Over the past couple of years I have come across warnings about the disappointments that come with researching one’s family history. Having conducted research in undergrad and graduate school, I understand that this process will not be linear and every clue I find will not always be immediately or easily understood or verifiable. In particular, one thing I have come to understand about the task of answering a research question is that almost every discovery you make will lead to several more questions that need answering. The following is a perfect example.
Today Tia Mirna sent an email out to the family reminding us that today is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, which I’m sure led each of us to take a moment to think about his legacy. This post, the first ancestral profile I’ve put together for this blog, is my own little way of honoring the only grandparent I never had the pleasure to meet.
Name: Hilarion Vallee Cadignan
Date of birth: Oct 21, 1921
Place of birth: Panama City, Panama
Date of death: May 18, 1959
A few random facts:
- Hilarion had two nicknames: Achilo was his French/Martinican nickname, Julio was his Spanish nickname. I don’t think anyone called him Hilarion.
- He was a fluent speaker of French patios, the language of his Martinican parents.
- He was a fluent speaker of English, the language of the larger West Indian community and the Americans who ran the Canal.
- He was a fluent speaker of and was literate in Spanish, the national language of his birthplace.
- He was born a twin. Sadly, the other baby did not survive.
- He was a looker, if I don’t say so myself!
There’ll be much more to come about Hilarion in future posts. For now I invite my family members to add any other interesting facts or stories the rest of us may not know about him. For the rest of you, I’d love to hear a favorite story about one of your grandfathers.
By now, you may have noticed I’ve paid quite a bit more attention to my maternal ancestry than my paternal heritage on this blog. I would hate to give the impression to anyone, especially to my father’s side of the family, that I am not interested in exploring my paternal lines as well. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I started out researching the surnames of my Martinican and St. Lucian predecessors because theirs were much more unique than those of their Bajan counterparts. It makes sense to reach into the smaller haystack first, right?
Discovering the names of the places my great-grands most likely called home before leaving Martinique and St. Lucia was an exciting breakthrough. I have not quite gotten there with the Thomas, Beckles, Lewis and Lewis surnames. I’ll share more about what I have found in future posts, but here I will just focus on what may have appeared to look like a typo in the preceding sentence. Continue reading
Though this post focuses on one special mother it is dedicated to all moms, especially my other grandmother, Daisy, and my own mother.
In honor of Mother’s Day I dug up a beautiful piece my Tio Lucho wrote a few years ago about my maternal grandmother. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing it with the world and that my attempt to translate it into English does it some justice. If I remember correctly, the family portraits I chose to showcase just how cute my Nana was were taken at the urging of my Tia Ilka, the youngest and most photo-obsessed of my mom’s siblings. Given that we lost Ilka in 1997 and Nana in 2000, we are truly blessed to have these professional photos of my grandmother with all of her children as adults.
Somewhere in the family DNA lies the talent for things musical. While I did not demonstrate overwhelming proof of it during those few years I played the clarinet in middle school, my younger brother Igmar has definitely gone much further ever since he discovered his love for the trumpet. His music has taken him all over the country and world, including destinations as exciting and far away as Shanghai and Paris. This weekend he will be performing with a fellow Berklee College of Music alum, Esperanza Spalding, at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival.