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.
In my last post I reviewed general information I gleaned from the baptism records I found for my maternal grandfather, Hilarion “Julio” Vallee, and some of his siblings. Now I want to take a literal look at each one to figure out who was listed as their godparents. That can only mean one thing….it’s time for another round of “What the Heck Does That Record Say?!”
Below each image I will share what I’ve been able to decipher in blue. Please let me know if you are able to fill in any of my blanks or have different interpretations to my own! Any redfont indicates the input of others added after this post was originally published.
Lucky for us, it looks like the same two people were appointed to be the godparents for my grandfather and his twin sister so we get two chances to figure these ones out. In both records the first godparent seems to pretty clearly be written as Luis Eloise. The next name looks like JulianoinUrsula’s entry but Julian in Hilarion’s. This is a bit confusing because if we take these spellings at face value it looks like these were two men. But somehow I doubt the Catholic Church or my ancestors were that liberal back in 1921. So here’s what I’m thinking: I think the second name is definitely supposed to be the godfather’s name and that is confirmed by the “o” ending in Ursula’s record entry. Sure, O can be easily confused with A, but I think this case is not so ambiguous. The fact that the final vowel was dropped in the second entry also suggests the owner of the name is male. I don’t know enough about French names, but I am wondering if this is a married couple and the first person’s name is actually Louise Eloise. My reasoning is that Eloise looks more likely to be a middle name than a last name, so the surname that appears after Julian/o’s name could apply to both godparents…Or I could totally have this all backwards! As far as the last name, I think it starts with an L or an S; a friend on Facebook suggested that the initial letter may be an S by comparing it to how “Simon” is written. She suggested the full name is Soacre.
Tio Alfonso’s godparents’ names seem to be a little easier to make out. I read them as Ernesto Solomon and Josefina Marcelina. SIDENOTE: You can also see the “marginal information” I mentioned in the last post. It records Alfonso’s marriage over thirty years later.
Tio Homero’s padrino appears to be a Joseph Armand. I really got a kick out of reading who his godmother is: his big sister Simona Cadignan! She was almost 13 years old at the time of the baptism so while it seems a bit young, the uniqueness of her name makes it unlikely it was someone else with the same name.
In last week’s posts I explored the baptism records I recently found online for my maternal grandmother and her siblings. This post will focus on my paternal grandfather and his siblings, the Vallee Cadignans. The table below lists all nine children but shows that I only found baptism records for four of them. In the case of the Colomb Mondesis, the earliest indexed record I accessed was for a 1912 baptism. You would expect all of the Vallee Cadignan records to be indexed since the first child, Simona, was born in 1914. However despite a variety of searches I could not pull up baptism records for the first four children and, most surprisingly, for the youngest. There are a few reasons this could be, but it will take time and a lot more creative searches to figure out why. I figure that either these babies were not baptized (but I doubt it), those particular records have not been indexed yet (which blows out of the water my theory for why I couldn’t find some Colomb Mondesi baptisms), or I need to get even more creative with the versions of their names I use when conducting searches. But for now, this is what we have.
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.
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 →