Three Brothers, Three Julios

The Panamanian Catholic Church records available at FamilySearch.org continue to yield more members of my grandparents’ generation. Most recently, I found a 1918 baptism record for a Julio Vallee born to “Josefina Cadignan y Simon Valet.” My mom said that 1918 would have been around the time her Tio Sylvester was born. But as far as we knew, none of the Vallee Cadignans were officially named Julio; it was a nickname that came later in life.  However, it was not far-fetched to wonder if this was in fact a record for Sylvester because although he was mainly known as Sylvester and Achilo, Julio was also one of his nicknames. I checked the one source of birth information I had for Sylvester, an online transcription of key data regarding his death at Gorgas Hospital, and it gave 1917 as the estimated year; unfortunately, there was no month or date given.

Was this even our baby?Continue reading “Three Brothers, Three Julios”


The Number 37

Yesterday was the 61st anniversary of my maternal grandfather’s death. Born in 1921, Hilarion (a.k.a. Julio a.k.a. Achilo Jil) only lived to the age of 37. It was at a time in his life when he was in good health and had seven good reasons – my grandmother and their six children – to stick around a lot longer. The story goes that he started to feel ill after he came home from having drinks with a friend who was also a co-worker. As the hours passed his condition continued to worsen and he was taken to the hospital.Continue reading “The Number 37”


Introducing My St. Lucian Great-Great-Grandparents

Finding the baptism records for my maternal grandmother’s two eldest siblings, Jose Julio and Maria Estebana, filled two of the three empty spots in my collection of Colomb Mondesi baptisms. And luckily, it also filled some important informational holes about previous generations.born-to-a-west-indian-queen-1

My Great-Grandparents
While there was quite some variation with my great-grandparents’ names in the baptism records, there was a familiar consistency within those inconsistencies – if that makes any sense! The table below lists the different versions of the first, middle, and last names attributed to my great-grandparents across the baptism records of six of their children. Colomb appeared pretty consistently as my great-grandfather’s last name and my great-grandmother’s surname Mondesi appeared in various forms. However, variations of Joseph/Jose/Josefa appeared all over the place and could be interpreted as first, middle, and last names. No matter what is going on there, I am sure it has to do with why my grandmother and her sisters were known as the “Joseph girls” in their early years.

Continue reading “Introducing My St. Lucian Great-Great-Grandparents”


José José

No. Not that Jose Jose. I am referring to my great-uncle Jose Jose. Okay, so that’s not actually his name, but that is how it appears in his baptism record.

Let me back up. Since I decided to be disciplined about diving back into my family history research, the first assignment I gave myself was to find the non-indexed baptism records for my maternal grandmother’s three oldest siblings. I found the baptism records for my grandmother and three of her siblings fairly easily a couple of years ago. They were already indexed, making it possible to pull them up by searching their names on FamilySearch.org.Continue reading “José José”


St. Lucian Naming Practices

Crowley Qoute 5In my quest to wrap my head around the “name game”, as I call it, I searched online for information on naming practices in my heritage islands and the Caribbean in general. I came across a few articles, but none excited me more than “Naming Customs in St. Lucia” by Daniel J. Crowley. The article was short but still very helpful because it spoke directly to quite a few questions, both old and new, that have been rolling around in my head.  Here’s what I learned, Q&A style.

Continue reading “St. Lucian Naming Practices”


The Bernard Girls

I was just getting comfortable with the relevation that we had a new surname, Joseph, on our hands, for my great-grandmother. I mentioned in my last post that this new information even led me to a record for one of my great-aunts. But then that record added yet another name to the St. Lucia parade. A Social Security Index record for Tia Clemina (a.k.a. Maria Estebana) listed her mother as “Edelanepe Mondese”, which we can accept as an interpretation of Edelanise Mondesi. But then the father was listed as “Bernard Joseph.” Ahem and pardonez mois, you crazy St. Lucian Panamanians, but WHO? Until now, I had never heard of anyone named Bernard in the family. Not for a first name, for a middle name, or for a last name.

Continue reading “The Bernard Girls”


We are the Josephs, I think

As you know, I was super excited to find baptism records for my grandparents and some of their siblings. But I was (am) also super frustrated that I have not been able to locate records for others.  In the case of my maternal grandmother’s family, I could not find baptism entries for the three oldest Colomb Mondesi siblings: Jose Julio (nickname: Jill), Maria Estebana (Clemina), and Maria Sebastiana (Fide).

Continue reading “We are the Josephs, I think”


Who are the Josephs?

Very recently a whole new surname emerged from the St. Lucian branch of my family tree.  Per family oral history, my maternal grandmother who came to Panama from St. Lucia was named Catherine Mondesi but she went by the nickname Edelanise (I’ve also seen it spelled as Edelanive). All of the mentions of her name that I have found in her children’s records had her as Edelanise Mondesi (with very inconsistent spellings for both names).  However, discovering the Colomb Mondesi baptism records this summer and some resulting conversations with family members added another name to the mix. I’m still trying to understand it myself, but will make an attempt here to explain.

Continue reading “Who are the Josephs?”


Colomb Mondesi Baptism Records

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 family, the Colomb Mondesis.  Out of the seven children listed below, I found baptism records for the four youngest.Continue reading “Colomb Mondesi Baptism Records”