In my quest to wrap my head around the “name game”, as I call it, I searched online for information on naming practices in my heritage islands and the Caribbean in general. I came across a few articles, but none excited me more than “Naming Customs in St. Lucia” by Daniel J. Crowley. The article was short but still very helpful because it spoke directly to quite a few questions, both old and new, that have been rolling around in my head. Here’s what I learned, Q&A style.
I was just getting comfortable with the relevation that we had a new surname, Joseph, on our hands, for my great-grandmother. I mentioned in my last post that this new information even led me to a record for one of my great-aunts. But then that record added yet another name to the St. Lucia parade. A Social Security Index record for Tia Clemina (a.k.a. Maria Estebana) listed her mother as “Edelanepe Mondese”, which we can accept as an interpretation of Edelanise Mondesi. But then the father was listed as “Bernard Joseph.” Ahem and pardonez mois, you crazy St. Lucian Panamanians, but WHO? Until now, I had never heard of anyone named Bernard in the family. Not for a first name, for a middle name, or for a last name.
As you know, I was super excited to find baptism records for my grandparents and some of their siblings. But I was (am) also super frustrated that I have not been able to locate records for others. In the case of my maternal grandmother’s family, I could not find baptism entries for the three oldest Colomb Mondesi siblings: Jose Julio (nickname: Jill), Maria Estebana (Clemina), and Maria Sebastiana (Fide).
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.
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.