Cherith Chapman-Flowerday read our posts about the excellent genealogy tourism offerings of Montbéliard and planned her voyage. She tells of the adventure in today's guest post.
If you have roots in Pays de Montbéliard, France, then it is the best place you could ever go for a genealogy tour! You are likely to leave with a family tree of your lineage and a deep appreciation for the rich history and culture of what was its own country for over 400 years! My mother, age 70, sister, age 43, and myself, age 45, had casually dreamt of visiting the town of our ancestors in France for many years. When we had the opportunity to go to England this summer (my first ever trip to Europe!) we decided we must add a trip to Montbéliard, France as part of our itinerary. We had two pieces of information that guided this choice. First, word of mouth that my great-great grandmother was from a town called Montbéliard, France. Second, two of my aunts had traced the history of 10 other relatives who were born in Montbéliard and passed away in the USA. This is all we had to go on but it was enough to get us to book a hotel in Montbéliard and buy train tickets to get there from London.
It then became apparent that we needed to know something about where we were going and to have a plan. I spent many evenings trying to figure this out until I stumbled upon The French Genealogy Blog. This encounter definitely led us to the trip of a lifetime. Much to my surprise there was a blog post that said Montbéliard, France was one of the best places in France to do genealogy tourism! The post suggested we contact Evelyne Boilaux of the Montbéliard Tourism Office. I called the tourism office and was put in touch right away with Evelyne. She and the person on the phone spoke English, which was so helpful because I speak no French at all. Evelyne helped us craft a 3-hour private tour of our ancestral town, Valentigney, including a visit to the cemetery, church, museum, lunch with locals, and much more!
As part of the visit Evelyne hoped to help us find some relatives. To aid in this endeavor she encouraged me to communicate with the René Vermot-Desroches at the Genealogical Society of Montbéliard. I had never done genealogy research before, but with the 11 names I gave René and his colleague Alain Acolat they were able to trace over 400 relatives going back 500 years in the area! The genealogy office has extensive records of birth, death, and marriage. And because they worked very hard to make it digital, it is easy to track if you have somewhere to start. Our 11 relatives of whom we had birth and death info was enough for him to do a solid amount of research. Granted, there was a lot of duplication of names over the years, so you really have to carefully compare not just names, but any possible records of birth, death, and marriage. In the end Evelyne and René helped us meet with two relatives. We were able to visit with one relative at her home, which interestingly smelled like my grandmother’s home - a smell I hadn’t experienced since her passing 10 years before. And, we enjoyed a long afternoon of coffee and delicious French pastries with our other relative and his wife.
Pays de Montbéliard joined France in 1793, at the end of the French Revolution. We learned we are from a country that, prior to joining France, had been a part of Wurtemberg for four centuries, with its own castle (now a museum) and ruling family who were loved by the locals. This family brought Lutheranism, and provided education to both boys and girls of low-income families almost 300 years before it was required by the country of France. We stayed in the oldest hotel in town, the Hôtel de la Balance. It sits at the base of the castle on the first street to ever exist in town. It was built in the 1500’s and was recently beautifully restored by a local citizen. We also learned that our family is related to the Peugeot family, who’s factories and legacy still lives on locally. It seems the Peugeot family was well loved by the community and provided health care for all employees and their families well before this was a common practice.
The area has a lot to offer with delicious food, charming streets, its own breed of cow (vache montbéliarde), a famous cheese (comté), a castle, several museums full of rich local history, archives, the ruins of a Gallo-Roman theater, outdoor activities nearby, and more. The people were lovely, the hospitality exceptional, and the connection to my past both enriching and inspiring. I thought this would be my only visit to France in my lifetime, but I have to go back again. There is so much yet to be discovered! My only regret (not really) is that it was so exciting and fun that I left worn out rather than rested – but that was my fault!
I have to say a very special thank you to Anne Morddel for this blog, Evelyne Boilaux for her hospitality and friendship that was above and beyond, and to René & Alain for their wisdom, experience and extensive support in the genealogy search process. See you all again!
Aprox. $50 cost for extensive support
RP & Communication
OFFICE DE TOURISME du PAYS DE MONTBELIARD
Aprox. $150 for 3-hour tour
1 rue Henri Mouhot
Tél. 03 81 94 16 07/ 06.44.28.85.99
Many thanks, Cherith, for sharing this with our Dear Readers. We hope there will be more happy stories to come.
©2018 Anne Morddel