St. Lucian Naming Practices

Crowley Qoute 5In 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.

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The Bernard Girls

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.

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We are the Josephs, I think

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).

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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.

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In the Margins

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.

AugustinActe1 AugustinActe2

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.