Month: March 2014

Research Updates

Just a little update on a couple of ongoing pieces of research.

The first from Missouri, as first mentioned here. After my 3 or 4 week wait I received a response from the good people at the Missouri State Archives. Unfortunately it wasn’t great news:

We have searched Lawrence County Probate Record Reels C3794, C3781, C3791, C3788, C3790 for records on an adoption of an Adams and Jacob and George.  Nothing was found for an Adams during this time frame.

However, they did find a couple of references to other Adams’ and suggested I contact the Lawrence County Probate Court directly. Which I have done (after a bit of jiggery-pokery – what is it with American offices and incorrectly listed email addresses??), and received a response from the Circuit Clerk who is going to look into the references provided. More on that if / when I get a response.

Lawrence County Courthouse (from Missouri Marble, by Norman S. Hinchey)

Lawrence County Courthouse (from Missouri Marble, by Norman S. Hinchey)

Secondly, the Frenchies. You know, the postcard people.

My study of the online records continues – and I’ll admit to being somewhat obsessed by it. I think, possibly, its because its something new to me. I am no stranger to the fluidity of surname spelling, but it does fascinate me seeing how the French spellings change. For example, one branch of the family is Clergeau, but going back only a few generations it becomes Clairjault. Virtually the same pronunciation, yet quite different (and before you ask – yes, the same family!). It happens with others. Baranger becomes Barangé, Doublié becomes Doublet, Massé becomes Massais. Families also seem to move around between parishes more frequently than I am used to seeing in my own English researches. The vast majority are – what we’d call in the UK – Agricultural Labourers. Perhaps the reason for this difference is the way the French system is structured – communes, cantons, prefectures.

I was talking to my ‘cousin’ the other night online (he lives in Connecticut) and he asked if I was going to try and find any descendants of these people still living and make contact. It got me to thinking. Initially I said that I wouldn’t because there’s a bit of a gap between the years available online and the present day. Admittedly, Amelie only died in 1972 – but Louise would’ve been 102 this gone January.  The fact that all of these photographs and postcards were being sold at a marché aux puces suggests that there is no longer anybody around who cares for these people.

Whilst it would be nice to connect with this family, somehow I don’t think its going to happen. In the mean time, this is how the ancestral tree for Louise is looking.

Vertical Pedigree Chart for Louise Baranger

Not too shabby. Still a lot of deaths to fill in (like some kind of assassins day-planner), but I’m getting there!

The tree is also on Ancestry. I wanted to publish and publicize it a bit on the off-chance that somebody at some point decides to search for their family and gets in touch!

 L'antique Pont-Neuf,  Argenton-Château

L’antique Pont-Neuf, Argenton-Château

Names, Names, Names

As a genealogist and an author a writer, names fascinate me. Consequently, when I saw this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge published by The Daily Post it ticked all kinds of boxes. I often look at the Daily Prompt and the Weekly Writing Challenges, but rarely do I take part (for the Daily Prompts its usually because I’m a day or so late). In a nutshell, the challenge is to consider the power of names and to look at my own history with my name.

As a child, growing up in the 1980s I never met anybody else with my name. Whilst perhaps not considered ‘exotic’ by many, I longed for a normal name. Toby would’ve been my first choice. I would’ve been happy with Steve. Ian would’ve been fine. (To put this into perspective I also thought that I was an android and/or adopted for a large part of my pre-adolescent life.) All of my brothers have ‘regular’ names. I had no idea why I had been singled out, so I asked my mother why she/they had chosen the names they did for the four of us.

She told me that she wanted to choose names that paired well with our Scottish-sounding surname (there was an assumption, based on the surname alone, that my father’s family were from Scotland, but research by me seems to suggest otherwise – in fact you can’t get much further away from Scotland than Dorset and still be on the same landmass). There wasn’t much thought given to the meaning of those names, but definitely to the way that the three names (we all have first an middle names) sounded together.

In turn, my brothers’ names mean ‘House-guard Unknown-Etruscan-word’, ‘Healer Stone’ and ‘Defending-men Of-Brix [a town in France]’. Technically my name means ‘Of-the-Lord Rich-guard’. I wasn’t born on a Sunday and my parents aren’t particularly religious. Clearly my first name was chosen purely for the sound and not the meaning. My middle name, however, was the name of my father’s stepfather who was gravely ill in hospital at the time of my birth (indeed, he passed away shortly after ‘meeting’ me), something I’m proud of (the naming for a family member part, not my face causing the death of an old man part).

As I’ve grown older I’ve pretty much made peace with my name. Its still fairly uncommon. I’ve only met or heard of a handful of people with the same name, and slept with some of them (as a side point – sleeping with someone who has the same name as you is a little weird, but not as weird as sleeping with someone who has the same name as a sibling or a parent). The Wikipedia list of notable people with my name is fairly short but is widespread across the worlds of media, politics, military, sports, the arts and the sciences.

As I say, I’m okay with it now. Its different enough to cause me to stand out and although I have suffered ridicule because of it (teenage boys – go figure), I am not ashamed of it. Which is good enough for me.

When I write and need to create a new character the choosing of a name is something I take very seriously. All of us carry particular prejudices and opinions about names. (Recently, I read an article regarding a number of people in the Middle East who were named Saddam Hussein after the Iraqi leader and who have subsequently found it a very difficult burden to shoulder.) But apart from that, I do like to investigate the meanings of the names I’m using. Luckily, in this age of the internet, I don’t have to have a name dictionary (although I do have one regarding surnames). My favourite site for this is Behind The Name.

During my years as a genealogist the reusing of certain names has become very apparent . The pool of names used for children varies dependant on national and local fashions of the time, religious beliefs, the level of education and also other familial names. The mother’s maiden name often becomes the middle name of one or more of the children. The name of a wealthy uncle could be passed on, in the hope of money following the same path.

There is an almost standard pattern for the naming of children:

  • The first son was named after the father’s father
  • The second son after the mother’s father
  • The third son after the father
  • The fourth son after the father’s eldest brother
  • The first daughter after the mother’s mother
  • The second daughter after the father’s mother
  • The third daughter after the mother
  • The fourth daughter after the mother’s eldest sister

Obviously not all families followed this, and some children could be named out of the pattern due to the death of a family member or perhaps a famous event, or the death of an older child leading to the same name being ‘recycled’ for a younger sibling.

Whatever the reason, the name a child carries generally says more about the parents than the child. At the end of the day. as W. C. Fields said: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

Rescued Lives Part 2 – French Genealogy

Way back, months and months ago, before the wind and the rain and the Christmas, I blogged about some postcards and photos that I purchased in France …

Every so often I declare to myself that I’m going to research the families involved – more so the branch that came from the Deux-Sèvres départment, mostly because it is within this area that my parents live.

A view of Niort from the Sevre Niortaise river, Deux-Sevres, Poitou-Charentes region, France, May 2008 (via dynamosquito on Flickr)

A view of Niort from the Sevre Niortaise river, Deux-Sevres, Poitou-Charentes region, France, May 2008 (via dynamosquito on Flickr)

A few years ago I was in a supermarket looking at the magazines (I don’t mean Paris Match or Maison et Jardin) to get a view of the genealogical representation. I found a couple (I think the most I’ve found is 4 in one particularly large hypermarché) and upon leading through I found an article about the digitisation of French records in their local archives. (As an aside, one thing I’ve noticed about the French is that they may not be first out of the block with an idea, but when the grasp the nettle its with both hands and its done with gusto.) I noticed, with pleasure, that the archives for my parents’ départment was one of the top-rated for online digital access.


The Archives départementales des Deux-Sèvres, located in the wonderful old town of Niort, has over 15,500 documents  in its collection, with its online catalogue broken into 4 areas:

  • Parish & Civil Registers (up to 1932 in places)
  • Napoleonic Cadastre (maps made of every commune between 1808 and 1846)
  • Census Returns (from 1836 until 1901 – although there are some earlier and a few communes up to 1911)
  • Military Matriculation Registers (from 1867 to 1921)
Napoleonic cadastral map 1833. Archives départementales des Deux-Sèvres

Napoleonic cadastral map 1833. Archives départementales des Deux-Sèvres

I have yet to attend the archives in person myself (I’m going to France for a fortnight in June, so who knows?), but I have to say that the online interfaces are pretty simple to use once you know what you’re looking for. There is also a lack of transcribed records so you’re often scrolling through page after page of civil records or census information before you get a hit on what you want.

Before you say it – yes, I’m very much aware of how lucky genealogists nowadays are with the sheer wealth of digitised data that comes complete with indices and search-by-name facilities – but occasionally you rub up against something that isn’t quite what you expect, or what you’ve become used to. Its a bit like stubbing your toe. And makes you appreciate what you do have all the more.

Luckily, from Louise’s identity card I knew her date and place of birth: 28 January 1912, St-Martin-de-Sanzay, Deux-Sèvres. Using the online records, I was able to find a copy of her birth entry.

Birth of Louise Baranger. Archives départementales des Deux-Sèvres

Birth of Louise Baranger. Archives départementales des Deux-Sèvres

The details given are fantastic. Not only the usual information such as name, date and place of birth, and the name of the parents, but also the time of her birth (6pm), the age of her parents (25 and 17 respectively) and even an update with details of her marriage: 14 April 1936 in Chateaubriant to (what looks like) ‘Revie Jules Cyrile’ Gendron.

Given the somewhat tender age of the mother (Louise Amelie Ernestine Doublié), she and Louis couldn’t have been married much before this date. Indeed, it didn’t take long when searching backward, to find it on 17 October 1911, in St. Martin.


Some great extra details here: occupations, ages, birth dates and places of both parties, with names – including maiden names of the mother! – of all the parents.

Given the fact that Amelie was around 6 months pregnant at the time of the marriage (and 7 years younger than the groom), it would be easy to assume that it was a marriage that was forced upon her after the nasty man had his wicked way with her. However, reading the correspondence between them, both from before the marriage and afterwards, it is clear that the pair were very much in love.

At the bottom of the page is a list of the witnesses, and a collection of signatures:


Victor Baranger is mentioned in the postcards regularly, so its good to get it confirmed that he was Louis’ brother! It also seems that there is a connection between the Doublié and Doublet families – so much so that initially Amelie signs her name as Doublet and then crosses it out.

The birth entry for Amelie confirms everything, including a stamped addition of her marriage. There is also a handwritten note of the date and location of her death, in 1972.

Amelie and her parents are in Moutiers-sous-Argenton, the village of her birth, in the 1896 census:

Recensements de population MOUTIERS-SOUS-ARGENTON 1896

Recensements de population

The family are still there in 1901, and Amelie has been joined by a younger brother, Joseph, born in 1897. The 1906 shows a 3rd child, Josephine, born in 1903. Unfortunately the censuses available online end there, but by 1911 the family are living in St. Martin.

After several hours scrolling through birth, marriage and death records along with umpteen different census returns, I have managed to compile a rough tree for Louise Gendron, nee Baranger. I’ll fill it in over the next few days with the people mentioned in the postcard collection, but in the mean time here it is:

Vertical Pedigree Chart for Louise Baranger

Witchy Witchness

Its always good when you have an ancestor – or at least family – involved in one of history’s Great Events. Not that you wish them harm, but it increases the likelihood of there being records regarding their life – or at the minimum proves that they were there. Its one of the reasons military-minded ancestors are such a boon: not only do you get a shot at some personal info (height, weight, hair/eye colour, etc) but also – if you’re lucky – you get a sense of the kind of person they were.

During my investigations into my American families, its only my paternal side that has given me any long roots in America (not that the maternal side has none – I just haven’t been able to find it yet!), and there is a frisson when you get back as far as the 1600s and can count the ‘Founding Fathers’ of certain townships in your ancestry. But leading back to New Hampshire in the late 17th century there is also another event that looms at the back of your mind: the Salem witch trials.


“The Witch, No. 1”, c.1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker.

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