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.
1 See our post on when Savoie joined France here.
2Read about the Savoyards who went to Paris, hoping to escape poverty, here.