Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A New Piece to the Puzzle! The Jean Charles Gustave Mystery Continues...

When fellow French Guadeloupean genealogist David Quénéhervé began his email with "Hi, I think that I've found something in Basse-Terre", I knew that I was going to be delivered some new information pertaining to my ancestors. David has helped me numerous times from finding and using the BNMP, to understanding documents and life in Martinique during the times of slavery. I am definitely thankful for all the help he has provided and have been doing my best of paying it forward to other new and amateur genealogists.

The first thing that struck me was "Wait? Information in Basse-Terre?!  That's in Guadeloupe!". With the whole run around of my 4th great grandparents and their origin, I have pretty much started to recognize and learn many of the towns in Guadeloupe and Martinique (at this rate I've checked every single town in Martinique for my 4th great grandfather, Jean Charles Gustave).

Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe [Google]

It has dawned on me before that I might have always been looking in the wrong place, that maybe Jean Charles Gustave was never actually from Martinique but from Guadeloupe, some records even stated he and Julienne were from Saint Thomas. What was so interesting about the document that David found was the information that it held, its accuracy and a potential small crack on a big genealogical dead-end wall.

Martinique & Guadeloupe on the map [Google]

What David found was a jugement for a Françoise Jackson, who was the wife of a Gustave Jean-Charles! I immediately thought, my 4th great grandfather was previously married?! The record goes on to state that on the 12th of April of 1869 this judgement was taking place, then the next few lines is the usual run-down as genealogist know of who was writing what and his position yaddah-yaddah-yaddah. The next line what was struck David and definitely me as well: … que la nommée Françoise Jackson née à Marie-Galante, en mil huit cent trente trois, épouse du sieur Gustave-Jean-Charles [sic], capitaine au cabotage, demeurant au Vieques, est décédée à la Basse-Terre, où elle résidait dans le courant de l'Epidémie du Choléra. The document goes on to repeat this about another three times for whatever reason, but here is the gist of the information for my English speakers:

that the named Françoise Jackson, born on Marie-Galante, in eighteen thirty three, wife of the sir Gustave Jean Charles, sea captain, residing at Vieques, died at Basse-Terre, where she resided during the time of the Cholera Epidemic. 

Another similar version of the text later in the document [ANOM]

What shocked me the most was that his name was written exactly as I know it Gustave Jean Charles (we are still debating whether or not Gustave was a first name or surname, the record was registered in the index under "Jean-Charles"). Also, it stated that he was currently living in Vieques -- which is EXACTLY where my 4th great grandfather was living at the time!! We chatted back and forth about this, David suggested that Jean Charles was probably marrying at the time and needed to prove that he was single and thus someone came forward in Guadeloupe to register the death of his wife which probably wasn't registered at the time of her original death in 1865 rather than in 1869. Could it be that distraught, Jean Charles left Guadeloupe immediately after his wife's death and never was able to register her death? Also, this Gustave Jean Charles was a sea captain while mine was a carpenter, could they really be the same person I asked? David assured me that carpenters could build ships (duh, how could I not think of that!) and also many people back then took on multiple/different jobs to make ends meet.

When David suggested that maybe Jean Charles was about to remarry I went straight to two records I was fortunate to find in the Vieques baptismal books, my 3rd great grandmother's baptism record and her brother's. She was born in 1867 while he in 1869 and I was sure these records could provide some clues. Foolishly, I had not realized two small clues that would help tie in the record from Guadeloupe to my family in Puerto Rico. I have faith that these two men are the same, the evidence is too overwhelming similar!

Baptism- María Paulina "Charles" [LDS Vieques Records]
When my 3rd great grandmother, María Paulina Gustavo Lotten, was born on the 15th of January in 1865 in Vieques, Puerto Rico she was baptized as a "hija natural reconocida" which means that she was a natural born daughter recognized by her parents, who here are written down as Juliana Lotin and Gustavo Juan Carlos. Notice that the name is in the same order as in Guadeloupe. I also realized that María Paulina was baptized with the surname "Charles", so it is very possible that Jean Charles was the original combined surname and then the Jean part was dropped and Charles stayed. Yet the family used Gustavo for a long time and then later switched to Charles, who started the switch? 

Baptism- Tomas Octavio "Charles" [LDS Vieques Records]
Now, look at this record that took place in 1870 recording Tomás Octavio's birth which occurred on the 28th of December 1869. Here we can see that Tomás was registered as a "hijo legitimo" which means that he was recognized as a legitimate child of Gustavo Juan Charles and Juliana Lotin, again the name is written in the same style we see in Guadeloupe. Every child born after my 3rd great grandmother is referred to in their baptismal and/or birth record as legitimate children of my 4th great grandparents!

The document in Guadeloupe occurred in April of 1869 and Tomás was born in December of the same year, perhaps Julienne wanted to be married before she delivered her second child? If Tomás was born at the 9 month mark, then it is possible that he was conceived in the window of March-April. I never thought to check the "status" of the children as they were born, I figured it was just a mistake on Paulina's record but now it seems that it held some weight to it. I have ordered the Vieques marriage records from that time period and I am anxiously hoping and waiting that a marriage record will appear in 1869 for Jean Charles Gustave and Julienne, and hopefully give some more clues as to Jean Charles Gustave's origin. Will the record mention a previous marriage to Françoise Jackson? I'm very excited to finally add some more meat to the story of Jean Charles Gustave. Hopefully, I'll be able to finally pinpoint a town of origin for him as well as parents and maybe even grandparents. 

Hopefully, one day I'll be able to travel and explore the towns of my ancestors in Martinique and now maybe even in Guadeloupe! Gotta brush up on my français before that! :)


  1. I may be your #1 fan. apologies for all the commenting but its been fun reading your journey & it motivates me to keep going. As a new & amateur genealogists, I have to admit I'm curious by what you meant by this friend of yours that's helping you. Is this someone you hired?

    Also I spent 2 days this wk at the library looking at films for my ancestors in PR. Looking through one film & trying to read the fancy cursive handwriting takes forever. Do you have any tips or advice on how to make the process faster & easier, if there is even such a thing.

    1. Haha Diana, thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I'm glad you have been enjoying it and that it's been motivating you. David is a genealogist I met through 23andme.com who has helped me learn more about my French West Indian roots.

      For viewing records with that kind of handwriting, I try and just look for keywords like: the day/month/year, names, parents, grandparents and witnesses. If it's too hard to read try inverting the image's colors to make the ink look white, sometimes that works. Or try writing out the word yourself on paper. Sometimes you can figure it out by pretending you are writing it yourself. Hope that helps!