As many of you know, I spend lots of hours in research on family history and on historical data for my novels. I like to keep my novels in a real historical setting with quite a few historical characters that I bring to life on the pages. In the states, I’ve been very successful in my genealogical research, but I want to go further back, across the pond and onto the continent–France in particular.
In July on vacation with my daughter, I included a two-day research option in Bordeaux, France. Family oral stories relate that Louis Lestarjette (the male protagonist in my Revolutionary Faith Series) sailed from Bordeaux to South Carolina around 1770. Also, one oral source remembered seeing Lestarjette on a storefront in the city. It was a place to start since my internet research had come to a halt.
After visiting a local library in Bordeaux, I learned that the information I sought was in the National Archives, especially since I had a great hunch by now that Louis was not from Bordeaux. Perhaps he had only set sail from the city, if even that.
Still I decided to check a few cemeteries boosting of graves from the 1770s. We chose Chautreuse Cemetery and wandered perhaps a fourth of it looking for names. I felt at peace on the old foot paths. This burial ground in the past was Catholic although in the present it has morphed into a mixture of denomination. No luck. And no plot record available.
Next, we chose the Protestant cemetery. Smaller and more manageable. But no Lestarjettes. Here the cemetery director and archivist assured us that no Lestarjettes were there. She gave us her contact information which in turn gives me a lead to follow to other national cemeteries. A ribbon of hope.
Another family story places Louis’s mother under the guillotine’s blade, beheaded during the French Revolution. I didn’t want to find her name on a list, but I knew I must research it. At the Conciergerie in Paris–the prison that once housed thousands of people facing executions during the Revolution including King Louis and Marie Antoinette–a room has been designed with all of the names of the executed on the walls and in a hands-on computer data base. We searched and found no Lestarjettes. I’m glad. Yet, people all over France were executed outside of the Conciergerie.
Even with these dead ends, I’m not discouraged. One day I will find the one tiny link that I need to connect my Louis with his past and mine.
What genealogical resource have you used?