Barry's Relatively Speaking:Keep Listening

Posted on Jul 16, 2012

Barry's Relatively Speaking shares the personal experiences and stories of genealogists found in the Everton Genealogical Helper Magazine collection on Patricia shares the following experience.

Casually, Grandpa mentioned that his uncle (my great-grandfather's brother) had been a Catholic missionary priest. With my ears trained to pick up genealogical clues, I immediately pumped Grandpa with questions. His uncle's name? Paul Charrot. Religious order? Redemptorists. Place of mission? Cuemevaca, Mexico. Grandpa recalled that, in 1910, his Uncle Paul intended to visit his relatives living in the United States, but—here the story was unresolved—he was either martyred for Church in the Mexican uprising or he died of appendicitis.

Locating the address of the Redemp-torist Headquarters in Esopus, New York, I sent an inquiry to the "Keeper of Records." I repeated the little known about Paul Charrot, including that the Charrot brothers were born in

Switzerland, and asked if the Redemptorists might provide any further information about the priest and his family.

Two weeks later, I received a reply from the Rev. William Barry of Esopus. He had compiled a two-page history, fully outlining Paul Charrot's education and service to his community, and sent two photos of him which were taken in the 1880's. His research seemed to indicate that Paul had died a natural death. Other vital statistics were included: born November 28, 1852, in Plainpalais, Switzerland; parents: "nothing in the available sources." However, Paul's baptismal certificate, listing his parents' names (my great-great-grandparents), would most likely be found at the parish church in Plainpalais. Unfortunately, Plainpalais could not be located on any available maps of Switzerland or in the Rand McNally atlas! My correspondent suggested I write to the Provincial Headquarters of the Redemptorists in Lyon, France, which might possibly have a baptismal record.

I followed this advice, and from Lyon came another short biography of Paul Charrot, Including personal reminiscences by those whom he had served as a priest. This history concluded that he had died after undergoing a serious operation, thus solving the "mystery" of his death. Yet, I still had no data on his parents. A postscript to the Lyon letter said that undoubtedly, the baptismal certificate could be found in "l'archives de l'eveche," the archives of the bishopric, in Geneva.

It was time to write a third letter. I addressed it, very simply, to Director of the Archives, Bishopric of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland, ana listed all the facts I had that might assist in locating Paul Charrot's baptismal certificate.

Somehow, my letter was delivered to the state archives. Six weeks later, I received an answer from the state archivist in Geneva, with details of a Swiss village called "Charrot" from whence my ancestors originated. The baptismal certificate was not enclosed; in its place, the archivist had forwarded a genealogy of Paul's and my greatgrandfather's family, dating back to the early 1700's. Not only did it list the names of the great-great-grandparents I had sought; it also detailed each Charrot generation back through my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents!

An offhand comment and three follow-through letters enabled me to discover a wealth of information which I had once assumed that only an expensive research trip abroad would provide. Fellow genealogists, keep your ears open!

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