Monique Gueunier had been told her whole life that her great-grandfather had disappeared one day, abandoning his wife and child. He was said to have left for America. She searched for him for years — until a discovery she made on MyHeritage revealed a completely different truth than the one she had always believed.
Monique currently lives in the area of Montpellier, but she comes from northern Algeria and has lived in the Ivory Cost and in New Caledonia, and has traveled the world throughout her life. In short, she is well-traveled, much more than her great-grandfather, who had supposedly slipped away across the Atlantic. “It’s thanks to MyHeritage that I was able to resolve this affair, which traumatized our family,” says Monique. “It passed from generation to generation. I think my great-grandmother knew where her husband was and simply hid the truth from her son.”
A husband who allegedly left for America
Monique’s great-grandfather was named Sylvain Patureau. A Parisian by birth, he lived in Asnières (known today as Asnières-sur-Seine in the Hauts-de-Seine) with his wife Louise, whom he married in 1873, and their son Alphonse, who was born in 1877. He was a plumassier by trade — a person who created plume ornaments for hats. Alphonse was still young when his father disappeared overnight. The family told the child that he might have left for the Americas.
“God knows we searched the entire American continent for him!” exclaims Monique, who searched for a long time, combing through many passenger lists and immigration registers in vain. Not a single trace was found of a Sulvain Patureau turned American adventurer.
“I grew up in Algeria. My roots are scattered throughout France, and I have a great-great-grandfather who was born in Algeria in 1847. I was curious to know more about my origins. My father always said that we were from Paris but there had only been two generations in Paris; that branch of my family came from Massif Central, but it was quite vague. Faced with this kind of emptiness, I felt a need to cling to my French roots. It was my cousin who started building the family tree of my paternal side on MyHeritage. This inspired me to sign up to MyHeritage as well. I continued with my mother’s side, the Patureaus.”
Monique built the tree, generation after generation, and one day, just as she was about to leave the page, she noticed that there was a Record Match on her tree for her great-grandfather, Sylvain Patureau. It was a death certificate — and to her shock, it was not issued in New York, San Francisco or Buenos Aires, but rather in France, indicating that he had passed away in Paris on September 7, 1916!
This was a completely unexpected discovery, as the fact that Sylvain lived across the Atlantic had been a certainty in Monique’s family. “This was a huge surprise,” says Monique. “Asnières is really close to Paris. I lived in Paris for ten years, but I never thought to search there.”
‘Knowing what happened to him is a relief’
“According to the document, he owned an herbalist’s shop, which is where he died, located on Rue Jacob in the sixth district of Paris. I passed by this street dozens of times when I lived in Paris. He was declared a widower at the time of his death. He was not remarried, but might have lived with one of two women who worked with him and who reported his death. Knowing what happened to him is a relief.”
Monique’s great-grandmother, Louise, died in 1906. She had raised her son on her own, while continuing the plumassier business. “It was said in my family that she was not very comfortable, but she must not have had a very easy life,” says Monique. “She remained close to Sylvain’s sister-in-law. These are just guesses, but I think the two women might have known that he was not far away.”
Alphonse, Monique’s grandfather, never knew that his father lived out the rest of his life so close to him. He died before his father did, as a war hero on the Somme front in February 1915. He was only 37.
Alphonse married Honorine, Monique’s grandmother, in January 1912, and the couple had a daughter, Marguerite, who was born the same year. Alphonse also had 3 children from a previous marriage, whom Honorine legally adopted at the start of the war. After only 3 years of marriage, Honorine found herself a widow with 4 children to raise. She first took her children to Tangier, Morocco, and then to her hometown of Oran, Algeria, where Monique was also born.
Monique had never realized before that she has in common with her great-grandfather Sylvain the herbalist. “His knowledge of plants surprised me,” she says. “My mother did a lot of scouting and she did a two-week internship in France to learn about plants. She knew their names and medicinal benefits and I, too, always liked to heal myself with plants. I tell myself now that I got this from my great-grandfather Sylvain.”
Monique made this incredible discovery thanks to a French record on MyHeritage — and all French records on MyHeritage are currently free through July 16 for Bastille Day!
Source: My Heritage