Saturday, January 18, 2014

Monsieur Zouave

Genealogy is full of surprises, and here is the latest one for me, found among family items passed down:

The first surprise was to discover this photo is an ambrotype.  Basically it is attached to glass rather than the copper used with daguerrotypes.

As for the identity of the man in the photo, my family story was that this picture was of a French soldier in Napoleon's army. Given that ambrotypes first appeared in 1854, I think we can say this probably is not a picture of somebody who served with Napoleon. Such a person would necessarily be much older than the man in this picture.

The second surprise came with the somewhat unusual uniform.  The uniform is apparently that of a Zouave, and the headgear is called a fez.  If you zoom in over the left shoulder of the man in the photo, you can make out the tassel on the fez.  So now, we're looking for times and places where the French had Zouave regiments.  The following is from wikipedia:
The Second Empire
By 1852, the French Army included three regiments of Zouaves. Each of the three line regiments of Zouaves was allocated to a different province of Algeria, where their depots and peace-time garrisons were located. The Crimean War was the first service which the regiments saw outside Algeria. They subsequently served in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, the Mexican Intervention (1864–66) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870). The distinctive dress and dash of the Zouaves made them well known outside France and they were frequently portrayed in the illustrated publications of the period. The 2nd Zouaves (popularly known as "the Jackals of Oran") had their eagle decorated with the Legion d' Honneur following the Battle of Magenta in 1859.

On 23 December 1854 a fourth regiment was created, the Zouaves of the Imperial Guard. The actual formation of this unit was delayed until 15 March 1855 when detachments from the Zouave regiments already serving in the Crimea were brought together for this purpose. The Zouaves of the Imperial Guard served through the remainder of the Crimean War and subsequently in all the campaigns of the Second Empire. Their peace-time garrisons were initially at Saint-Cloud and then Versailles from 1857. This regiment wore the classic zouave uniform but with yellow braiding and piping substituted for the red of the line regiments.
I have spent alot of time looking at images of French Zouave uniforms, but so far I haven't seen one that comes very close to the uniform we see in our photo. Those uniforms seem to have included a taller fez or even a turban, and the pantaloons were either red or white. Our fellow is clearly wearing darker pantaloons.

Finally I did come across some Zouave uniforms that do somewhat resemble that of our guy, and they are images from Zouave regiments who fought in the American Civil War! It turns out there were many Zouave regiments from many states, both Union and Confederate, during the Civil War. The uniform that seems to closely match that of our guy is associated with the 146th New York Volunteer Regiment, which was organized out of Utica, New York - coincidentally (?) a location not far from Syracuse where our Coquigne family stopped over for a dozen years before migrating to Michigan. I have checked the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database as well as other sources but have not found any matches for Coquigne, Larobardiere, or Huvier.

So what does all this mean? Maybe the only thing I can say for certain is that this picture was taken AFTER the Coquigne family emigrated to America, and for that matter, after they settled in Michigan. But was it taken in France (or elsewhere in Europe) or America? Maybe it is a picture of a soldier of the Crimean War or maybe an Imperial Guard at Versailles. Or maybe it is a soldier in the American Civil War, maybe from New York or any number of other states, including Michigan. Research is ongoing, and I would most certainly appreciate any feedback on this one!

Meanwhile, I have named the guy in the photo Monsieur Zouave.  And wouldn't I love to know who this intriguing character is!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I'm not sure why I ordered an FHL film for Imling, France, but I did. Imling is the place of origin of the Larobardiere family, and I am not related to them directly. Francois Larobardiere married Louisa Coquigne in New York after both families emigrated to America, and both the Coquigne's and one branch of the Larobardiere family then migrated to Michigan. Nevertheless, I descend from Louisa Coquigne's brother, Jean Baptiste, so you'd think I would quickly dismiss doing any Larobardiere research. I must have been in the throes of multiple all-night research marathons when my curiosity was picqued the most, but since the Imling film is here, might as well look at it, right?

This particular film covers civil registrations from 1792-1892. So I started at the beginning of the film, which would be, naturally, the birth of the new French Republic. Having learned all about the Republican calendar from my Coquigne research, I was able to navigate through the dates easily. But what is this?  In year 6 (An VI), in the marriage section, there was also a DIVORCE section! And who should be listed but Larobardiere's!

I have studied the entries having to do with the divorce of Joseph Louis Larobardiere and Marguerite Larobardiere (apparently her maiden name too!). My French is passable, but I can do little more than make out names, ages, and occupations of the parties and the witnesses. If there is a reason listed for the divorce, I haven't yet been able to make it out, only that in the end, the divorce was mutually consented to. But there are all kinds of unanswered questions! This couple had three children - what happened to them? Did they automatically go with their mother and did the father support them? And what about property? Joseph Louis would marry again in 1800, and then he would bring three of his sons by this second marriage, including our Francois, to America where Francois would later marry Louisa Coquigne.

Given that I know enough about the Catholic religion to know divorce has historically been unacceptable in that faith, this event seems surprising to me. So I did a little more digging. It seems that one of the first things to come out of the Legislative Assembly in the new French Republic was the legalization of divorce, which yes, was most certainly against Catholic doctrine. It seems that legalizing divorce was just one strategy among several strategies on the part of the new government to de-Christianize France. Not only could couples divorce quickly and easily, they also didn't have to name any guilty parties. There is also a very interesting article about women and divorce in France at that time, which you can read here.

SO. I might not have furthered my Coquigne research today, but I sure did learn something new, always something new. If the Larobardiere's were so quick to abandon the Catholic religion after the French Revolution, maybe so too did the Coquigne's. We know by the time they got to Michigan, they were, if anything, anti-Catholic. Très intéressant, n'est-ce pas?