Family Trees Branch Across the Seas

Trip Start Apr 03, 2009
Trip End Apr 14, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Saturday, March 28, 2009

After several months of planning, The Globetrotters are headed to France; first the South of France -- Marseille, Provence, Grasse and Nice -- then on to Paris. Aside from the fact that neither of us has been to the South of France, one of the reasons we selected this location for our next trip is because I have made an amazing family connection. Bear with me as I explain.

As our friends and family know, I am a family genealogist. I have researched my Louisiana Creole roots back to 1727 in French Colonial Louisiana. My research has uncovered numerous ancestors from Africa, Germany and yes, France. Several years ago, while researching a specific French family line, I posted an anonymous query on a genealogy website requesting information about a French ancestor of mine. Also on another website called African American Lives II, I shared the story of my discovery my 4th generation great grandmother . A response came from a gentleman in France, Jean Gignoux, who indicated that he too had a connection to the same family that I was researching. He had also seen the posting on African American Lives II and was curious as to whether I had any additional information with regards to that story, but of course, he had no idea that I was the person who had posted the story.   

Over several years, we have exchanged information via email about our research. As it turns out, he had been searching for the brother of one of his ancestors, who had left France for America in the latter part of the 18th century. Similarly, I had been searching for the family of one of my ancestors who had left France around the same time. As it turns out, our two ancestors were brothers -- the one bound for America, Francois Charles Peytevan DuRiblon, is my 4th generation great grandfather; his brother, Paul Felician Peytevan, is Jean's ancestor.

For so long I have wanted to visit the land where my ancestors came from, whether Africa, Germany or France. So, as Anita and I toiled over where our next trip should be, I suggested the South of France (Marseille and Provence) thinking that perhaps I could locate some additional information or other documents about my French ancestors.  She quickly agreed and stated that this would be her first trip to France, actually her first visit to the continent of Europe. 

With that, I sent a few emails to Jean. When I mentioned to him that I was planning to visit his country, he responded enthusiastically and invited Anita and me to stay with him and his wife Dominique during our visit. We gratefully accepted the invitation. Since then, Jean and I have communicated via email often, both relying on or other online language translators to effectively communicate. It will be interesting to see how we manage to understand each other once we meet in France, seeing that his English and my French are limited. 

Through our communications, I have discovered that my "cousin" and I share a few things in common: 1) we have both had careers in the maritime service -- Jean as Manager of a French shipping company and I having served in the U.S. Navy; 2) we have the same birthday.  In one email I mentioned to Jean that our trip would be partly to celebrate my birthday. He responded that his birthday is April 11th. When I saw that, I was in shock. I didn't want to tell him that my birthday is also April 11th because I was sure he wouldn't believe it. So, we've decided to save that surprise until we meet Jean.

In addition to our usual pre-trip preparations, I have been continuing my family history research. Due to some of my recent discoveries, I have been interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and was featured in the e-newsletter for the  San Diego African American Genealogical Research Group, as well as the Algiers Historical Society newsletters, The Algerine and Bayou Talk, a Creole and Cajun community newspaper in California.  

  Recently, I was asked to speak to the Algiers Historical Society, quite appropot considering that I grew up in Algiers, a smal neighborhood  directly across the river from the city of New Orleans Louisiana.  Another of my recently discovered "cousins,"Kevin Herridge is the immediate past president of the Algiers Historical Society, and asked me to share some of my discoveries with the group. So, I gladly agreed. On the first day of spring I spoke to the group about my experiences growing up in Algiers and the discoveries I have have made with regard to the unique history of this small community. The talk was well received by all who attended.

 Just to show you the hospitality of the Algiers community, Anita and I were invited to a crawfish boil the following day. Now, that was a great time! About 60 people enjoyed about 100 pounds of fresh crawfish and all the fixins, plus a lively band that kept the party going well into the night.

 Two days later, I spoke to a group of students at Delgado Community College. Their history professor, Sal Anselmo, had attended my presentation to the historic society and invited me to share the same information with the students in his history class. I was honored at the invitation. 

So now with less than a week prior to our departure, Anita and I are feeling that feeling again -- the excitement of another trip, the mystery of what we will discover, the thrill of the unknown. No doubt this will be a trip to remember, and we hope you enjoy coming along with us on this remarkable journey.

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