Guest Posts

Guest Post - Collecting Baseball Cards - Genealogy vs Family History

Charlemagne

From Brian Wills-Johnson, who gave us the erudite series "A Frenchman in Australia", we have received this interesting meditation on distant ancestors: 

It seems that I am a direct descendant of Radbot, Count of Klettgau, who was born circa 985, founded the Habsburg dynasty, and died in 1045. Somewhat more tenuously, his line can be traced back to Adalrich I, Duke of Alsace, born circa 645.

My ancient French lineage should come as no surprise. My wife, who is of Irish descent, is also a descendant of Radbot, as is our French daughter-in-law, and our son-in-law whose family arose in Cornwall. In fact, every person on earth who is of Franco-Anglo-Celtic or other European descent, counts Radbot and Adalrich among their ancestors.

The popular expression “everyone is descended from Charlemagne” pokes fun at the English actor Christopher Lee who, in 2010, proudly asserted that he could prove he was descended from the first Holy Roman emperor. The mathematics of genealogy easily demonstrate that all we ‘Europeans’ are descendants of everyone who was alive in Europe at the end of the first common era millennium.

Simply put, we each have two parents, four grand-parents, eight great grand-parents and so on, an exponential expansion of the ancestor cohort. Radbot of Klettgau and I are separated by 35 generations, which means that the European population would need to have been an impossible 17 billion if each generation were unique - 17,179,869,184, to be exact. The Holy Roman Empire had an estimated population of 11.3 to 12.7 million at the time. [1] As geneticist Adam Rutherford explains, “branches of your family don’t consistently diverge … they begin to loop back into each other”, resulting in each race being highly inbred. [2]

So doing a Chistopher Lee, and collecting ancestors to fill a family tree, is not much different from collecting baseball cards to fill an album. We all have access to the same cards, once we go back a few generations. So why bother with genealogy? The worthwhile objective, in my view, is to recover previous lives and to explore their experiences within their historical contexts. And of course, the most interesting lives that a family historian could select are those from his or her own lineage. Jean Pierre Meunier, about whom I have written previously, is a case in point. This French soldier, convicted in Quebec of desertion and transported for life to Australia, was my great-great grandfather. He led a unique life encompassing the Peninsula War, a Swiss mercenary regiment and convict-era Australia.

Genealogy, then, is no more than a framework within which the much more interesting exercise of family history can be conducted. Werner the Pious, Albert the Rich, Rudolph the Kind, all of them steps on the path back to Radbot of Klettgau, will all add to the richness of the family’s tapestry as their stories are discovered and told.

 

[1] Eltjo Buringh, Medieval Manuscript Production in the Latin West, 2010; and Alexander Avakov, Two Thousand Years of Economic Statistics, vol. 1, 2015, per Wikipedia.

[1] Scott Hershberger, ‘Humans are all More Closely Related than we Commonly Think’, Scientific American, 5 October 2020.

 

Today is Toussaint, a national holiday in France, when most people think of their families, making this reflection on family history very timely, indeed. Many thanks, Brian.

 

 


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 4

Pacific Ocean

 

A FRENCHMAN IN AUSTRALIA

 

TASMANIA – 1815 to 1821

As noted earlier, on arrival in Sydney Jean Pierre was immediately assigned to William Mitchell in the District of Argyle, where Hobart had been settled by the British eleven years earlier. Two months later, in far-away Scotton, Lincolnshire, Frances Johnson committed the theft that would see her convicted, transported for seven years, and reaching Hobart early in 1817. In the meantime Jean Pierre lived the life of an assigned convict, doing whatever his master required, which perhaps was agricultural labour on a property on the northern edge of the village.

Picture9

Hobart Town in 1817, by Lt Charles Jefferys

The Tasmanian Names Index has William Mitchell, a settler, arriving in Hobart on the Porpoise from Norfolk Island with his wife and three children, on 17 January 1808. An 1814 advertisement warns trespassers on the farm of W. Mitchell near Newtown will be prosecuted.(1) New Town is now a suburb of Hobart, about 4km from the CBD. An 1817 advertisement advises: “All persons are hereby directed not to graze stock of any description on the farm of Robert Blinkworth near New Town, known by the name of Mitchel’s farm…”(2) Robert Blinkworth was William Mitchell’s son-in-law, and worked the farm.(3) Finally, a James Blay advertised in 1820: “The undersigned having lately purchased William Mitchell’s farm, containing 103 acres, situate about a mile and a half from Hobart town, on the south side of the new road leading to New Norfolk…” The advertisement also offered a reward for anyone who found the Grant document for the farm, which had been mislaid.(4) So William Mitchell owned property adjacent to Hobart (5) through the period of Jean Pierre’s assignment to him, and sold the property to move to NSW not long before Jean Pierre was reassigned to William Howe, in the District of Minto, NSW, in 1821. Meanwhile, Frances Johnson had arrived in Hobart and, it seems, a relationship had developed between the two convicts.

Frances Johnson reached Sydney on the Lord Melville in February 1817. (6) Like Jean Pierre, she was first sent to a settler in Hobart – specifically, ‘disposed’ of (assigned to) a Mr Marr at ‘Derwent’.(7) In the 1818 annual returns of convicts, she is still with the same master. The same muster lists Henry Marr (Royal Admiral, 1808), as a shop-keeper, Van Diemen’s Land.(8) These musters listed those who were, and who had previously been, convicts. Many emancipists had been given provisional pardons, which meant they had to stay in the colony until their original sentences were finished and, as many of these sentences were for life, the authorities had to keep track of former convicts to ensure they were still in the colony. So Frances was in Hobart – the only place on the Derwent River where there were shop-keepers - when she became pregnant with William in about January 1818. Obviously, his natural father was in the same place at the same time, and conveniently there is a Frenchman there with a family name that coincides with a cluster of men with related Y-chromosomes, including the male descendants of William.

The entire European population of Tasmania at this time was about 5,000 people,(9) of whom less than 1,000 were women.(10) It would have been almost impossible for Jean Pierre and Frances Johnson not to bump into each other. A relationship between them might also have provided a ticket back to Sydney for Frances. Early in her pregnancy, Lieutenant Governor Colonel William Sorell sternly warned that:

The Female Prisoners in Assigned Service having misbehaved in many Instances, and there being at present no Factory or Public Establishment in this settlement for placing such Women under regular Restraint and Labour; His Honour the Lieutenant Governor makes known his Intention of sending up to Port Jackson, to be placed in the Factory there, such Female Prisoners as from their bad Conduct cannot be continued in Assigned Service, or allowed the Indulgence of a Ticket of Leave.(11)

William Johnson was born in Sydney in October 1818 (12) and, so far as is known, never knew who his natural father was. No hint of this French connection has been found in any colonial documents, nor in any stories or hints passed down the family. It could also be the case that Frances herself mis-identified William’s father, believing him to be another convict in Hobart at the same time, John Marsden (Indefatigable, 1812). The clue here lies in the 1823-24-25 Muster.

The NSW Muster for 1823 was an administrative bungle, so badly done that it wasn’t sent off to London. Governor Macquarie ordered that it be done again in 1824, but they failed to get it right for the second year in a row, and once again it was held back.

Third time lucky, and Macquarie seems to have been satisfied with the 1825 Muster. But the problem was that by now there were conflicting records over the three years, with people living in different places at different times, and having changed names because of marriage or other reasons, so it seems (no-one knows for sure) that they put all the records for the three years together, weeded out the ones that were clearly duplicates, and sent off a combined 1823-24-25 Muster. As a result, quite a lot of the people appear twice or three times.

The Australian Society of Genealogists published the combined Muster in 1999,(13) and as with other Musters the ASG has very helpfully cross-referenced the entries, so that if Bill Jones appears both in his own right, and somewhere else e.g. as someone’s gardener, then the index will give both references (though unless the ship is mentioned, you’re never sure if it’s the same Bill Jones.)

Frances Johnson is listed in the Muster at 27015 as freed by servitude, ship Lord Melville, sentence 7 years, housekeeper of Sydney. William Johnson appears at 27589 as aged 8, born in the colony, the child of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Bracketed with him at 27590 is his sister, Eleanor Johnson, aged 5, born in the colony, child of Francis Johnson of Sydney.

Because of the problems with this three-year muster, Eleanor also appears at 21336, as Eleanor Foster, aged 4½, born in the colony, the daughter of John Foster (which we know refers to a foster relationship – no pun intended – rather than her natural father. Eleanor married James Oatley, son of the famous clock-maker who himself became Lord Mayor of Sydney, and their descendants include the wealthy Oatley family who make very good wine and keep winning the Sydney-Hobart yacht race with Wild Oats – but that’s another story).

The cross references on Frances Johnson also lead us to a most intriguing entry. At 32077 we have William Marsden, aged 7, born in the colony, son of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Who is this William Marsden? There is no other known connection between Frances and an apparent father of her son William, from which it might be assumed that in January 1818 Frances had a relationship with both John Marsden and Jean Pierre Meunier, leaving her uncertain as to which one was her partner in pregnancy. The recorded ages of these candidates at the time is also interesting: Jean Pierre was 26, Frances was 36, and John Marsden was 56. Whereas the genetic connection with Jean Pierre is inferred, the lack of relationship with John Marsden is certain. A mitochondrial-DNA analysis I undertook showed no connection with two women, who had also checked their m-DNA, who are well-documented as descendants of John Marsden. After her brief interlude of about 18 months in Hobart, Frances Johnson returned to Sydney and, so far as is known, had no further connection with Jean Pierre.

1823 – a ticket of leave

By August 1821, after William Mitchell had sold his farm, Jean Pierre had been reassigned to William Howe at Minto, NSW.(14) Howe was a Scottish settler who was granted 3,000 acres by Governor Macquarie.(15) Following the endorsement of both Mitchell and Howe, Jean Pierre received his ticket-of-leave on 9 April 1823, which allowed him to move around the colony so long as he obtained permission to relocate from one district to another, and had his employer’s name and any other conditions recorded on his ticket. He must have been well-behaved while a convict, because he was granted a ticket 10 years after being sentenced – the minimum time required before anyone with a life sentence could be conditionally paroled. Technically, he should not have received his t-o-l until 13 September 1823, being the tenth anniversary of his conviction, but he had obviously planned ahead and with the backing of his then employer, who was a Justice of the Peace, he was five months ahead of the regulations. The ticket was issued to Jean Piere (sic) Mounier (sic) of Minto,(16) which at the time was name of the district containing Campbelltown.(17)

Now free to choose his own employer, within limits, it is not surprising that Jean Pierre was attracted to a master with French connections. In the 1823-25 muster, ‘Jean Pierre Mounier’ is listed as a ticket-of-leave holder employed by Paul Huon of Campbelltown, which is about 6km south of Minto. Huon was born in the colony and, at the time of the muster, had a family consisting of his wife Sara and sons John (4) and Paul (2y and 5m).(18) Jean Pierre would have been a natural fit on Huon’s Sugarloaf Farm as he was likely to have had a Francophone master. Huon’s full name was Paul Huon de Kerilleau, the son of Gabriel Louis Marie de Huon de Kerilleau, a Frenchman who had fled France during the Revolution and come to Sydney with the New South Wales Corps in 1794. Despite his reduced circumstances, de Kerilleau was apparently of high breeding,(19) esteemed by most of the early governors and a regular visitor to Government House.(20) Paul Huon’s mother Louisa Emanuel Le Sage was also French, and had been transported in 1794 for theft. ‘She had been tried for stealing from the London household where she was employed as a lady’s maid, and needed a French interpreter at her trial’.(21)

Picture10 FIA

Jean Pierre’s assignment to Paul Huon (bottom of page) is evident from the 1825 muster

Paul Huon was granted 60 acres of land at Campbelltown in 1818, which he subsequently increased to 180 acres through adjacent land purchases.(22)

1827 – Constable Jean Pierre

We next hear of Jean Pierre in 1827, when he was employed to help maintain law and order in the colony. His appointment as a rural constable was noted in the Sydney Gazette: ‘Brinngelly. – Jean Pierre Monier [sic], per Indefatigable, holding a Ticket of Leave, to be Constable, and to be stationed in Cooke, in the room of – M’Nally, who has absconded; to bear the Date of the 1st Instant.’ (23)

On 17 June the following year Jean Pierre, known in this case as ‘J. P. Monnier’, is noted as having resigned his position as a Constable at Bringelly, and being succeeded by another ticket of leave holder, James Gold.(24) Bringelly is 20km north of Campbelltown. The system of parish constables was initiated by Governor Hunter in 1795, based on the English system of constables being elected for one year’s service – an unpaid position – by the parish inhabitants. Governor Macquarie changed the system so that constables were appointed by local magistrates, perhaps indicating the continuing goodwill of William Howe at nearby Minto.

1833 – a married man

On 12 January 1833 Jean Pierre Mounier [sic] and Catherine Boyle were granted permission to marry, and were subsequently married by Rev. John McEnroe, a Roman Catholic priest, in Sydney.(25) It is unlikely that they had any children – like Frances, she was 8-10 years older than Jean Pierre, who was 42 at the time, though he stated his age as 40 and she as 50.

Picture11 FIA

Jean Pierre and Catherine’s application, No. 11

Catherine was also a former convict. At the Dublin City Quarter Sessions on 16 August 1814, she was ‘indicted for feloniously stealing a bank note for one pound, and a handkerchief the property of John McDonnell. The prosecutor swore he knew the prisoner. She robbed him of a one pound note and a handkerchief. Took it from him when he was asleep in a public house. The note was produced and identified by the prosecutor. The note had been found on the prisoner, who was convicted. To be transported for seven years. Recorder - "You too have been in custody before.”(26)

She was transported on the Francis and Eliza, which left Cork on 5 December 1814, and arrived in Sydney on 8 August 1815, an unusually long voyage of 246 days.(27) On arrival, she was sent to the Female Factory in Paramatta. Her age on arrival was given as 33,(28) which validates her age of 50 when applying to marry.

Here, Jean Pierre Meunier disappears from the record, and the narrative of his life necessarily ends. We do not know where and when he died (nor has any record of the death of his wife been found), and we do not know the date and place of his birth. His ship had passed back into the night from whence it came.

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) Van Diemen’s Land Gazette, 10 September 1814, p. 2.

(2) Ibid., 15 March 1817, p. 2. 

(3) People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au.

(4) Hobart Town Gazette, 27 May 1820, p. 2.

(5) The map at http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/entity/12453?pid=27775 shows the location of Mitchell’s farm, superimposed on a satellite photograph of modern-day Hobart.

(6) Her story is told elsewhere – see ‘Frances Johnson and her Australian family’, Brian Wills-Johnson, unpublished MSS.

(7) AJCP reels HO 10/1 to 10/16, annual returns of convicts.

(8) AJCP reel 63, HO 10/10, p. 214. Tasmania was called Van Diemen’s Land until 1856. A James Andrew Marr was born in Tasmania on 18 February 1816, parents not listed (Latter Day Saints index). Henry Marr left Hobart for Sydney in 1821 – Hobart Town Gazette, 3 March 1821, p. 2.

(9) Annual Statistics of Tasmania, 1901

(10) Rebecca Kippen & Peter Gunn, ‘Convict Bastards, Common-Law Unions, and Shtgun Weddings’, Journal of Family History, 2011, p. 1.

(11) Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 28 March 1818, p. 1.

(12) According to details on his death certificate.

(13) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1824, op. cit.

(14) Series: NRS 898; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.

(15) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University.

(16) The Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser, 10 April 1823, p.1.

(17) Today, Campbelltown and Minto are both suburbs of Sydney within the district of Campbelltown.

(18) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825, Carol J. Baxter (Ed.), Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record, Sydney, 1999.

(19) Seventy-five years after his death in 1829 his real identity as a member of the Bourbon family was revealed through a document which had been found and authenticated – Anny P. L. Stuer, ‘The French in Australia’, PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1979, p. 44. He had earlier disguised his French identity, having come to Australia as ‘Gabriel Lewis’ – A2998, vol. 102A, Mitchell Library, Sydney.

(20) G. P. Walsh, Australian Dictionary of Biography, www.adb.anu.edu.au 

(21) Michael Flynn, Settlers and seditionists: the people of the convict ship Surprize 1974, Sydney, Angela Lind, 1994.

(22) Deborah Farina, Spring Farm Parkway Non-Aboriginal Heritage Assessment, Jacobs Group Australia Pty. Ltd., 2019, p. 19.

(23) Sydney Gazette, 19/7/1827.

(24) Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 June 1828, p. 1.

(25) Register of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, State Archives NSW; Series: 12212; Item: 4/4508.

(26) Freemans Journal, 21 June 1814.

(27) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, op. cit., pp. 340-341.

(28) Peter Mayberry, http://members.tip.net.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi?requestType=Search2&id=1152


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 3

Pacific Ocean

COURT-MARTIALLED FOR DESERTION

CANADA – 1813 to 1814

On 5 May 1813 the de Meuron regiment embarked at Malta on the HMS Regulus, HMS Melpomene and HMS Dover for British North America, and at the end of August the 1,200 officers and men landed in Canada. On arrival the regiment was at or near full strength: on board the three ships were 6 military captains, 20 lieutenants and ensigns, 54 sergeants, 22 drummers and 1001 rank and file.

Leaving Gibraltar on June fourth at four in the morning, the regiment crosses the ocean on the last episode of this story. We are going to reinforce the British army in Canada, “ces quelques arpents de neige” [these few acres of snow] according to Voltaire, to protect his possessions from the pushy American. We crossed under the protection of the English frigates. The Dover advances to the front position and the Regulus, heavier, has trouble following; in the heavy mist the Melpomene touches bottom in the vicinity of Newfoundland, but can depart the following day, June 25, by high tide. After a short stay from the sixth until the tenth of July, at Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, the convoy arrives on August 5th in Quebec. (1)

After just three weeks in Canada, Jean Pierre went AWOL. On the muster roll for 24 September 1813, it is noted that he “deserted 27 August returned 3 September”.(2) His was the only desertion from the regiment in August, and there were a further 9 in September.(3) As a fifer and drummer he was being paid at a regular rate of £2/19/5 for each three-month period,(4) and although he was not paid during his absence, and was on a charge when he returned, the meticulous paymaster credited him £2/15/6½ for the 86 days of the quarter he was present.(5) Ten days later, on 13 September, he was court-martialled at the regiment’s headquarters in Chambly, and sentenced to life imprisonment. (6)

Picture6 FIA

Fort Chambly, Quebec, 1814 (7)

There are various levels of desertion, the most serious being ‘desertion to the enemy’. This, and the slightly more ambiguous ‘desertion towards the enemy’ demanded the death sentence in the British Army. The record of Jean Pierre’s court martial does not detail the seriousness of his desertion, but the relatively light penalty (for the time) indicates that his may have been a simple case of being absent without leave. The record reads:

 

Adjutant General’s Office
Head Quarters Montreal
8th October 1813


General Orders:
At a General Court Martial held at Chambly the 13th Septr 1813 and continued by adjournment to the 14th of the same Month, was arraigned. Jean Pierre Munier Drummer in De Meurons Regiment, confined by Lt. Col. H. De Meuron Bayard for deserting from the Regiment De Meuron on the 27th day of August last or thereabouts, until the 3rd day of September when he was brought back a Prisoner. 

Opinion and Sentence"
The Court having maturely weighed the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution together with what the Prisoner has alledged [sic] in his defence, the Court is of opinion that the Prisoner J. P. Munier Drummer in deMeurons Regiment is guilty of the Desertion laid to his charge, the Court therefore adjudge him the said Prisoner J. P. Munier Drummer in DeMeurons Regiment to be marked on the left side, two inches below the armpit with the letter /D/ half an Inch long; and then to be transported as a Felon for life, to any part of H. M’s Dominions beyond the seas, as H. R. H. The Prince Regent in the Name and on the Behalf of H. M. may be graciously pleased to direct.(8) 

Discipline was harsh in the military. At the same court martial three of Jean Pierre’s compatriots were found guilty of deserting ‘with the intention of going to the Enemy, and for Resisting the party sent against them to bring them back’, and were sentenced to death by hanging. We also find Thomas Orr being pronounced guilty of having deserted on 23 July and ‘not returning until taken prisoner at St Therese[?]’ on 27 July, for which he was sentenced ‘to suffer Death by being shot’. In November 1813, Private Thomas Beckwith was convicted of having wounded himself “in the leg, with intent to disable himself for the service”. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes “on his bare back” with a cat-o’-nine-tails, which probably disabled him more than his own action.(9) Jean Pierre’s sentence might point to some extenuating circumstances, or a good defence.

Being branded with a D for deserter was common in the British Army. The mark was not made by a branding iron, but by a tattoo, in which the skin was punctured by a set of sharp points in the shape of a D, and afterwards gunpowder was rubbed into the wound to introduce a permanent blue pigment. Tattoos were commonly called ‘gunpowder spots’ from the 17th century,(10) and Jean Pierre’s was probably administered with a spring-loaded tool as shown. Apart from any stigma this practice might have engendered, it was meant to foil those serial deserters who would leave their own regiment, and then present themselves to another to obtain the signing-on bonus.

 

Picture7 FIA

All verdicts from courts martial had first to be confirmed by the British army’s headquarters at Horse Guards in London. Some time after these formalities had been completed, Jean Pierre was shipped to England.

Horse Guards,
26th February 1814


Sir,


Having received the directions of the Prince Regent for carrying into Execution, the Sentence of a General Court Martial, held at Chambly, in the district of Montreal, on the 13th September 1813, (of which you had approved) whereby Jean Pierre Meunier, Drummer in De Meuron’s Regiment was adjudged to be transported as a Felon for Life; I am to acquaint you, that his Royal Highness, was pleased, in the Name and on the Behalf of His Majesty, to Command that the Prisoner should be Transported accordingly to New South Wales. -
You will therefore take the proper steps for the Conveyance of Jean Pierre Meunier to this Country.


I am,
Sir,
Yours,
Frederick
Commander in Chief

 

Picture8 FIA

Jean Pierre’s sentence confirmed

 

Jean Pierre was shipped back to England, where he was received on board the prison hulk Dido on 21 September 1814, more than a year after his court martial. Three days later he was ‘disposed of’ to New South Wales.(11) He sailed on the Indefatigable, via Rio de Janeiro (where there was a delay of five weeks), and arrived in Sydney on 25 April 1815. Of the 200 male convicts loaded, 198 reached their destination.(12) The "Sydney Gazette" reported that the prisoners were landed in a healthy condition ‘and of particularly clean appearance’,(13) indicating a well-managed voyage. Jean Pierre appears on 29 April 1815 as Pearce Manier on a list of convicts disembarked from the Indefatigable who were sent to Liverpool, near Sydney, for distribution.(14)

Next: A Frenchman in Australia

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) From the memoirs of Alain Bosquet, His Majesty’s Regiment de Meuron, http://mlloyd.org/gen/macomb/text/hmd2.html accessed May 2020.

(2) Canada, British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, op. cit.

(3) British Army individual units strengths, 1805-1850, from www.napolean-series.org 

(4) Drummers and fifers were paid more than privates, who received £2/6/- for each three months – PRO W.0.12/11966, muster books and pay lists, Regiment de Meuron, 1812. The regiment had 21 D&Fs at the time.

(5) Canada, British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, op. cit.

(6) State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12202; Item: [4/4080], tickets of leave 1810-1869.

(7) J Bouchette, A Topographical Description of the Province of Lower Canada, London, W. Faden, 1815, opp. p. 171.

(8) Public Archives of Canada, record group 8, C series, British Military and Naval Records, vol. 1167½, p. 646.

(9) Public Archives of Canada, record group 8, C series, vol. 165, p. 229.

(10) See, for example, William Wycherley’s play The Plain Dealer, 1665.

(11) HO 9/9, Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth, register of prisoners, p. 27

(12) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2004, pp. 340-1.

(13) Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 29 April 1815, p. 2.

(14) Reel 6004, 4/3494, p. 66, Colonial Secretary’s Records (www.colsec.records.nsw.gov.au)


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 2

Pacific Ocean

 

A DRUMMER FOR NAPOLEON

FRANCE – 1791 to 1808

Jean Pierre Meunier was probably born in Epinal in the French province of Lorraine, in 1791. His ticket of leave gives his birthplace as Lorient, a city on the west coast of France,(1) but earlier army records – written in French – make it clear that this was an error or a deliberate subterfuge.(2) It was the third year of the French revolution, and the country was in turmoil. The following year the Tuileries Palace was stormed, King Louis XVI and his family were arrested, and the guillotine began to rise and fall.

Nothing is known of Jean Pierre’s early life,(3) but the record shows that at 17 or 18 – and possibly earlier – he was a soldier. Universal conscription was a feature of Napoleonic France, with every single man between 20 and 25 liable to be called up to serve in the military for five years. In December 1806 the minimum age was reduced to 19 but, if his year of birth is correct, Jean Pierre would have turned 17 in 1808, the year when he most likely became a soldier, so he might have been a volunteer.  While a record of his French military service has not been found, the following hypothesis is consistent with the known facts.

SPAIN – 1808 to 1809

The Peninsular War began in 1807 when Napoleon’s France and Bourbon Spain, then allies, invaded and occupied Portugal. Spain joined the campaign, “secretly induced to aid the forthcoming invasion with both facilities and troops”.(4) The French offensive was led by the First Corps d’Observation de la Gironde, with 25,000 men under the command of General Junot. The corps, raised in August 1807, marched south from France and by late November had taken Lisbon. Meanwhile, a Second Corps d’Observation de la Gironde had been ordered by Napoleon in mid-October,(5) and subsequent events point to Jean Pierre Meunier being a drummer in this corps. These two corps formed in the French Basque city of Bayonne, close to the Spanish border, with the second led by General Pierre Dupont de l’Etang.(6)

Napoleon had a broader objective than the conquest of Portugal, setting out to bring the entire Iberian Peninsula – Portugal and Spain – into the Continental System, and subservient to France. In 1808 General Dupont entered Spain with his army, and in August that year Napoleon installed his elder brother Joseph as King of Spain. Dupont’s force marched to Toledo as part of what was, by now, effectively an army of occupation. Napoleon’s actions led to open hostility and widespread guerrilla attacks by the Spanish, and Dupont was dispatched:

… south from Toledo, to occupy and secure the strategic port of Cadiz against attack by the [British] Royal Navy. The force was led by General Pierre Dupont de l’Etang, a forty-three-year-old hero of Napoleon’s victories at Ulm, Halle, and Friedland, who was in his first independent command. He expected an easy and unopposed march to Cadiz. Apart from 500 elite seamen of the Imperial Guard, 1,200 members of the Paris Guard, and 3,300 Swiss mercenaries, Dupont’s army [of 13,000] was a motley crowd of young and untested conscripts (both French and foreign), led by any officers who could be found in the depots. (7)

After various manoeuvres during which he was pursued by the newly-constituted Andalusian army, three of his five divisions were trapped at Bailén, 100km north-east of Cordoba. Two Swiss regiments defected to the Spanish side and, in the sweltering July heat, Dupont was defeated. The Spanish forces had liberated Bailén, giving them the advantage of access to water, whereas the French troops had no water supply. By the terms of his surrender, 17,000 French soldiers under Dupont’s command became prisoners of war, joined by some 5,000 more French troops who capitulated to the Andalusian army. The battle of Bailén was the first major defeat of a French army during the Napoleonic wars, and was widely seen throughout Europe as evidence that the French were not invincible. It is still celebrated annually as the beginning of the liberation of Spain, though the country did not finally throw off the French occupation until after the battle of Waterloo.

Without knowing which of Dupont’s divisions had recruited Jean Pierre, we cannot tell if he was personally involved at Bailén, but it is highly likely that he was one of the French prisoners who, by their sheer numbers, created problems for their captors. They were first quartered in scattered towns and villages through western Andalusia, but when Napoleon’s fresh army retook Madrid in December they were taken to Cadiz, where

… they joined several thousand French sailors who had been trapped in the harbor when the Spanish rose. The prisoners were crowded aboard dismasted warships - the dreaded hulks or pontons. There fetid air and worse food brought on diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever and scurvy. The Spanish referred to the Vieille Castille, a hulk reserved for French officers, as "the ship of the dead." The prisoners died at a rate of fifteen to twenty a day. Bodies were at first unceremoniously dumped in the harbor creating potential health problems for the citizens of Cadiz. (8)

The hulks were the remains of Napoleon’s fleet, vanquished in the Battle of Trafalgar in the waters offshore from Cadiz, in 1805. Here, we leave Jean Pierre in his misery while we background the agent of his deliverance, in April the following year. He was one of the fortunate ones: it has been estimated that of almost 12,000 men imprisoned at Cadiz and afterwards taken to remote islands in the Balearic archipelago, as many as 10,000 perished. (9)

MALTA – 1809 to 1813

The de Meuron regiment was another Swiss mercenary force, raised in Switzerland in 1781 by its commander and owner, Charles-Daniel de Meuron, who sold its service to the Dutch East Indies Company in Dutch Ceylon. (10) When France invaded the Netherlands in 1795, and William of Orange ordered forces in the surviving Dutch colonies to surrender to the English (thus joining them against France), the Swiss de Meuron regiment agreed to form an alliance and, as a result, Ceylon fell to England. The regiment subsequently served with the British army in India, mainly in Madras and Mysore, until in October 1806 it embarked for England, arriving in July the following year. Then followed service in Gibraltar, and in Italy in 1808, and by June of that year the regiment is recorded as being stationed in Malta. (11)

Picture 4 FIA

The De Meuron regimental flag. Its independence from British Army tradition is evident in the use of a Swiss Sun Burst, in the de Meuron family livery of green black and yellow.

It had arrived in Malta much depleted, with its payroll listing 12 fifers and drummers and 235 privates, plus officers and NCOs. A small detachment had been left in Gibraltar, however, specifically to recruit men into de Meuron’s service, and their activities increased markedly when the French prisoners from Bailén arrived in Cadiz. One of those recruits was Jean Pierre, who first appears on the muster as “Meunier Pierre J”, recruited on the 22nd April and paid his four guineas signing-on bounty. The same pay list notes that a sergeant, a corporal and a private who were recruited during this period were “left at Gibraltar on recruiting”. (12) In the full pay list for the quarter 25 March to 24 June 1809, John Pierre Meunier is listed as a private in the 10th company of the regiment, being paid from 1 May to 24 June. His entry notes that he is a drummer, from which the foregoing hypothesis was developed, since being a drummer points to previous military service.

Picture5 FIA

Jean Pierre (No. 2008) joins de Meuron’s regiment. This source notes he was born in Epinal, Lorraine.

 

From 25 June 1809 to 24 September 1809, and from that point onwards, Jean Pierre was listed as one of the regiment’s drummers and fifers, having been transferred from the 10th company. He was paid £2/19/5 for the three months. He missed the second of the monthly musters because he was in the regimental hospital. By now the regiment was up to a full complement of 22 drummers and fifers.

He is certainly the Jean Pierre Meunier in whom we are interested – the subsequent documentation has no gaps – and so we have a Frenchman who has had previous military service, recruited at a time that de Meuron was actively rebuilding his regiment from Gibraltar. It seems that Jean Pierre’s timing was also fortunate. Later in 1809, when the regiment’s agreement with the British army was renewed for a further seven years, one condition was that no Italians, Englishmen or Frenchmen should henceforth be recruited.

Jean Pierre was recorded as being a drummer and fifer with the de Meuron regiment of the British Army from at least 25 March 1811, to 8 October 1813. (13) A drummer and fifer was a non-combatant soldier who functioned as both a camp clock and a field signalman. The first recorded use of fifes and drums, according to Beck, was by the Swiss army in 1386 at the battle of Sempach. (14) They had found that the high pitch of the fife and the low pitch of a thudding drum could be heard over considerable distances, even during the heat of battle.

On the battlefield, musicians had the responsibility of helping keep order in battle and make sure the soldiers functioned well as a unit. Drummers would play beatings telling the soldiers to turn right or left as well as to load and fire their muskets. There was a tune called Cease Fire that fifers and drummers would play to tell the soldiers to stop firing at the end of a battle while a tune called Parley was used to signal to the enemy that a surrender or peace talk was desired. In the camp, fifers and drummers were used to help regulate the working day. Every task that needed to be carried out would be signalled by a fife and a drum. Tunes were used to tell the soldiers to wake up, eat meals, and perform camp chores. Music was provided for ceremonies that were used to start and end the working day. Whenever a command needed to be spread throughout the army, whether it be in the camp or on a battlefield, a fifer and drummer would play the tune, and other fifers and drummers would start playing the same tune, until the whole army knew what they needed to do. (15)

 

The regiment’s time as a garrison on Malta seems to have gone smoothly, and they were nicely complimented by the garrison command when they left under a transfer order to British Canada.

Garrison Order Malta

4th May, 1813
Lieutenant-General Oakes cannot suffer the Regiment De Meuron to quit this Garrison, where they have so long been stationed under his command, without assuring them of the satisfaction which their good conduct, and attention to military discipline, have constantly afforded him; and which have been equally conspicuous in every rank. They will embark from hence, as fine and well-appointed a regiment, as any in His Majesty’s service.

The Lieutenant-General has no doubt but by their conduct and gallantry, on the desirable services on which they are about to be employed, they will confirm the high opinion he has formed of them, and will equally merit the praise and approbation of the General under whose orders they will soon be placed, to whom he shall not fail justly to set forward their merits.

He begs leave to assure this regiment of his warmest wishes for their glory and success, and of the sincere interest he shall ever take in their welfare. (16)

Next: Jean Pierre court-martialled in Canada

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12202; Item: [4/4080], tickets of leave 1810-1869.

(2) WO25/677 De Meuron regiment, p. 175.

(3) Extensive searches of the French registers for Meunier and its variants, and Mousnier and its variants, have failed to find a record of his birth.

(4) David Chandler, Napoleon, Pen and Sword Books (reprint), 2002.

(5) https://forum.napoleon1er.net/viewtopic.php?t=46457

(6) Avner Falk, Napoleon Against Himself: A Psychobiography’ Pitchstone Publishing, 2007.

(7) Denis Smith, The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon’s Forgotten Soldiers, 1809 to 1814, Four Wall Eight Windows, 2001, p. 8. https://archive.org/stream/prisonersofcabre00smit#page/36/mode/2up 

(8) Denis Smith, The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon’s Forgotten Soldiers, 1809 to 1814, Four Wall Eight Windows, 2001 – this quote from a review of Smith’s book published by www.napoleon-series.org 

(9) Ibid.

(10) There is still a Swiss mercenary corps on active duty – the Papal Guard.

(11) PRO W.O.12/11963, muster books and pay lists, Regiment De Meuron, 1809.

(12) PRO W.O.12/11963, muster books and pay lists, Regiment De Meuron, 1809.

(13) British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1795-1850, at www.ancestry.com. 

(14) John H. Beck (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Percussion, Routledge, 2007, p. 147.

(15) The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, at https://www.fifeanddrum.army.mil/kids_fife_drum.html 

(16) John Halkett, Statement Resecting the Earl of Selkirk’s Settlement Upon the Red River, in North America, London, John Murray, 1817, pp. 175-176.

 


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 1

Pacific Ocean

It is a time of richesse, Dear Readers, for once again, we are most pleased to present a series of guest posts which, together, form a superb example of French genealogy research. It is a tale which we believe will, as did that of Madame S., shed light on new research ideas and possibilities which, in turn we hope, will enable you to further your own research. 

PROLOGUE

This four-part series is part of a much broader narrative of an Australian family that has extended, thus far, to six generations from a relationship between two colonial convicts: Englishwoman Frances JOHNSON (nee MILLS), and Frenchman Jean Pierre MEUNIER. The focus of the family history is Frances (Lord Melville, 1817), whose married name survived through a slender thread of successive generations, while Jean Pierre (Indefatigable, 1815) is characterised as a ship that passed in the night, briefly sighted before disappearing. The elements of social history embedded in the biographical lattice will, perhaps, contribute to the meta-narrative of Australia’s convict beginnings. There were few women and even fewer Frenchmen among the cohort of some 160,000 convicts transported to Australia, so these two lives are worthy of rescue from the mists of history. The author, Brian Wills-Johnson, has been pursuing his family’s history for five decades – but he never expected to stumble across a Frenchman.

 

A SHIP THAT PASSED IN THE NIGHT

He was the mystery man in the life of my great-great-grandmother Frances JOHNSON (nee MILLS), an enigma whom she barely knew, even – perhaps – to the extent of her being unaware that he was the father of her only Australian-born son, William JOHNSON. He was, as Longfellow said, “a distant voice in the darkness”, who left behind just one fragment of evidence that he had passed in the night.

Jean Pierre MEUNIER was, beyond reasonable doubt, my great-great-grandfather; the first of my ancestors to arrive in Australia; and the end-point of a decades-long search to identify the progenitor of my family’s male lineage.

Why should there be a connection between Frances Johnson and Jean Pierre Meunier? There is no known documentary evidence that they ever met and, so far as the historical record goes, the best that can be said is that they were both in Hobart, Tasmania, at the critical time when William Johnson was conceived. Genealogists and family historians, however, today have recourse to a powerful ‘research tool’ in the form of genetic matching.

In 2019 I decided to have my Y-chromosome analysed, and sent my swabs off to Family Tree DNA, an outfit in Houston, Texas, that had been recommended for yDNA testing by a university workshop I attended a year earlier. This yielded an interesting cluster of names amongst 1,212 men with whom I had an apparent common ancestor. All of these, with the exception of one, listed their earliest known male ancestor as Dr Johannes Mousnier de la Montange – John Miller of the Mountain. They were all in the same haploid group as I am – R-M269 – which, not surprisingly, is ‘the most common European haplogroup, greatly increasing in frequency on an east to west gradient (its prevalence in Poland estimated at 22.7% compared to Wales at 92.3%).’ (1) Some geneticists believe this haplogroup arose amongst Neolithic hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago, with that population being pressed steadily westwards by expanding farming peoples.

This group of men drew my attention because, while I matched all other 1,211 men, each of them shared 12 markers with me, whereas there was only one with whom I shared 25 markers.(2) He, cautiously, did not bridge the gap back to the Mousnier de la Montagne name, but listed his earliest known male ancestor as John C. Montayne (1823-1890). What this coincidence of markers means is that the probability that he and I have a common ancestor in the past 16 generations is 72%, in the past 20 generations it is 84%, and in the past 24 generations it is 91%. This indicates that somewhere around 600 years ago, or earlier, we both reach the same man, via a long line of French males.

I soon discovered that the connection between this man and Dr Johannes was accepted by the Society of the Descendants of Johannes de la Montagne, an association that has both intensively explored the life of this American pioneer, and which appears to stand guard against false claimants of family connections. The other men from my cluster are all members – or members of member families – of the Society of the Descendants. One apparently has the most reliable lineage, but since the others all have high-level matches with him, their connection to Dr Jean is virtually assured. So far as these four go, my 12-marker matches also show, typically, that we have about a 91% probability of a common ancestor in the past 24 generations.

For a time, this is where the trail went cold. Then, during one of my forays into Australia’s colonial musters, when I’d been looking for a name that might match one of the Montaigne variants by skimming down the M-list, I chanced on a Jean Pierre Meunier. He seemed sufficiently French to be interesting, and Meunier is the French equivalent of Miller, while Mousnier is an older form of the same name.(3) Some quick research turned up a convict assignment record that read:

1 April 1823, text of document No. 550:

Jean Pierre Mounier [sic]
We hereby Certify that John Pierre Munier [sic] who came in the ship Indefatigable which arrived in the Year 1815, has not been convicted of any Crime or Misdemeanour in this Colony, but is to our certain Belief an honest, sober and industrious character, having served faithfully Mr Wm. Mitchell in the District of Argyle from April 1815 to August 1821, (4) William Howe Esquire in the District of Minto from August 1821, to the present Date. Sentence Life. (5)

Picture 1 FIA

This recommendation earned Jean Pierre his ticket of leave.

At first this seemed to block any chance of demonstrating that Jean Pierre Meunier and Frances Johnson were in the same place at the same time, Argyle and Minto both being in New South Wales, while Frances was in Hobart in 1817-18. The breakthrough was in discovering that Argyle in NSW was not named by Governor Macquarie until 1820. Was there another Argyle? Yes, the original subdivision of Tasmania included a District of Argyle, right where Hobart is. So, who was Jean Pierre Meunier? Who was this unexpected Frenchman who suddenly appeared in an Anglo-Celtic family? Clearly he was a convict, as was Frances, but his story lay well outside my genealogical comfort zone of England, Scotland and Ireland. It was time to plunge into the unchartered waters of French family history.

Picture2

 

Picture3 FIA

Next: A drummer for Napoleon.

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R-M269

(2)  A marker is a physical location on the Y-chromosome. I had 67 markers assessed and, of these, 25 were at the same locus as 25 of one of the others.

(3) Meunier and the English surname Miller are both occupational names derived from the Latin word for mill, molina. Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, 2013. The etymology is molina (Latin), molīnārius (late Latin), munoiere (old French), meusnier (middle French), meunier (modern French). - https://etymologeek.com/fra/meunier. The famous Moulin Rouge, ‘Red Mill’, shares this etymology. 

(4) A William Mitchell came free per Providence in 1811, property at Argyle, m. Elizabeth Huon – Colonial Secretary’s index to correspondence, 1788-1825.

(5) Series: NRS 898; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.


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.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 6.29.51 PM

 

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).

 

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 6.42.58 PM

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.


Guest Post - A Very Challenging Brick Wall

Missing parents

We have been sent a case of missing parents by the eminent genealogy researcher, Monsieur B., whose expertise is in Acadian, Canadian and French research. His brick wall is a true conundrum.

Zacharie Viel, Where Are You?

Not only is it important to share one’s genealogical success stories, but it is also important to share one’s frustrations and failures, and the latter certainly characterizes my research into the past of Madelinot ancestor Zacharie Viel. Having found the majority of the ancestries of the various men from France who settled at the Islands, despite my search in over 200+ parish and civil registers in the departments of Manche, Calvados and Orne, France, including the Island of Jersey just off the coast, and various seaport parishes in neighboring Ille-et-Vilaine and Côte d’Armor departments, I have yet to find a birth record for Zacharie, his parents’ marriage record, or the births of any of his siblings. It’s like the man came from France, set sail for Canada, married here, and had a handful of children, before his passing into the annals of history at the supposedly advanced age of 94 years old. One will ask what exactly do we know about him? Other than the following facts, not much else.

From his marriage at Havre-Aubert on 16 May 1842, he stated that he was from Coutances, the son of Pierre Viel and Marie Mière (or LeMière), both of these families being found in abundance in that region of Manche. His father’s occupation is given as a mason. Zacharie’s wife was Bathilde Chiasson, the daughter of Jean Chiasson and Esther Hébert, and of their marriage were born four sons and a daughter. Of their sons, only Honoré, a surveyor by trade, lived into his thirties, dying unmarried. Honoré’s sister, Esther, married in 1885 to Léoni Jomphe, by whom she had seven children, assuring a descendance from her father. Esther died in Bassin on 30 Jun 1949, and with her passing came the end of the Viel surname at the Magdalen Islands.


According to his death record dated 19 Apr 1887 at the undoubtedly exaggerated age of 94 years old, Zacharie was born in France, presumably at Coutances as we have noted, between 1793 (based on that age) and 1812 (based on the ages given by him in the various Canadian censuses of 1861, 1871 and 1881). At his marriage in 1842 to Bathilde, among the witnesses to their wedding appears another French compatriot, Joseph (-Guillaume) Châtel, originally from St-Pair-sur-Mer in the same French department of Manche, and who had two years previously also married at Havre-Aubert on 22 June 1840 the widow of Jean Bourgeois: Marie Deveau, the daughter of Jacques Deveau and Théotiste Lapierre. Undoubtedly, the two men became friends, Joseph having arrived before Zacharie, and thus, Zacharie asked him to be a witness to this important event in his life. Both men lived and died at Bassin.


The census records are likewise not that reliable to pin down his year of birth. In 1861, Zacharie’s age is given as 50 years old (thus born about 1810 or 1811). In 1871, he is given as 59 years of age (thus born about 1812). And finally in 1881, his age jumps to an exaggerated 84 year old (thus born in 1797).


Another fact that makes this search so complicated is that the Viel family also went by the surname LeViel, yet despite all these families which I also inspected, nothing has turned up among them either. Even the name of Zacharie is a rare name in that region, and in my research, I have encountered only a handful of records with that first name contained therein. In fact, the only Zacharie born in Coutances during the timeframe indicated above was an orphaned child (un “enfant trouvé”) left on the steps of the city hospice, born in the city on 21 April 1806. Could this have been him, later adopted by a Pierre and Marie Viel? If so, there are no records to support such an adoption or reclamation “reconnaissance” by his parents.


Another curve thrown into the record by the transcriber is the fact that when they reexamined the child, he was found to be of “feminine” gender (sic), about three days old. So was this child a male or female, or was the gender incorrectly recorded? In addition, other close-sounding surnames from this department have also complicated the search results: Néel and Piel, in particular. At his death at Bassin, Zacharie’s surname was recorded as “Miel”, the husband of Mathilde Bourgeois (rather than Bathilde Chiasson), by Father Henri Thériault, pastor of the parish… another clerical error.


When speaking of “Coutances”, does this mean the city, canton or diocese of that name? Each geographic area grows in size as one moves from one distinction to another, and this has been the fundamental guide for the research I have conducted, and why the number of parish and civil registers consulted has grown extensively. I have searched through and written to the Archives of the Marine in Cherbourg, who had no record of him either. All my posts on the various France message boards have gone unanswered as well. Meanwhile, my search throughout all of Normandy continues.


I am becoming convinced that this Viel family did not live in Coutances but actually arrived there from somewhere else. In my estimation, Zacharie was merely “passing through” the city from some other rural location on his way to North America. The sad part is that he is one of only two French ancestors whose roots I have yet to discover, containing both an exciting as well as frustrating search throughout the entire Normand countryside and seacoast. Finding his connections are the ultimate Madelinot brick wall.

Our hope is that some of you may have solved a similar problem or may be an expert on the name Viel or on the deceptive records of Coutances and that you will help to solve this puzzle. If you should be the one to find the answer, you may write to Monsieur B. directly at: "madelinot22 at aol.com". This is a call to arms, Dear Readers!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy