Report #3 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to Panama
Nearly two years ago Alfonso Vallee Cadignan, one of my grandfather Hilarion’s brothers, passed away. This led relatives to go through his old documents and make an interesting discovery. Though we had always known his parents’ names to be Simon and Josephine, they were listed as Francois Vallee and Adele Cadignan on Alfonso’s birth certificate. This lead to an automatic reaction of “Who the heck are they?” from the members of my mother’s generation who had never heard their grandparents referred to as such. In a fairly offhand manner their last living child, Tia Claire, confirmed that these were her parents’ real names. It was quite a shocking paradigm shift for those of us who marveled over this discovery at the time.
Later that year I went to Panama for the holidays and obtained a certified birth record for my grandfather in which his parents are identified as “Simon Vallee and Josefines Codigan (sic)”. Aside from the butchered spelling of my great-grandmother’s name, these were the two people we would expect to see named as his parents.
Now let’s fast forward to my most recent trip to Panama. While I was there Tio Lucho pulled out a box of old documents and we looked through them for any useful family history information. And boy was there! He handed me a copy of the birth certificate of another Vallee-Cadignan son, Louis. In this document his parents were named as Francois Isambert Cadignan and Josephine de Vallee. Tio Lucho was, true to form for Vallees of his generation, bewildered by the use of the name Francois to refer to his grandfather. I, on the other hand, was fairly tickled and explained to him just why.
Seeing the names of Simon and Francois connected to Josephine Cadignan allows me to feel confident that Francois Isambert Vallee and Simon Vallee are the same person and that future research will continue to bear that out.
The same evidence also suggests that Josephine and Adele will prove to be the same person. Given that there were nine children born to Simon and Josephine, it will be very interesting to find out what the other six’s birth certificates say about their parentage. I expect a hodge podge of Adeles, Josephines, Simons and Francois will continue to pop up in various combinations. Was Josephine a nickname or a middle name for Adele, as it seems Simon was for Francois? I think there’s a good chance there is, particularly given the fact that her father’s name was Joseph (more on that to come in another post).
One thing is clear, though. The name Francois now officially takes on two layers of significance. Based on my contact with Cadignans from Martinique the family hails from a town called Francois. We do not know if Josephine/Adele and Simon/Francois knew each other in Martinique or met in Panama but either way, it looks like Francois, whether it was the city or the man, was always a central player in my great-grandmother’s life and destiny.
For the sake of being an open-minded researcher I must remain open to other possibilities and, I must confess, there is one I could not suppress from popping up in my head: Could Adele have been the name of the other Cadignan sister that left for Panama with Josephine? If so, I can imagine a few scenarios of what the full story could be, keeping in mind that no one among the Panamanian Cadignan descendents remembers hearing that Josephine came to Panama with her sister and that the Cadignans in Martinique never heard anything back from the two after they left. Apparently Josephine never shared this part of her past with her children, which is why both the name Adele and the existence of this companion in her new life in Panama went unknown for following generations. Here are the soap operas I’ve imagined for the Cadignan sisters of Francois:
(1) Josephine’s sister died en route or in Panama, and the Vallee-Cadignan offspring were never aware of her existence. Josephine may have used her sister’s name for certain purposes, though I’m not sure what the advantage would be.
(2) Maybe Adele did live a long life but struck out on her own adventure or some sort of estrangement happened between the two sisters.
(3) Then there’s the original, least soap-opera-y original thesis that Josephine and Adele are one and the same.
Do you have any other ideas or hunches?