Thomases in the U.S. Census Before Ever Stepping Foot in the U.S. (Mainland)

Over the past couple of years I have come across warnings about the disappointments that come with researching one’s family history.  Having conducted research in undergrad and graduate school, I understand that this process will not be linear and every clue I find will not always be immediately or easily understood or verifiable.  In particular, one thing I have come to understand about the task of answering a research question is that almost every discovery you make will lead to several more questions that need answering.  The following is a perfect example.

Continue reading

Hilarion

Today Tia Mirna sent an email out to the family reminding us that today is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, which I’m sure led each of us to take a moment to think about his legacy.  This post, the first ancestral profile I’ve put together for this blog, is my own little way of honoring the only grandparent I never had the pleasure to meet. 

Name: Hilarion Vallee Cadignan

Date of birth: Oct 21, 1921

Place of birth: Panama City, Panama

Occupation: Carpenter

Date of death: May 18, 1959

A few random facts:

  • Hilarion had two nicknames: Achilo was his French/Martinican nickname, Julio was his Spanish nickname.  I don’t think anyone called him Hilarion.
  • He was a fluent speaker of French patios, the language of his Martinican parents.
  • He was a fluent speaker of English, the language of the larger West Indian community and the Americans who ran the Canal.
  • He was a fluent speaker of and was literate in Spanish, the national language of his birthplace.
  • He was born a twin.  Sadly, the other baby did not survive.
  • He was a looker, if I don’t say so myself! 

There’ll be much more to come about Hilarion in future posts.  For now I invite my family members to add any other interesting facts or stories the rest of us may not know about him. For the rest of you, I’d love to hear a favorite story about one of your grandfathers.

Spotlight Shift

By now, you may have noticed I’ve paid quite a bit more attention to my maternal ancestry than my paternal heritage on this blog.  I would hate to give the impression to anyone, especially to my father’s side of the family, that I am not interested in exploring my paternal lines as well.  As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I started out researching the surnames of my Martinican and St. Lucian predecessors because theirs were much more unique than those of their Bajan counterparts.  It makes sense to reach into the smaller haystack first, right?

Discovering the names of the places my great-grands most likely called home before leaving Martinique and St. Lucia was an exciting breakthrough.  I have not quite gotten there with the Thomas, Beckles, Lewis and Lewis surnames.  I’ll share more about what I have found in future posts, but here I will just focus on what may have appeared to look like a typo in the preceding sentence.  Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day!

Though this post focuses on one special mother it is dedicated to all moms, especially my other grandmother, Daisy, and my own mother.

In honor of Mother’s Day I dug up a beautiful piece my Tio Lucho wrote a few years ago about my maternal grandmother.  I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing it with the world and that my attempt to translate it into English does it some justice. If I remember correctly, the family portraits I chose to showcase just how cute my Nana was were taken at the urging of my Tia Ilka, the youngest and most photo-obsessed of my mom’s siblings.  Given that we lost Ilka in 1997 and Nana in 2000, we are truly blessed to have these professional  photos of my grandmother with all of her children as adults. 

Continue reading

Igmar at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival

Somewhere in the family DNA lies the talent for things musical.  While I did not demonstrate overwhelming proof of it during those few years I played the clarinet in middle school, my younger brother Igmar has definitely gone much further ever since he discovered his love for the trumpet.  His music has taken him all over the country and world, including destinations as exciting and far away as Shanghai and Paris.  This weekend he will be performing with a fellow Berklee College of Music alum, Esperanza Spalding, at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival.

Continue reading

Soufrière

“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

During one of many aimless and seemingly endless web searches (you know, click on this link which leads you to this link where you discover another link…) I came across a genealogy site called CousinConnect where you can submit queries in hopes of connecting with others researching the same surname. I took all of two seconds to type up and submit a couple of queries, knowing from previous experience not to expect a response any time soon, if at all. The query contained everything I know about the Colomb line of my mother’s family, which as you see below, is not much at all.

“My great-grandfather Louis Joseph Colomb/Columb left St. Lucia and immigrated to Panama in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Unfortunately I do not have any other information about him at this time.”

That was it. I sent my message off into cyberspace and resumed feeling unsuccessful in my search for new information about my predecessors.

Connecting the Dots

Now let’s fast forward a few months to March 27, 2010 when (drumroll, please) a response arrives in my inbox! It read as follows: Continue reading

Where It All Began

This is somewhat old news…but at least it’s new to you!  Since this blog is a research log and I’ve caught a new wind in updating it, I’m catching up on some entries.  Here, I visit the Panama Canal, where my family story in that part of the world began.

Puente del mundo, corazon del universo

When shopping for souvenirs in Panama, you’ll find keychains, decorative plates, coffee mugs, and all the other usual suspects emblazoned with the phrase “puente del mundo, corazon del universo” (bridge of the world, heart of the universe).  Continue reading