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!)
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.
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!
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.
(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.
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