About two months ago it occured to me, out of nowhere, that I should google some of my surnames and see what popped up. I didn’t want to bother with my Bajan last names since they are all very “English” and thus too widespread for such an open-ended search to yield anything specific about my Thomas, Lewis, and Beckles family lines. I had googled Vallee a couple times in the past and not found anything very useful.
Then it occurred to me, what about Cadignan, my other Martinican surname? I don’t know anything about French names but it seems a bit more unique than Vallee. Google eventually led me to Facebook, which led to the following update e-mail I sent out to my extended family on 6-29-09.
I’m reservedly excited about some progress I’ve made with the family history research I vowed to take on about a year ago and thought I’d share with you. After months of neglecting the project, I randomly googled the last name Cadignan, which was Hilarion’s mother’s maiden name. Well this quickly led me to facebook…
…there were only about 30 Cadignans on facebook, and of those who had pictures up, almost all of them were black. CHECK! I contacted a good number of them and have heard back from a few. I quickly learned that I would have to communicate with many of them in French, so with the help of my old roommate who is from Paris and online translators (which are definitely not perfect, but better than nothing) I was able to make the first contact.
For the few of those that have responded so far, all have connections to Martinique either because they were born there or their parents or grandparents were born there. DOUBLE CHECK!
…there are two who speak English and have shown great enthusiasm. They have even already started to ask older members of their family if they know anything about any relatives that immigrated to Panama…One of them did find out that his grandmother had two cousins that were sisters that migrated to Panama. He didn’t mention their names, but said their father’s name was Joseph Cadignan…I did not tell him that our Cadignan was named Josephine…Of course, the fact that the father he spoke [of] is named Joseph does make me wonder if Josephine was named after him. But those are very common names, so again, I don’t want to assume things.
Oh, the other thing that is interesting to note is that all of the Cadignans that I have had contact with so far are from one town in Martinique called Le Francois. So there definitely seems to be a concentration in that area…
Who would ever thought I would get such exciting and potentially concrete leads from a social networking site? And now that I have obtained all of this information, what do I do with it? One of the keys to obtaining quality research results is basing your theories and conclusions on facts. Oral history is a crucial source of information for family history research, but the most seasoned family historians emphasize how important it is to find other sources (documents, mainly) that substantiate this qualitative data. I have listed below a few of the ways in which I hope to learn more about Josephine and her possible connection to my Facebook Cadignans from Le Francois.
- Write to Martinican government offices to request public records pertaining to Adele/Josephine.
- Identify which Panamanian ministries would hold emigration information from when Adele/Josephine, and my other great-grands, arrived in Panama. Write to request records.
- In order to find these documents, it may be crucial to deduce which year or years my great-grands were most probably born and when they left their islands for Panama.