Many years ago on one of my trips to the Registro Civil in Panama, I tried to obtain as many birth, marriage, and death affidavits for my predecessors as I could. I was not even sure if my great-grandparents had met in the Caribbean or in Panama, so the prospect of finding their marriage records at the Registro Civil really felt like quite the shot in the dark. I was disappointed but not surprised I never did find anything there.
However, recently, one of my Vallee cousins, Ann Marie, found among some of her mother’s old papers a marriage record for Francois “Simon” Vallee and Adele “Josephine” Cadignan. She sent me pictures of the document and, later, a hard photocopy. The record was quite lengthy and written completely in French, which I first thought meant this was our proof they had met and married in Martinique. But further inspection revealed that this was actually a French translation of a Panamanian marriage record. (A million thanks to friend, former roommate, and native French speaker Sylvine for helping me figure that out!) The translation was handwritten on the letterhead of the Agence Diplomatique de France a Panama, meaning this was a French agency based in the isthmus that handled diplomatic relations with Panama.
Unfortunately the rightmost edge of the page is cut off, but most of the information is visible in this reproduction — and confirms some things we had found elsewhere, such as the names of Francois and Adele’s parents. See the table below for a quick review of what I gleaned from the document.
The final “W” question is the most intriguing to me right now. WHY did they get married then? They clearly had been together for many years as they were already eight kids deep into co-parenting.
The only thing that is clear is that my great-grandparents went to the trouble to make sure the French government knew of their Panamanian marriage. This makes me wonder if there was some sort of transaction they were trying to effect in Martinique that required proof of marriage. Perhaps some time in the future the paper trail will be able to answer that questions well.