What do you do when you stumble upon a hundred-year-old photograph and feel the call to return it to long-lost family? You put your genealogical research skills to work and find a way, of course.
But what if that photograph had the information written in a language you don't speak? Ah, that introduces an entirely different problem. There are people from other countries researching their family history, too. After all, we don't have a monopoly on how to trace family trees. But when I find the names I'm seeking in a pedigree chart chock full of words from a language I don't speak, Google Translate can only go so far to help me out.
Especially if the language in question happens to be French. French, after all, is not simply a language. It is a work of art. And it would not be very appealing to the stranger I am accosting—assuring her I only want to mail her a photograph of her father as a child—if my message sounds more like baby talk.
In the case of the adorable children, P. Emile and Lucien Hallée, portrayed at three years and one year of age in an Azo postcard from Canada, my challenge was that they were likely born somewhere in Quebec. Thankfully, I have a world subscription to Ancestry, so the initial research is no problem—besides, I can access Canadian records via FamilySearch as well. But I could not find these children in any family trees at Ancestry that fit the description or the date parameters. And the trees on Ancestry for any family Hallée were written entirely in French.
While that's a roadblock for me, at least that was an encouraging clue.
The only thing I can think of, when stumped like this, is to call for help. So I did.
When I think of Quebec, Canada, and genealogy blogging, of course I think of Gail Dever, whose blog, Genealogy à la carte has been on my daily reading list since at least 2014. I've been in touch with Gail before. She is, after all, known for her active participation in several social media venues, including her Genealogy à la carte Facebook group, her informative Tweets, and her boards by the same name at Pinterest. Gail would be just the person to help me out.
I've long been convinced of the power of crowdsourcing. Blending crowdsourcing with social media supercharges the potential exponentially. When we're stumped with a problem, never underestimate the ability of others to come up with an answer. So, when those two adorable Hallée children had me stumped, I turned to Gail Dever. Could she? Would she?
Just this Monday, she did. Including the hundred year old photograph of the Hallée children—and the inscription with their names included on the reverse—Gail put out a plea for help to her readers. I'm sure Gail has readers from around the world, but because she is located in Montreal, hers was the perfect origin to issue an all points bulletin for descendants of this French-speaking family.
I don't know if there is sainthood for genealogists who go above and beyond the call of duty—although there is Rockstar Genealogist status and induction into the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa Hall of Fame—but Gail has my vote for going above and beyond. Not only did she blog about the photo, she posted it to her Facebook group and included it in her Twitter stream.
But it was the one more thing above all that which may have brought the answer. Emailing me barely two hours after her original post went live on Monday, she asked, "Mystery solved?" That morning, Gail had also posted the entire story to another pertinent Facebook group, the Quebec Genealogy group. A member there responded,
Donat Hallé married to Marie Tardif: Paul-Émile born in Thetford Mines, Oct. 4 1913 and Donat Lucien born in St-Isidore, Aug. 29, 1915. Paul-Émile married Irène Longchamps, Lucien married Rita Bilodeau. Both are dead.
The member then went on to name the children of our two babies, Paul-Émile and Lucien, and noted that two of their children—now obviously adults, themselves—might be on Facebook. I took a look. Sure enough, it appears to be so—two of the named descendants each having a Facebook page which includes the other's name among their "friends." The only drawback: everything on those pages is written in French.
We're working on that part.
Above: Photograph from Canada of Paul-Émile and Lucien Hallée, found in an antique store in northern California; hopefully soon to head back home to family in Quebec.