Finding my great-grandfather Simon Vallee’s Panama Canal employment record is not the only exciting discovery I’ve made recently – it just was the one that was so mind-blowing I had to blog about it immediately! The week prior I discovered that FamilySearch added Panamanian Catholic Church records to its ever-growing database of records from all over the world. Since these records are already indexed, I was able to find baptism records for my maternal grandparents and several of their siblings pretty easily. (I think I did not find any records for my paternal grandparents because, having roots in Barbados, they were likely not Catholic.)
There’s a lot to reflect on in the records I’ve found for my French Caribbean ancestors, the Colombs and the Vallees, so I will have to break my findings into at least a couple of posts. Here we’ll start with my maternal grandmother’s family, the Colomb Mondesis. Out of the seven children listed below, I found baptism records for the four youngest.
All my life I heard that my great-grandfather Louis Joseph Colomb vowed to name all of his daughters Maria. I’m not sure what happened when it came to naming the baby of the family, Elizabeth Juana, but other than in her case he sure stuck to his word. There were already three Marias that I knew of, and this search turned up two more making for a total of five Maria Colomb Mondesi sisters!
With five sisters sharing the same first name, it is understandable that the family would have to find some other way to distinguish between them. Using their middles names is probably the first solution that comes to your mind – but it was not the Colomb Mondesi way apparently. The table above shows that each of the Colomb Mondesi siblings that we know reached adulthood had nicknames. In most cases their nicknames seemed to have no direct connection with their first or middle names. Again, the only obvious exception to this is Isa, since Elizabeth in Spanish is Isabel. As far as I know, there is no known explanation for the other nicknames. If any family members have any insights, please share them in the comments!!!
Jose Julio, Maria Estebana, and Maria Sebastiana
It appears that the baptism records for the three oldest Colomb Mondesis are available online, but they fall within a timeframe that is not yet indexed. For those Colomb Mondesis we have baptism records for, we can see that their parents made a priority of having their infants baptized, so I personally doubt that my great-grandparents did not have the three oldest baptized. Once the records are indexed a keyword search will be possible, but I have no idea when that will be. For now, finding their baptism entries in these old records is most likely a matter of combing through (hundreds of pages of) scanned images. Either way, this will take some time, so those columns will have to be filled in later.
Maria Patricia, Maria Felicia…and Beatriz?
The table above also leaves questions related to a piece of oral history that has been passed down. Sadly, there was one Colomb Mondesi sister who was killed around the age of 13 when she was hit by a tram. It’s possible that she may be one of the newly discovered Marias, Maria Patricia or Maria Felicia. However, according to family lore this sister was called Beatriz. Of course, at this point we have seen how down and dirty the Colomb Mondesis played when it came to the name game, so we cannot eliminate the possibility that she could in fact be one of those mystery Marias although there is no obvious connection to the name Beatriz.
A Little Maria Trivia
My mom, Maria Anastasia Vallee Colomb, is named after her mother, Maria Anastasia Colomb Mondesi. You would think finally someone would actually go by the name Maria in this family since my mother was the only one in her generation, right? WRONG. Everone in the family calls her Julia, the nickname she was given as a child because she looked like her father Hilarion, who went by the nickname Julio. You read that right. Her nickname is based on yet another nickname that also has no obvious connection to the owner’s given name. There’s no end to this name game madness!
I can’t pinpoint when in my childhood I came to realize that my mom went by Maria at work and when carrying out any other official business, but was Julia at family gatherings and Panamanian parties. However, I have witnessed many a mind being blown when family members of all generations learn that Julita’s/Tia Julia’s legal name is Maria Anastasia. I’ve even seen a couple people have the reaction more than once because they were apparently not able to assimilate the information the first time!
Next post: Vallee Cadignan Baptism Records