Who are the Josephs?

Very recently a whole new surname emerged from the St. Lucian branch of my family tree.  Per family oral history, my maternal grandmother who came to Panama from St. Lucia was named Catherine Mondesi but she went by the nickname Edelanise (I’ve also seen it spelled as Edelanive). All of the mentions of her name that I have found in her children’s records had her as Edelanise Mondesi (with very inconsistent spellings for both names).  However, discovering the Colomb Mondesi baptism records this summer and some resulting conversations with family members added another name to the mix. I’m still trying to understand it myself, but will make an attempt here to explain.

Around the time I found the baptism records my mom mentioned something curious to me about her own mother. I think we were talking about the Many Marias, as I call them, and puzzling over how their nicknames came to be. My mother recollected that her mother, Maria Anastasia Colomb Mondesi, had been enrolled in school as Teresa Joseph.  I can see where the Teresa came from as that was my grandmother’s lifelong nickname…but the last name Joseph? For the time being I mentally filed this new (confusing) information away to deal with later; I think it was too much to think about while I was wading through the baptisms and, frankly, it just didn’t make sense based on what I knew up to the point.

When I sat down with the Panamanian baptism records to really dig into the information they provided, I started to notice that my great-grandmother was referred to as Edelenise Joseph Mondesi (again, with assorted spellings for each of those names across different records).  At first I thought maybe the record keepers were carrying the “Joseph” over from her husband’s name, Louis Joseph Colomb. Perhaps they were treating it as a surname rather than his middle name? But why would they carry it over when it is standard practice to use the mother’s maiden name regardless of her marital status? Further review of the records revealed that the form of Joseph used was not always consistently applied within each baptism entry, suggesting that the provenance of the name was unique to each parent listed.

As you can see below, in Maria Patricia’s baptism record, Jose (not Joseph) is actually used for both parents.

Ma. Patricia Colomb Baptism -Parents Names

Unfortunately Maria Felicia’s record is partially damaged. However, what we can see shows that her father was recorded as Luis Jose while the mother’s name appears to have been written as Josefa. (The FamilySearch.org indexers also seemed to see it that way as that is what they transcribed.)

Ma. Felicia Colomb Baptism - Parents Names

Joseph is used for both great-grandparents in my grandmother’s baptism record below.

Ma. Anastasia Colomb Baptism - Parents Names

Elizabeth Juana’s baptism record lists her parents as Luis Jose Colomb & Edelanise Joseph Mondesy.

Juana Elizabeth Colomb Baptism - Parents Names

Given that my great-grandparents came from St. Lucia and spoke a French patios and that my grandmother used the surname Joseph at some point in her life, I think that the use of Jose (and Josefa) we see in some of these records is a product of the Panamanian environment in which they were created. Most likely, before they came to Panama they used the French version, Joseph. But whatever the explanation is, the question still remains: What in the name of Joseph is going on here?!

The story continues in the next post. I still don’t know the ending but there are a couple more clues that have emerged.

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