The Great, Great Simon Vallee

Getting my DNA results  a couple of weeks ago has inspired a new wave of family history research activity that is paying off already.  This week I made my most exciting genealogical discovery to date thanks to FamilySearch.org.  I found a form called a “Panama Canal Application for Photo-Metal Check Employees” for my great-grandfather Francois “Simon” Vallee.  This single page provides a wealth of information that both confirms some facts we believed to be true and provided some new details that help to round out our timeline of his life and a picture of who Simon was. Let’s go through it line-by-line.

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DNA and the Diaspora

Last Christmas my younger brother gave me a greeting card telling me that he would pay for a DNA ancestry test as my present. After taking my sweet time to select a testing company, order the kit, and send in my specimen (cheek swabs), I finally received my results. After reviewing the results I called my  mom and told her, excitedly, that according to FamilyTree DNA I am 87% African (85% West African and 2% Other African).

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#diasporalovestory

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

Gooooolazo! Panamanian Records for Adele and Francois

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

Helping Hands

I got a virtual helping hand from Luis and David, who found records for over 30 Cadignans and other Martinique ancestors.
I got a virtual helping hand from Luis and David, who found records for over 30 Cadignans and other Martinique ancestors.

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!