“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
During one of many aimless and seemingly endless web searches (you know, click on this link which leads you to this link where you discover another link…) I came across a genealogy site called CousinConnect where you can submit queries in hopes of connecting with others researching the same surname. I took all of two seconds to type up and submit a couple of queries, knowing from previous experience not to expect a response any time soon, if at all. The query contained everything I know about the Colomb line of my mother’s family, which as you see below, is not much at all.
“My great-grandfather Louis Joseph Colomb/Columb left St. Lucia and immigrated to Panama in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Unfortunately I do not have any other information about him at this time.”
That was it. I sent my message off into cyberspace and resumed feeling unsuccessful in my search for new information about my predecessors.
Connecting the Dots
Now let’s fast forward a few months to March 27, 2010 when (drumroll, please) a response arrives in my inbox! It read as follows:
“My last name at birth was Colombette. I was born in St. Lucia and my father lived in Colombette, Soufriere. My aunt told me a relative of ours is from Panama or went to Panama or is in Panama. The last names sound similar. I wonder if there is a connection.”
Hmmm. While this did not sound like enough information to get overly excited about, it was definitely worthy of further investigation. Talking to my mother’s cousin Carol was already at the top of my genealogy to-do list, but now it was an urgent matter. I could never quite remember how we were related to Carol but I knew that her branch of the family had remained in contact with relatives in St. Lucia. Maybe she knew something about these Colombettes?
Yesterday I finally picked up the phone and gave Carol a ring. For me, the first order of business was asking her to refresh my memory as to how we are related (I mean, my mother’s only explained it to me about five times). She explained that her grandmother and my mother’s maternal grandmother were sisters. That may sound simple, but when you have an enormous extended family like my mother’s, it can be hard to keep things straight. I’ve just grown to accept that the new people I meet at any major family gathering are “cousins” because the explanation of how we’re related will inevitably entail us being connected through someone else I might have met a long time ago at another random family gathering (“Don’t you remember so-and-so? He was at your first birthday party!”). This sort of description rarely does anything to illuminate my understanding of who they are. The more seasoned genealogists I’ve met manage to keep a dizzying amount of relationship details, locations, and dates in their minds – I’m definitely not there yet!
Anyhow, once I got it through my thick skull that my great-grandmother and Carol’s grandmother were sisters from St. Lucia, I realized that Carol was not on the Colomb side of things. Rather, this great-grandmother, Edelanive, also known as “Catalina/Catarina,” was a Mondesi who went on to marry into the Colomb family. I could not expect Carol to tell me anything that could shed light on the Colombs and Colombettes, but at least I could finally get a few questions answered about the Mondesis.
Carol asked me how much I knew about our family history. I laughed and told her, “Nothing!” I explained that all I knew was that Louis and Edelanive were from St. Lucia, but I did not even have a clue as to what part of the island they were from, how they met, if they knew each other in St. Lucia, when they left, and so on. Carol couldn’t provide me with the more substantive details of their story, but she answered the first question very easily, saying in reference to the Mondesis, “Oh, they’re form Soufriere.”
There are no coincidences
Yes, that’s right. Soufriere. The same place my Colombette contact is from. One of my most burning questions about all of my great-grandparents, all of whom married people from their home islands, is if they emigrated from the Caribbean with their respective partners or if they did not meet until they reached Panama. If my Colombs are in fact connected to the Colombettes that would mean Louis and Edelanive were both from Soufriere. This in turn could mean that they did know each other before they left for Panama.
Of course, one must wonder how Carol knows the Mondesis are from Soufriere. How could she be so sure? According to the family story, her grandmother and my great-grandmother left St. Lucia for Panama together, but her grandmother never quite warmed up to life in the isthmus and eventually returned to St. Lucia. As a result, Carol’s father grew up in St. Lucia while his cousins, including my Nana Tere, were born and raised in Panama. However, Carol’s father ended up migrating to Panama at the age of 18 and remained in contact with family in St. Lucia, whom Carol has visited as recently as three years ago. As a matter of fact, Carol told me she would call her 90+ year old aunt that still resides in St. Lucia to find out what she remembers about the previous generations. This aunt was born in Panama and returned to St. Lucia with her mother as a child, so she may even remember something about the Panamanian Mondesis, whether it be from experience or hearsay.
While I wait to hear back from Carol I can keep myself busy by learning as much as I can about Soufriere, but before I sign off there’s one more “coincidence” in all of this worth mentioning. The woman who responded to my query about the Colombs on CousinConnect – her name is Carol too.