Finding my great-grandfather Simon Vallee’s Panama Canal employment record is not the only exciting discovery I’ve made recently – it just was the one that was so mind-blowing I had to blog about it immediately! The week prior I discovered that FamilySearch added Panamanian Catholic Church records to its ever-growing database of records from all over the world. Since these records are already indexed, I was able to find baptism records for my maternal grandparents and several of their siblings pretty easily. (I think I did not find any records for my paternal grandparents because, having roots in Barbados, they were likely not Catholic.)
There’s a lot to reflect on in the records I’ve found for my French Caribbean ancestors, the Colombs and the Vallees, so I will have to break my findings into at least a couple of posts. Here we’ll start with my maternal grandmother’s famly, the Colomb Mondesis. Out of the seven children listed below, I found baptism records for the four youngest. Continue reading
Getting my DNA results a couple of weeks ago has inspired a new wave of family history research activity that is paying off already. This week I made my most exciting genealogical discovery to date thanks to FamilySearch.org. I found a form called a “Panama Canal Application for Photo-Metal Check Employees” for my great-grandfather Francois “Simon” Vallee. This single page provides a wealth of information that both confirms some facts we believed to be true and provided some new details that help to round out our timeline of his life and a picture of who Simon was. Let’s go through it line-by-line.
Last Christmas my younger brother gave me a greeting card telling me that he would pay for a DNA ancestry test as my present. After taking my sweet time to select a testing company, order the kit, and send in my specimen (cheek swabs), I finally received my results. After reviewing the results I called my mom and told her, excitedly, that according to FamilyTree DNA I am 87% African (85% West African and 2% Other African).
One of my most aching family history research questions comes from a desire to know if my great-grandparents knew each other in their home islands or if they did not meet until after migrating to Panama. So many questions: Did they grow up in the same town? Did they marry in the Caribbean or in Panama? Heck, did they marry at all? Did they travel to the isthmus together or separately? Were they truly in love or were their relationships more a result of circumstance or convenience…or maybe even coercion? Two sets of great-grands from Barbados, one set from St. Lucia, and another from Martinique; I’m sure at least one of their stories has an element of at least one of those. But I don’t know yet. Continue reading
Early on the morning of June 12th I stepped into a long line to check in for my flight with the Panamanian airline COPA. I was surprised the flight was so full. The only business COPA does out of LAX is a daily back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Panama City, so I was fairly puzzled as to why there were so many people and so few of them were Latin Americans. I mean, it’s not the holidays, it’s not tourist season, in fact, it’s rainy season! What I failed to realize was that June 12, 2014 was the first day of something that’s kind of a BFD in every other country in the world, the FIFA World Cup. I quickly learned the three guys in front of me and the two guys in back of me, and many of the other passengers, were headed to Brazil via Panama. Continue reading