One of my most aching family history research questions comes from a desire to know if my great-grandparents knew each other in their home islands or if they did not meet until after migrating to Panama.  So many questions: Did they grow up in the same town? Did they marry in the Caribbean or in Panama?  Heck, did they marry at all? Did they travel to the isthmus together or separately? Were they truly in love or were their relationships more a result of circumstance or convenience…or maybe even coercion? Two sets of great-grands from Barbados, one set from St. Lucia, and another from Martinique; I’m sure at least one of their stories has an element of at least one of those.  But I don’t know yet.

But one thing I can tell you about my great-grandmotehr Josephine is that one way or another “Francois“, in some sense of the word,  has always been a part of her life.  She was born in Le Francois, Martinique, the same town where all the living Cadignans I have been able to communicate with told me they, their parents, or their grandparents are from. Then, she raised nine children with my great-grandfather and fellow Martinican Francois Isambert Vallee in Panama.

Another thing I can tell you is that Francois was not born in Le Francois. The Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais houses thousands of records and has been an absolute goldmine as far as my Cadignan ancestors have been concerned, and eventually for the Vallee side as well. Once I shifted from searching for him as Simon Vallee (Panama name) to Francois Vallee (Martinique birth name) and expanded beyond the town of Le Francois, my great-grandfather popped up in the nearby town of Le Vauclin.

Francois Isambert Vallee - birth record
Francois Isambert Vallee’s birth record starts at the bottom of the left page and ends halfway down the right page.

The major details appearing in the birth registration are as follows:

Name: Francois Isambert Vallee
Date: 17 September 1888
Time: 5 am
Father: Theodore “Ludovic” Vallee, age 34, farmer
Mother: Marie Victoire Bapin, age 33, farmer
Witnesses: Justin Lubin, age 31, and Noel Baudin (sp?), age 30

And lo and behold, we have a hint as to the possibility of Josephine and Simon having known each other in Martinique!  One of the witnesses to Francois’s birth was a Justin Lubin. Might he be family to the woman named as Josephine’s mother in her own birth record, Rose Lubin-Rose?  When dealing with such a small island and two cities so close together, it’s not a crazy or unlikely proposition.  Of course, I can’t say anything definitive yet, but I think in the case of Josephine and Simon the likelihood that they knew each other before ever setting foot on Panamanian soil is looking pretty high.


As you you can see from the Facebook screenshot below, I was pretty excited about this possible connection.  What was even more exciting is that Jean-Pierre, a Cadignan that grew up in Martinique and lives in France, saw the status update and congratulated me on the find. This gave me the opportunity to ask if he knew any Lubins.  JP, as I call him, answered, “Lubin, Vallee, Cadignan from the same area: Le Vayclin (sic), south of Martinique… small areas, everybody is quite cousin…Or everybody knows each other. I’ve just [lived] 18 years in Martinique, 9 years in Le Vauclin, but I knew a lot of people. ”  The island seems to keep getting smaller and smaller and the past keeps inching closer and closer.


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