Guest Post - Au Revoir Monsieur! Part 2
12 November 2020
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.
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).
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
This chart shows the old abbreviations for months:
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.
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!
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.