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?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mystery Update - Lingua Latina

I want to report an update to the mystery of how Pierre Frazier relates to our family (see previous post), but first I need to comment on an additional "complication" which I had known about from my previous research in old German records but had since forgotten about. And that is this: some old church records, especially the farther you go back in time, and especially if they were Catholic, WERE WRITTEN IN LATIN! So just when you can deal with:
  1. another language using words and/or abbreviations that may or may not exist any more, and
  2. old script handwriting which can be incredibly difficult to read because
    • some/most letters of the alphabet were not written then as they might be today
    • the writer was simply messy with a quill pen
    • the photographer either didn't focus or overexposed the microfilm
    • the paper these records were written on is simply disintegrating after 300+ years of elemental exposure, never mind a long and violent history of wars on the European continent.
So why should I complain when the old European records I'm researching suddenly start showing up in a dead language? Researching in this day and age is a miracle any way, so no complaints!

Even with the adjustments for reading difficulties, I was still coming up empty when I again decided to hunt around the French google results and found this website. This site does apparently charge money to view specific results, but when searching the surname DELLE, the limited search results listed a year of birth, marriage, or death, which is at least something to go on! So I started looking for DELLE male names who were born close to the time of Jeanne D'Elle who married Pierre Frazier. Given that Jeanne was born around 1662, there were three possibilities:
  • Pierre D'Elle, born 1663, but he was born to Jean D'Elle and Catharine Blonde (LaBlonde). According to the index, this couple married in 1660.
  • Nicolas D'Elle, born 1655.
  • Jean D'Elle, born 1659. 
Once I finally realized that the names being recorded in the records were ALSO Latinized, and thanks to this website which helped me realize that I was looking for the Latin names of "Nicolai" for Nicolas and "Joannis" for Jean, I started searching the church records of Saâcy-sur-Marne, and finally came upon the baptism records for both Nicolas and Jean, both children of Nicolas D'Elle and Nicole Candas, who are magically also the parents of Jeanne D'Elle who married Pierre Frazier. So now we have found not one, but two brothers of Jeanne D'Elle, one of whom could be the father of our Jeanne who married Jean Coquigne.

The problem is that we don't know if there were other sons in the Nicolas/Nicole D'Elle family, which there likely could have been. Of the two sons we now know about, they both would have been very young to have been the father of our Jeanne D'Elle who was born around 1675, which is itself still an open issue since I have yet to locate Jeanne's actual birth or marriage record.  Research goes on!

So I post here the clues found to date. As always, please feel free to contact me with any feedback.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mystery Cousin: Pierre Frazier

Ok ok, in the last week, we have managed to not only establish the exact time and place in France where our Coquigne immigrants came from, but we have taken the whole family tree back an additional FOUR generations with our earliest known relation being born about 1670. This should be called a job well done, and let's call it done, and Amen. But aren't there always just a few niggling details that remain unanswered? And aren't those just the things that entice me to keep looking just a little bit more.

The current mystery has to do with our earliest relations, namely Jean Coquigne (1670-1744) and Jeanne D'Elle (1675-1737). First we must note a correction in the maiden name of our 7th g-grandmother. Her son Pierre's marriage record indicates her maiden name was DAIX, but all the other baptism and marriage records of her children, as well as her own death record indicate a maiden name of D'ELLE (sometimes DELLE).

Second, I couldn't help noticing that the godfather of Jean & Jeanne's son Pierre was somebody named Pierre Frazier. This Pierre Frazier was noted as a witness on the death record of Pierre Coquigne, as well as on the death records of the parents Jean & Jeanne. What's curious is that on the death record of the parents, Pierre Frazier is noted as a cousin. To BOTH Jean Coquigne and Jeanne D'Elle? hmmmmm.

Well, let's just say that I've now burned quite a few midnight hours staring at the old French parish records. The first known child of Jean & Jeanne was born in 1697, so I thought if I worked backward from there I would find Jean & Jeanne's marriage record, but so far not yet. Also the death records of both Jean & Jeanne indicate their approximate age at death, so I searched through the derived years when they might have been born, and still nada. Maybe it's time to post this mystery as unsolved and hope that somebody else out there might have a clue.

But then I remembered the magic of Google is country-specific, which is to say that when we search Google in America, we are getting, for most part, American results. If you access the French version of Google, you will get entirely different results. Cool. So a search of French Google for "généalogie" and "Coqugine" brought me to a website that publishes French family trees, and lets them be viewed FOR FREE! Merci! A search of FRAZIER didn't present any obvious connections, but I noticed that some people of this name could be found in Saâcy-sur-Marne, Reuil-en-Brie, and Chamigny. I resisted this information for awhile, mostly because I just got my brain used to searching in Jouarre, but now I'm supposed to expand my searching to all these other locations? Maybe I'll try just one....

And so knowing that Mystery Pierre Frazier was last seen alive at the death of Jean Coquigne in 1744, and figuring that if Pierre was a cousin, he must be roughly the same age, I started searching forward from 1744 in Saâcy-sur-Marne for a death of anybody named Pierre. When I got to 1750, I said "this is the last year I'm going to check" and then of course, there he was. You can view the death record here.

The death record said that Pierre was "about" 70 years old, and so cross-referencing with other French family trees, I was able to find Pierre's birth as 10 Jul 1683 in Reuil-en-Brie. His parents were Nicolas Frazier and Jeanne D'Elle! So Pierre's mother must have had a brother who had a daughter named Jeanne D'Elle who married our Jean Coquigne. And for Pierre Frazier to be a cousin to both Jeanne D'Elle and Jean Coquigne, then Pierre's so-far-unnamed uncle D'Elle must have married a Coquigne!

Ok ok, way too complicated? Maybe. It's probably a good thing that I like both puzzles and challenges! In any case, I've searched up and down for our Jeanne D'Elle's parents and suffice it to say, the search goes on. Stay tuned for any updates.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kissin' Cousins

Am I allowed to say OMG in a blog post?

Well, here's what comes from staying up way too late into the night trying to make sure that maternal relations are just as accounted-for as the paternals. Everything I am about to write is still mostly speculation, which is to say there is some suggestive evidence to support my hypothesis, but not nearly as much as I'd like to have. So let me say right up front that research, as always, is ongoing.

Now you can sound the trumpet, but just moderately please. It would appear that my ggg-grandparents, Pierre F. Coquigne and Cecile Huvier, were fourth cousins! To be fourth cousins, two people must have the same ggg-grandparents in common. The following table shows Pierre F. and Cecile in the last row. The blue column shows Pierre's lineage, and the pink column shows Cecile's lineage. Each row moving up from the bottom shows the previous generation and the name of the relation that we are tracing, be it the father or mother, who makes the next level of cousin connection. Looking at Cecile, for example, her mother was Marie Ann Bouquet, whose father was Pierre Bouquet, and his mother was Jeanne Coquigne, and her father was Christophe who was a brother of Jean Coquigne. See?

Unknown Coquigne + ???
gg-grandparent Jean Coquigne Christophe Coquigne
g-grandparent Pierre Coquigne Jeanne Coquigne
grandparent Jean Pierre Coquigne Pierre Bouquet
parent Francois Coquigne Marie Anne Bouquet
husband and wife Pierre Francois Coquigne Cecile Huvier

And what's even crazier is that we can say all this without having any idea who the ggg-grandparents were!

How do we know that Jean and Christophe were brothers?  Well, that's the million-dollar question.  We have the death records for both men - Jean died in 1744 at the age of 74, making his birth about 1670, and Christophe died in 1733 at the age of 65, making his birth about 1668, making the two men close enough in age to be brothers. But now we are really stretching the availability of either marriage records or baptism records that go back so early. I'm still digging, but suffice it to say there are entire stretches of time where the earliest parish registers have torn or damaged pages, making the information either lost or unreadable. I still have some hope of finding these records, but the hope is slim given that my eyesight seems to be suffering from so much strain lately.

However, there are a couple of clues which might allow us to lean in the direction that Jean and Christophe could have been brothers.
  • On Jean's death record, Charles Mauville was listed as a nephew. Christophe Coquigne had a daughter, Marie Francoise, who married a Charles Mauville, and yes, they had a son named Charles.
  • Just for fun, I decided to check the marriage record of Marie Francoise Coquigne and Charles Mauville. Not only was Christophe Coquigne listed as her father, but Jean Coquigne was also listed as her uncle.  Ta da.
So that's my quasi-discovery. Even without the baptism or marriage records of Jean and Christophe Coquigne to explicitly confirm their parentage, it would appear Jean and Christophe were brothers, thus making my ggg-grandparents fourth cousins. And just in case we have any judgments about whether that marriage should be "acceptable", here is a story that suggests cousin marriages might not be such a bad thing.

And if there's still room for poo-poo-ing, let's not forget that FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt were fifth cousins!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mexico, New York!

The information passed down to us says the Coquigne family came to America around 1832, first settling in New York state.  But the question has always been Where in New York?  The obituary of Louisa C. Coquigne Larobardiere says that the family settled near Syracuse, New York.  This would make sense to me because Syracuse was actually a stop along the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825. This would also agree with the family story which says that John B. Coquigne rode a horse along the old Erie Canal when he was a boy.

But still, I have not been able to find one piece of documentation that places the Coquigne family in New York. So I started looking for the Larobardiere family because around 1838, the oldest daughter of Pierre F. and Cecile Coquigne, Louisa Constance Coquigne, married Francois Larobardiere. They had three children in New York, namely Mary Louisa, Cecelia, and Joseph. In 1844, both the Coquigne family and the Francis Larobardiere family migrated to Michigan. In fact, the family story is that Louisa had her fourth child, Ora, while on the way there!

So where do the Larobardiere's come from?  It appears they came from Imling, Moselle, Lorraine, France, which is close to Strasbourg and not exactly near where the Coquigne's had lived near Paris, so it doesn't seem likely that the two families knew each other in Europe. Nevertheless, Joseph Louis Larobardiere did make his way to New York, and in 1836 he purchased property in Mexico, Oswego, New York. Mexico is a town about 35 miles north of Syracuse, and just east of Oswego, which is on Lake Ontario. In fact, there was a small branch off the Erie Canal called the Oswego Canal, which you can see in this 1840 map (credit to wikepedia).

In researching the Larobardiere family a little more, I found that later generations who stayed in New York married into the Bequillard family. Thanks to a fabulous biography written by Esther Rancier about Jacques Bequillard, we get a wonderful picture of what it was like for arriving French immigrants to the area:
"When the group reached Syracuse, the canal boats were usually met by a person who spoke French with an Alsace-Lorraine accent. They heard about the wonderful pasturage, the climate much like home and fair leases for the land. Whether they wanted to settle in Oswego County or were just tired of the journey remains unknown, but this Catholic family went to inspect the area.

Whether they arrived before the Catholic Church at Mexico, NY, St. Ann’s was built in 1845 or later, they found a population of fellow Catholics primarily from Alsace-Lorraine. They stayed on content with familiar sights and sounds of home."
So there are several questions to pose here, some of which include:
  • Did the Coquigne's also live in Mexico, or were they living in or closer to Syracuse?
  • Did the families simply meet because the Coquigne's were doing business with other French families along the Oswego Canal?
  • Were the Coquigne's at that point in time practicing Catholics? I believe the Larobardiere's were because Joseph L. Larobardiere who died in 1849 was buried in the St. Anne's Catholic cemetery in Mexico, as are several other Larobardiere's of later generations. But if St. Anne's was not established until 1845 (research on this point is ongoing), where would Francois and Louisa have been married? And were their three children baptized as Catholics somewhere in the area?
The question of religion as relates to the Coquigne family is perhaps the subject of a different post.  Let's just say the Coquigne's were definitely Catholic when living in France, and they were definitely NOT Catholic when they lived in Michigan. My feeling is that the Coquigne family paid taxes to the Catholic Church for generations in France since the Church was the biggest landowner before the French Revolution. And even though the Church lost most of its lands after the Revolution, much of its authority was reinstated after Napoleon.  I am completely speculating here, but perhaps the Coquigne family had had enough of Catholic influence in their lives.  That part is just my wondering at this point.

So the question here remains can we find a marriage record for Francois Larobardiere and Louisa Coquigne, and should we be looking through Catholic records?  It seems like a good place to start. Even though the family story places our Coquigne family in New York in the 1830s, I would very much like to find at least one piece of documentation that provides confirmation.

As always, please feel free to contact me with feedback.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

French Customs - Children with Identical Names?

This Coquigne family is sure presenting me with some challenges.  This time it has to do with one married couple giving two of their children the same name. I have seen this seeming naming anomaly elsewhere in my genealogical research where a child in a family died, usually in early childhood, and the next child born of that gender was given the name of the child who died.

But such is not the case in the family of my 5th g-grandparents Jean Pierre Coquigne and Marie Madeleine Boite.  Their first-born son, born in 1759, was named Jean Pierre Coquigne.  The godfather for this child was named Etienne, so from what I can tell, it was not a custom in this area of France to name children for their godparents.  Then six years later, a second son was born who was also named Jean Pierre.  The first JP married in 1779, and the second married in 1785.  So what's up with that?  Surely I have made some kind of mistake.  But no matter how many times I check both the baptism and marriage records for both boys, the fact remains that both boys seemingly had the same parents.  Why would a family name two sons the same name as their father?

I've looked high and low for an explanation, but so far have not found one. I found only one blog that even talks about the existence of such a custom, so it seems I'm not entirely crazy!  One other message board post I found said that it was the godparents who actually did the naming - is this true?  In this case, two different godfathers might choose the same name?

If you have ideas or information about why some French families, specifically one family in Jouarre in the mid-1700's would name two different children with the same identical name, I'd love to hear from you.