Françoise Corfdir, 62, a resident of the Côtes-d’Armor in France, set out to retrace the immigration journey of a Breton sailor ancestor who she came across during a search on MyHeritage. In doing so, she solved the mystery of his origins and connected with his American great-great-granddaughter. Her story is an excellent example of how collaboration between MyHeritage users can yield incredible results.
“For some time, an email alert from MyHeritage on the Crechriou family name caught my attention,” says Francoise. It is a Breton name, not very common, with origins in areas of Côtes d’Armor around Tréguier in Trégor. MyHeritage suggested a Smart Match with a certain Yves Marie Crechriou, originally from Brittany, and who died in California in 1924.
Following the footsteps of a mysterious Breton sailor who left for California
“It is the last name of my very dear grandmother and, when I retired and finally had some time to myself, I decided to follow this trail,” says Francoise. “I then noticed that 6 or 7 other American users on MyHeritage have this Yves Marie in their tree, with various uncertainties on the date of birth and the place: Brittany, Atlantic Loire…
“I started researching, in particular in the military district registers, and I spotted a single Crechriou, born in 1856, who might match. Moreover, the register mentions that at the age of military service, he was already a sailor. Perhaps a step was taken towards California? The trail was weak because the dates of release from military service did not correspond to the installation of Yves Marie in California around 1880. On the other hand, the registers of his town of birth do not mention marriage, nor death, so is this our man?
“A visit to the historic defense service in Brest allowed me to retrace his career as a sailor, which ended abruptly in 1881, and there a small miracle occurred: the page mentioned an investigation carried out in 1892. Yves Marie was wanted by the military authorities and his brother-in-law replied that he was now established in San Lucas, California as a farmer!”
Finding the American family of Yves Marie
“Then, through the Search Connect tool, I spotted an American user who was also looking for this name and I contacted her via MyHeritage’s internal inbox,” says Françoise. “Carolyn is a great-great-granddaughter of Yves Marie! Since then we have been in contact. She is delighted to have broken through this brick wall and to have information about her ancestor. How did a young Breton born in 1856, who didn’t speak French at first, the son of a tailor, become a sailor, then an adventurer, a farmer and finally — remarkably — an inventor in California? An illustration of the American dream! A lesson on immigration!”
Genealogy enthusiast and mother of two, Carolyn is a teacher in Utah. “Before being contacted by Françoise, I only knew the American part of my great-great-grandfather’s life,” she told us. “Yves Marie Crechriou was a genealogical dead end in my family history because no one in my family reads French. I was never able to connect with my French roots because of the language barrier. Now those roots have become an important part of my identity. I can’t wait to find out more about my family’s origin thanks to Françoise’s research.”
“More recently I discovered the circumstances that led him to stay in California in the Bordeaux archives,” says Françoise. “He was part of the crew of a trading ship called Oceania. The ship left Bordeaux on May 19, 1879, bound for Nouméa in New Caledonia where it arrived on October 9, 1879. During the winter they continued their voyage to Tahiti, and by the beginning of 1880 they were off Australia. They arrived in San Francisco on February 25, 1880, and from there traveled back and forth with passengers, all kinds of merchandise, and letters between the French consuls in San Francisco and San José in Guatemala. On September 25, the ship returned to San Francisco, and Yves was visited by a doctor on board because he was unfit for work. He had an inguinal hernia and had to go to the hospital in October.
“The ship was to return to France with a load of wheat and left the port on October 20, 1880. Yves was still hospitalized but he remained on the crew list in Bordeaux, because he was entitled to his pay, he was not not a deserter.”
A missed boat and a new life
“This is how he could not make the return trip to France and stayed in California. He should have returned to another French ship because another boat was designated for him, but he did not take it. This explains the research done by the maritime authorities,” says Françoise. “In California, another story begins. The following year, in 1882, he married in Monterey, a young Californian, Nancy Jane Williams. They would have five children before divorcing.”
In 1910, then-divorced Yves Marie Crechriou lived alone in the Chinatown neighborhood of Monterey, California, where he managed a pool hall, as mentioned in the 1910 U.S. Census on MyHeritage:
“He would first be a farmer, then the manager of a billiard room and, at the end of his life, he would run a cigar store!” says Françoise. “Above all, he would be an inventor. In 1909 and 1910 he filed a patent around an automatic safety device on cars and trains, followed in 1911 by a patent relating to the improvement of the billiard table.” Below is the first page of the patent from the Inventors of Historical Patents collection on MyHeritage:
“A young Breton who finds himself in California, and becomes an inventor, it’s extraordinary!” says Françoise. “This research has helped me make great progress on my own Crechriou branch. I am still looking for the link between our two families. We may have a couple of common ancestors who lived between 1585 and 1645 (Guyon Crechriou / Marguerite Le Flem = 12 generations!), and I’m working creating an online board about him to allow descendants to follow his life journey.”
Many thanks to Françoise for sharing this intriguing discovery with us. Have you also made an amazing discovery with MyHeritage? We’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us via this form or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post I Retraced the Journey of My Breton Ancestor Who Became an Inventor in America appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage