Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Searching for the past.

Our weekend trip was to explore a part of France that David our neighbour here in Barrou knew quite well (Isle de Ré) plus to trace the house in (Chatelaillon-Plage) which our friend Karen had spent time with her American family in the 1950's.Her father had an army posting here and she and sister Dianna came with their parents to live here before being joined by new arrival Michael.We were also here to try and get a copy of Michael's baptismal certificate from the cathedral in La Rochelle.

We had an appointment at the cathedral to meet with someone who might be able to help trace the certificate via their records. We were met by two charming ladies who showed a great willingness to help and who produced the original record books/registers from the appropriate period. Sadly although Karen's copy of the certificate stated that the ceremony was carried out here there was no record of it. One of the ladies explained that as a military baby the ceremony may have been performed somewhere else but within the diocese of the cathedral.Karen's dad remembers them having to break the ice in the font and young Michael filling the church/cathedral with his cries due to the chilly holy water! One of the ladies, while checking the records, noticed that Michael was actually born on the exact same day as she was - I love a good coincidence! That's her in the photograph with Karen.

After the visit to the cathedral we headed out to Chatelaillon-Plage where Karen had another appointment to meet Jacky Lancereau who is the chairman of one of the local historical societies and a part-time historian.  He had been kind enough to track down the house her family had lived in. We had the address, so, as we had time, we popped into the local tourist office for a map of the town and headed to a cafe for coffee and a bit of map reading.That done we headed of to find the house - would you believe it, it was only a couple of streets behind the tourist office! 

Karen had some old photographs and yes it was the house. The only thing that seemed to have changed is that the stairs into the house seemed to have been 'turned' - maybe it was a 'fung shei' thing.

Here's Karen on the doorstep
This was as close as she could get this time.

It was slightly disappointing to find that it was now,like most of the houses here, a holiday home and as such there was no one at home - so no viewing for Karen.

We then had a little time to spare so headed up the road to the beach -

It was deserted but we could imagine what it must be like during the holiday season.

After a stroll along 'la plage' we kept our rendezvous with M. Lancereau who proved to be both knowledgeable and charming. He let us have a look at books he and a friend had collaborated on, showing old photographs and postcards. Karen was able to get a copy to take back with her to the States.
So, all in all, a fairly successful day of detective work with only the certificate to track down.


  1. Jim, if you look carefully at the colour pic you took, you will notice that the stairs haven't been turned round.... another flight seems to have been added on the right hand side. The original flight are just in the picture near the hedge.

  2. Well done Tim! Your absolutely right - I had to sneak into a neighbour's garden to get the shot plus point over a large hedge - so I can be forgiven. Thanks for that, Karen is happy for the confirmation.