Joseph and Josephine

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been in communication with two Cadignans, Christian, who lives in Martinique, and Jean-Pierre, who lives in France.  Christian was the one to point out to me that there are many people with the last name Cadignan in a part of Martinique called Francois.  When I contacted Jean-Pierre I asked him if he was from that region of the island, and he answered that yes, he was born there but now lived in France. (This is the opposite of Christian, who grew up in France and moved to Martinique a few years ago.)  A couple of other Cadignans I’ve had fleeting contact with also confirmed familial ties to Francois.

I have had the most contact with Christian and Jean-Pierre – who did not know each other beforehand- because (a) they can communicate in English and (b) they were very interested in figuring out how and if we are all related. (I figure (a) was a barrier to (b) for the other Cadignans I reached out to.) With a flurry of emails between San Diego, Martinique, and France, we were able to sort out how Jean-Pierre and Christian are related to each other (yes, they are!) and how Josephine could also fit into the family tree. 

Jean-Pierre’s great-grandfather Augustin and Christian’s great-grandfather Francois were brothers.  According to Jean-Pierre’s mother and aunt, they had another brother, Joseph, whose two daughters were said to have left for Panama and never returned. Jean-Pierre is confident that my great-grandmother was one of these two daughters.  It struck me that Jean-Pierre was able to provide the name of this Cadignan, Joseph, without my having yet mentioned to him that my great-grandmother was known as Josephine.  The potential connection between the two names was obvious. 

Just a few weeks after getting this information from Jean-Pierre, we learned that Josephine’s real name was probably Adele, as shown on the birth certificate of one of her children (Alfonso).  So why was she called Josephine? Well, if Joseph was her father, perhaps she acquired this nickname because she looked like him or shared some other quality. Or it could have been her middle name. Who knows?!  Right now, these are all theories that seem plausible but definitely need to be further investigated.

Jean-Pierre was also able to provide a bit more information about Joseph’s family.  First of all, he says that a slave by the name of Cadignan can be found in French registries for Martinique and that this individual may have been brought over from Africa.  Jean-Pierre said that this mysterious Cadignan had three other children besides Francois, Augustin, and Joseph.  There was also Julie and Ida, and one other whose name he had not yet obtained.   Of course, you can only get so many details from e-mail conversations, thus one of my goals is to gain access to any documentation related to these Cadignans and see how it fits with whatever information related to Josephine’s life in Panama I am able to track down.

Another interesting and new angle to this story is that Joseph had two daughters that migrated to Panama.  As far as I know, no one in the family remembers hearing of Josephine having a sister – or any other relatives – in Panama. Again, this is another fascinating angle that merits further inquiry.


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