can be read by one or many; a statue is decoration. We rather hope that the demolished statues might be replaced by new statues, perhaps of dolphins or dinosaurs or, dare we say, of one, just one, of the many women who have made important contributions to the betterment of this sorry species that is humanity.

So, Dear Readers, of the many hundreds of statues that remain in Paris, if one may be of your ancestor, here is an excellent website to facilitate the search for it, Les Statues de rue de Paris. It would seem to have been created by George Belleiche (though he prefers to remain anonymous) since all of the contents seem to come from his two books on the subject. The statues are listed geographically, by arrondissement, and can be searched by either the name of the sculptor or of the subject. We wish you a successful search.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Did Your Ancestor Sign an Employment Contract, (contrat d'engagement), to Go to Louisiana?

Sowing

On occasion, we are the recipient of cries for help from some of you, Dear Readers, seeking what you may imagine to be a large and central collection of all employment contracts signed by French nationals three hundred years ago to work overseas, leaving France for a few years or forever. Such a collection does not exist, either in the physical or the electronic world. It is important for us, as researchers, to understand why. 

Genealogical researchers work, primarily, with archival materials and, secondarily, with library materials. If you are experienced with both, you will know already that the fundamental reasoning of their arrangement are at opposite ends of the information management spectrum. Library materials are (or were, when books were on shelves) arranged in order to facilitate retrieval by a user. All was aimed at enabling a researcher to find books by the name of the author, by the title of the book, or by the subject matter of the contents. On the shelves, materials were arranged by the subject matter, allowing for serendipitous discoveries of similar works on the same subject. The purpose of archives is to document the activities of an entity, such as a government or company. Thus, all materials are arranged according to the creator, within a structural hierarchy, the activities of the creator and the date created. Provenance, the source and original ownership of the documentation, is all. The researcher must be able to search and to imagine possibilities in the two systems, in the one, to think of all related subjects in order to find a helpful book, in the other, to know how an organization was structured and what it did in order to know what part of it created a document, why and when.

Quite simply, the grand overseas exploitation corporations and chartered companies of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries did not have employment offices or human resources departments, so few of them had a place where employment contracts were signed (except for a few of the top directors). This means that, even when they began keeping archives, few of them had contracts to archive. Recruitment agents went around France, to poor villages, to prisons, to orphanages, seeking workers and potential colonists, and the contracts, if any, were signed locally, with a local notaire. Thus, the structure to look at is not national but local and not of the company but of the local notarial études, or offices. Because no notaire wrote such contracts exclusively but, like with all of his work, as the occasion arose, no notaire will have had a separate collection of employment contracts; they will be filed in chronological order with all of his other notarial acts.

If your ancestor signed a contrat d'engagement, finding it will require some work, but much has been published in this area, so it will be easier as time goes on. There are certain details you must gather about your ancestor, if possible:

  • His or her or their full name
  • The name of the vessel on which they voyaged
  • The port of arrival
  • The port of departure
  • The place of birth
  • If from a prison or orphanage, the name of the institution
  • If in the military, the name of the regiment
  • Their rank or profession

Information is scattered, but the most complete archives on the earlier companies (Compagnie des iles de l'Amérique, Compagnie du Mississippi, Compagnie de la Louisiane, etc.), are with the Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM) and they have very detailed finding aids that can be searched in a number of ways. Some of the documents have been digitized, but not many.

The archives of the Compagnie des Indes are gathered in a dedicated museum with much online, including passenger lists. The Archives nationales in Paris also have an enormous amount of private papers and contracts relating the the Compagnie des Indes, so do not forget to search there. These are all, for the most part, archives documenting the operations and correspondence of the companies and may have little by way of contracts with individual seamen or bakers or farmers.

The search will have to go deeper but no need to repeat the work done much better by others. Think libraries and books again.

A few contracts have been discussed and listed on blogs and websites, especially the excellent Blogue de Guy Perron, an archivist at La Rochelle, the port from which many early engagés departed.

If your ancestor engaged to go to Canada before arriving in Louisiana:

If these do not have your ancestor, then you must take your details, gathered as recommended above, and try to find the notaire who would have drafted his or her contract. Michèle Champagne explains the procedure, such as it is, in her article,  "Les Français en quête du Nouveau Monde : les Iles d’Amérique et la Nouvelle-France, espoir du XVIIe-XVIIIe s. Quelques pistes pour retrouver ses ancêtres en terre d’Amérique", (never accuse the French of succinct titles).  The responsibility for recruitment was handled differently over the years. In the early years, recruitment agents, who haunted fairs, markets and other crowded places where young men might gather, were from the Navy, (Marine), the companies and merchants. Later, the merchants handed the job over to the captains of the vessels that would sail for the companies.

  • Contracts were generally signed during the winter, when it was easier to convince men without work to go to warmer climes. Recall that, in the midst of this time, the year 1709 was one of the harshest ever recorded in France, leading to a disastrous harvest throughout the country in 1710. This, in turn, resulted in a rise in the price of wheat to a level that most people could not afford and there were food riots in Paris and elsewhere. The harsh weather continued with a period of extreme cold and rain lasting until 1717, during which there were floods each year from 1710 to 1712. The poor and malnourished struggled to survive in the best of conditions, but during this period, in the reign of Louis XV, famine killed many. A few years in a tropical swamp, with pay, may not have seemed a bad idea to some.
  • The average length of time contracted was three years, but it could have been as long as seven years.
  • Contracts could be with the chartered company, with a plantation owner, with a farmer or with a merchant. Thus, though your ancestor may have sailed on a Compagnie des Indes vessel to Louisiana, he or she may not have signed the contract with the company. People who went with no contract at all, and who were not forced to go, were termed passagers libres, meaning not that they voyaged at no charge but that they were free to decide their employment and destination on arrival. Some, who were too poor to pay their passage and too unqualified or unsavoury for the recruitment agents, went as indentured servants.

All contracts were drawn up and signed in front of a notaire, who kept a copy. The trick is finding the copy, which requires knowing where your ancestor was recruited and before which notaire he or she signed.

  • The port of departure was the most likely place for a contract to have been signed. La Rochelle was the main port of departure for the New World and Lorient became the main port of departure for India. Certain notaires in such ports had offices right by the docks and they most often wrote the contrats d'engagement.  Mme. Champagne includes a list of notaires in the department of Charente-Maritime (where La Rochelle is located) known for writing such contracts during the seventeenth century. For another city, look at the map of the location of notaire's études (most of the Departmental Archives have now produced such a map) and find those closest to the docks.
  • The contract may have been signed in the town where your ancestor was born or in the nearest large market town. There, it is harder to know with which notaire to start unless it is clear that one specialized in work for the chartered companies and their contracts.
  • Then, if the archives have not indexed the répertoires, the chronological lists of acts written by the notaires, it may be a long chore of reading through each of them covering the year or so before your ancestor's departure. An increasing number of Departmental Archives have digitized the répertoires and put them online.
  • Once the reference to the contract has been found, note the date, number, the name of the notaire and the name or number of the étude in order to request a copy from the archives.

Piece of cake, no?

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy