To Speak Their Names

When people ask me what I hope to learn from my family history research there are two things I usually say are particularly important to me. First, like most members of the diaspora, I yearn to know where in Africa my ancestors originated.  For at least one ancestor I want to know what tribe they belonged to, the language they spoke, the name they answered to, the exact piece of earth they slept and worked on, and so on. Following from that, I’d also like to know the stories of their descendents that endured slavery. Continue reading

A Closer Look

The discovery of my great-grandmother Adele “Josephine” Cadignan’s birth record is perhaps my most exciting find yet because it contains quite a bit of new information, including some that allows me to fill in a few slots farther back in the family tree than I’ve ever been able to go before.  Let’s review the most important new facts, line by line: Continue reading

Adele Cadignan’s Birth Record

For the 4.5 of you that follow my blog, by now you’ve become familiar with my pattern. I have little bursts of productivity lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months and then things die down, life or fatigue step in, and I disappear from the blogosphere for a while. Various things have roused me out of my previous genealogy hibernations, usually family trips and/or overwhelming, crippling, self-inflicted guilt. This time it’s different.

Another genealogist on the other side of the country came across my blog when he was researching his own ancestral ties to Martinique (you can see the comments from Luis here and here).  Luckily for me, genealogists, like all researchers (and like all humans, really) are curious people. He did a little hunting around to see if he could track down my great-grandmother Adele “Josephine” Cadignan…and he did! Continue reading

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.

No Jumping, Please

Addendum to report #4 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to Panama

I have to say, things have really been moving on the Cadignan end of things. I also have to admit that I may have gotten so excited about the progress I was making I jumped ahead of myself and went running full steam ahead towards a conclusion based on shaky evidence.  I’ll explain. Continue reading

Francois and Adele

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. Continue reading

Vallee Graves in Panama

Report #1 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to Panama

Last month, in just a matter of days, I went from having no idea when my next trip to Panama would take place to having a ticket booked for a ten day trip in June. The main purpose of this trip was to do genealogical research. This and my next several postings will report on what I accomplished. Continue reading