Guest Post - Au revoir Monsieur! - Part 3
17 November 2020
"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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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?
- La fabuleuse odyssée des savoyards en Argentine by Claude Chatelain. - Edition La Fontaine de Siloe
©2020 Madame S.