May Days

This morning when I woke up I did the usual. I opened my laptop and perused the emails that had come in overnight and then went to Facebook and browsed the most recent status updates and posts.  I soon realized that even though I was doing what I did every day, this was not an “everyday” type of day.  My day was just beginning, but I had been made aware of the anniversaries of two really big ends. Continue reading

Actes d’Individualite, Part Deux

These last several months I’ve gotten distracted with other activities and obligations, which means my genealogy work got moved into the guilt pile of neglected projects I no longer made time for. Well, thank goodness I was invited to present at the Discover Your Roots conference again this year.  Just as it did last year, being forced to immerse myself in the details of my research re-ignited the flame, so I’m back!!!

Up to this point, my most exciting and promising finds have been concerning my maternal grandfather’s Cadignan ancestors from Francois, Martinique. In a previous post I had described the online odyssey that led to the discovery of records listing slaves freed after the emancipation decree of 1848. With just the click of a few buttons 15 Cadignans revealed themselves – and every one of them listed Francois as their birthplace and residence.

It took quite some time, but I deciphered the old French handwriting in the actes to the best of my ability and entered the information into this table.  I was also able to draw up two family trees based on the information in the actes.

Every discovery leads to new knowledge – and more questions. These are the main answers I seek in regard to the actes d’individualite.

  1. Are the Jean Maries of actes 553 and 1487 the same person? (I’m pretty sure they are.)
  2. Are Gertrude and her children related to the other Cadignans, or did the enumerator arbitrarily give two distinct families the surname of Cadignan?
  3. It’s very likely that one of these Cadignans is a direct ancestor of mine.  My great-grandmother Josephine’s estimated year of birth is 1891, which could mean one of these Cadignans was her grandparent (or parent?)…but who?!

Any other big questions I should add to the every-growing list?

In My Nana’s House

I don’t have tons of memories of my first couple of trips to Panama at the young ages of 4 and 5, but there are certain things that stick out. Eggs being served at some event related to Tia Ilka’s wedding. Swiping a fingerful of frosting from the wedding cake as soon as Tia Mirna had turned away to attend to something else. The matching dresses Tia Mirna had made for me and my primas. Lying in a beach hammock at Gorgona with my mother and my brother.

I also remember being cranky one night, wanting all of the people (a.k.a. relatives) partying late into the night at my nana’s house in the neighborhood of Rio Abajo to go home so I could go to sleep. For whatever complicated reason, based on stubborn kindergartener logic, I had decided that even though I was exhausted I was simply too inconvenienced by their presence to allow myself to give in to the sleep. My mom says I even asked her in desperation, “Why don’t all these people go home?!”

Anyhow, back in the days of the house in Rio Abajo, my mom, my brother and I would sleep in my mother’s old room – the one she had occupied before she married my father and migrated to the U.S.  I think all three of us may have even slept in one single twin bed (I was only 4 or 5 and Igmar was a toddler…but still!). From what I remember the room was quite bare and plain, but something about the memories of it evokes feelings of home, comfort, coziness. When I came across this picture of my mother, taken long before she knew she’d end up with children with crazy names like Anulkah and Igmar, I knew instantly it was that room – not so much from sight but from that feeling.  The feeling of nana’s house.

Sisters

The other day, I heard my mom laugh while talking on the phone with one of her sisters and realized that the sort of laughter that erupted from her at that moment – where she’s laughing so hard her eyes are closed and the giggles are absolutely uncontrollable – most often hits her when she’s talking with one of her sisters. Tere and Hilarion had five girls and one boy. I’m not sure how Tio Lucho handled being the only man in the family after their father passed away, but here’s a look at the ladies he had to deal with.

Celia (right) with a friend.

Marta and Ilka

Though they all live in different states, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that at least one of these sisters doesn’t talk to at least one other.

It’s Me, But It’s Not

All of my life people have told me I resemble my mother, and in my personal opinion this is the most striking photographic evidence.

My mom is pictured here with Danitza, Brice, Lanett, and baby Luchito. I think the owner of the pigtail towards the bottom left of the frame is Itzel.

The first time I saw this picture I wondered why my mom would put a picture of me in an album full of photos taken before I was even born. It wasn’t until I examined the faces surrounding the young woman in the red top that I realized it was my mom, not me.

Family Pictures = Family Treasures

A couple of months ago my mom gave me an old album of hers. It was filled with pictures that had been taken before she ever moved to the United States. I’m thankful for this priceless and timeless gift.

Out of all the pictures, the one I was most excited to come across was this one. It’s all of the Vallee-Colombs in one picture, looking quite groovy if I don’t say so myself.

Hilarion y El Cristo Negro de Portobelo

Today my mother’s father Hilarion “Julio” Vallee

would’ve turned 90 years old so I just wanted to take a quick moment to say, “Happy birthday abuelo!”

His birthday happens to fall on a day that is very important to Catholics in Panama and is also ardently observed by many followers outside the country as well.  October 21st is El Dia del Cristo Negro de Portobelo. People form all over the country journey to the small town of Portobelo to pay homage to the statue of a Black Jesus (one of many found in Latin America) that has resided there since 1658.  When he was alive, my grandfather was among the many that would make this trip each year.

Unfortunately, Hilarion did not live past the age of 37.   I wonder, would a 90 year old Hilarion still have been making that pilgramage? Judging by how sharp and feisty some of my oldest Medicare clients are, I can definitely say it’s a possibility we can not rule out!

A few fun facts about El Cristo Negro de Portobelo:

  • El Cristo Negro de Portobelo is the saint for singers.
  • None other than the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz, was known to join this pilgramage on occasion.
  • Another great salsero, Ismael Rivera, recorded “El Nazareno” in honor of El Cristo Negro de Portobelo.

You can go here for a short news peice on this year’s gathering at the church of San Felipe in Portobelo.