Laetitia Renault, 28 , from Poitou-Charente, France, subscribed to MyHeritage last July — and immediately started achieving breakthroughs in her research about her German heritage! Thanks to the Smart Matches and Record Matches she received, she was able to grow her tree, make contact with a long-lost German branch of her family, and even discover that she had a half-great-uncle she never knew about — and then connect with his son.
Here is Laetitia’s story:
I have been interested in my family history for years, and as far back as I can remember, I always asked many questions about this subject. 20 years ago, I asked my father to give me the family tree he had created so I could continue working on it, and it has been my passion ever since. My parents had done some decent research before I did, so I picked up where they left off and further developed the branches they hadn’t made much progress with before. My father had himself taken over the research of one of my aunts, especially our German origins.
Searching for German heritage
I had seen many ads for MyHeritage and I figured it might help with my international research. So I signed up and started my tree on the website. It was really easy. I had built my tree on another genealogy website, but I preferred not to import it as a GEDCOM so I could first concentrate on my direct ancestors and the branches of my family from Germany and Italy.
On the German side, I very quickly received many Smart Matches and Record Matches that corresponded with other family trees and historical documents. My tree is growing rapidly.
I signed up this summer and I very quickly purchased a Complete plan so I could use all the features, given the abundance of matches. I spent a great deal of time on my research and genealogy. When I pick up a thread of information, I find it difficult to stop — I can spend hours following it!
My paternal grandmother, Margarete, was German. She didn’t raise my father, so he never really knew her. They had the opportunity to see each other a few times before I was born, but I never met her. Therefore, I knew that we had family in Germany, but I didn’t know how to contact them. Thanks to my aunt’s research, I had the names of some half-brothers and -sisters of my grandmother, but that was all. Around two months after signing up to MyHeritage, I was able to make contact with my German relatives because a cousin had built her family tree on MyHeritage and there was a Smart Match between the grandparent generations in our family trees. That’s how I was able to contact my German first cousins.
My grandmother had two children before meeting my grandfather Pierre, who was serving in the German military at the time. She returned to France with her daughter (her other child remained in Germany) where they had 3 more children together before getting divorced, when my father was 3 years old. She later returned to Germany after having another child from another relationship.
I reunited with my two German aunts this year in France. One of them is the eldest of the siblings, Renate, who came to Germany and returned to France with my grandmother as a child, and stayed there. I knew her by name and it’s possible that I met her before when I was young. I didn’t know the other aunt, Carole, at all. The youngest of the 6, she was born in France but moved to Germany when she was very young and has lived there ever since. I hope to find the remaining sibling, Klaus, soon.
Before this reunion, I only had one or two photos of my grandmother and I had no faces to match the names of her brothers and sisters.
My aunt Carole has many old family photos that she was able to share with me, including photos of my great-aunt Christiane — one of my grandmother Margarete’s half-sisters — and my great-great-grandmother. Thanks to a Record Match, I found the names of her brothers and sisters and discovered descendants of one of the sisters, Marie, living in the U.S. Since I wasn’t able to find a family tree belonging to them, I searched for people with their names online and reached out to them via social media, and I ended up finding them. Since then, I’ve been in touch with these cousins, Donald Travis and his family, who live near Buffalo, NY, and we frequently exchange updates!
An amazing discovery
I made another discovery, this time about the French branch of my family: a half-brother of my paternal grandfather, Pierre. I knew him only a little, other than the fact that he had two brothers — whom I also knew only a little — but I knew his children well, cousins of my father. This branch of the family I was more familiar with, especially since we had been able to go back quite far in the family tree. I also had a photo of my great-grandfather, Joseph.
One day, I received a Smart Match with another family tree from Filae. I was able to determine that the match was my great-grandfather, but the lineage of the tree was different. I contacted the owner of the tree, who is my cousin. We had never known that my grandfather had a half-brother, who was 17 years older than him. Joseph’s first marriage was clearly indicated on my tree, but I never knew that there had been a child from that union. So now I am in contact with that cousin, Franck Renault, and his family, who live in Brittany. We write to each other every week and we’re planning to meet up in 2023!
My father is delighted with all I have discovered, and is very happy to reconnect with his origins. He wanted me to learn German in school, but at the time I was not that interested; I hadn’t started researching my genealogy yet, so my German roots were not yet concrete for me then. But now I’ve been working on it! Some of my relatives speak French, others speak English… we’ve been able to manage. Speaking German would be a big advantage ahead of the big reunion we are planning for April in Germany!
I’ve continued with my research. My maternal grandfather, Jean-Claude Mouginot, was from the Vosges mountains and his biological father, Athos Reda, was Italian. I have the family book of Athos’s parents, so I know the names of his grandparents as well as which villages in the Novara province in the region of Piedmont. I have a whole bunch of photos from this Italian branch of the family, but with no names, and I know nothing about the history of this branch except the fact that some of them immigrated to Argentina in the 1920s. I am now searching for cousins in Italy and Argentina, but I haven’t found anything yet. Maybe thanks to another Smart Match or Record Match… I won’t lose hope!
Many thanks to Laetitia for sharing her story, and the best of luck with your future research! If you’ve also made an incredible discovery on MyHeritage, please share it with us via this form or email it to us at email@example.com.
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Source: My Heritage