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. Continue reading
Early on the morning of June 12th I stepped into a long line to check in for my flight with the Panamanian airline COPA. I was surprised the flight was so full. The only business COPA does out of LAX is a daily back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Panama City, so I was fairly puzzled as to why there were so many people and so few of them were Latin Americans. I mean, it’s not the holidays, it’s not tourist season, in fact, it’s rainy season! What I failed to realize was that June 12, 2014 was the first day of something that’s kind of a BFD in every other country in the world, the FIFA World Cup. I quickly learned the three guys in front of me and the two guys in back of me, and many of the other passengers, were headed to Brazil via Panama. Continue reading
As 2012 came to a close little did I know that Luis, who found my great-grandmother Adele’s birth record, enlisted the help of his friend David to find tons of 19th and early 20th century records for Cadignans in and around Le Francois, Martinique. Luis had met David, a French man of West Indian descent who is apparently very familiar with the records, when he was doing his own Martinique research. Around New Year’s I received several messages from the both of them with links to various birth, death, and marriage records for many Cadignans and Vallees and their spouses. I’m still trying to sort through all of it so I can get it straight in my head and my PAF database.
Luis and David also pointed me to a family tree posted by another genealogist that is based on these records and, I presume, the actes d’indivualite. It starts with Marie Louise, my sixth great-grandmother, and extends for several generations. My direct family line ends with Adele, who disappeared from the Martinique document trail when she left for Panama, never to return.
As I sort through the records I will start posting the images and discussing what they tell us. More to come!
The actes d’individualite have turned out to be gifts that keep on giving. Once I was able to identify Augustin as my direct Cadignan ancestor (see here and here) I went back to the actes and found his entry, number 559. Without even being able to read the French handrwriting there were two things that caught my attention. First, there was a long note written in the margin that all the zooming in the world could not help me to begin to decipher. Second, there were actually two actes d’individualite for Augustin. They were both numbered 559 and they both had a long note written in the margin. At first I thought the good people at the Patrimoines Martiniquais must have saved and posted two copies of the same scanned image in their online archives – a simple mistake. But after toggling between the two a couple of times it became obvious that they were written by two different hands and were placed in different areas of the page in relation to the margins, upper and lower corners, and so on. These entries were clearly scanned from two different pages. You can see the undeniable differences in the images below.
Though I couldn’t read the margin notes I could tell that the main text of the record seemed to be the same in both versions. If the notes in the margin were also the same, I realized a possible explanation could be that one of these records was hand-copied from the other as a backup.
Since I had a hard time making out the writing in the margins I again enlisted the help of my French friend Sylvine. After taking a look at both versions she agreed with my theory. She said that the text of each record was the same, including the margin notes. Those mysterious margin notes read as follows:
Par acte en date du trente janvier mille neuf cent un, inscrit le meme jour, a la mairie du Francois, sous le N#4 (? not sure here),le sieur Cadignan Augustin dit Auguste, dont la naissance est constatee dans l acte ci contre, a contracte mariage avec la demoiselle Desir-Honorine Marie-Herminie, dont mention, l officier de l etat civil.
By this act on January 30, 1901, written on the same day, at Francois’ City Hall, under the number 4 (?), Mr. Cadignan Augustin, called Auguste, whose birth was recorded in the record on the side, married Miss Desir-Honorine Marie-Herminie. ~ Officer.
These Martinique record keepers are kind of awesome, aren’t they? Not only did they keep two copies of these records, but they added notes in the margins recording another important life event. So my great-great-great-grandfather Augustin married a woman by the name of Marie-Herminie Desir-Honorine. BUT this was well after my great-great grandfather Joseph and my great-grandmother Adele were born, in 1864 and 1893, respectively. This woman is definitely not an ancestor of mine, but it tells us that my third great-grandfather Augustin re-married much later in life, in his early to mid-sixties.
When people ask me what I hope to learn from my family history research there are two things I usually say are particularly important to me. First, like most members of the diaspora, I yearn to know where in Africa my ancestors originated. For at least one ancestor I want to know what tribe they belonged to, the language they spoke, the name they answered to, the exact piece of earth they slept and worked on, and so on. Following from that, I’d also like to know the stories of their descendents that endured slavery. Continue reading