SEARCHING FOR OUR FRENCH ANCESTORS
part 2, Return to Savigny
by Eva Augustin Rumpf, September 2002, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My earlier document, "Searching for Our French Ancestors," detailed my search for information about my French ancestors, the Augustins, and my visit in 1999 to Savigny-en-Veron, the little village in the Loire Valley where Dominique and Monique Coudrin Augustin lived in the 18th century.
After returning to Wisconsin, I was able to obtain translations of the original 18th century documents from the archives at Tours, confirming the baptism of their son, Jean Augustin, in 1765 and the marriage of his sister, Anne Monique, in 1786.
My genealogical research in the ensuing years focused primarily on the descendants of Jean, who immigrated to Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) during the French Revolution, then fled to Santiago, Cuba, in 1803, and finally settled in New Orleans in 1809. Jean married Marie Sauton, daughter of Michel Sauton, a silk merchant in Lyon, and his wife, Marianne Donase. The Sautons apparently owned a sugar plantation in Saint-Domingue, and Jean had a role in its management.
Descendants of Jean and Marie have lived in New Orleans since 1809. I am a direct descendant of their son Jean Baptiste Donatien Augustin. During a visit to New Orleans in October 2003, I uncovered additional information about the family from museums and the public library there.
I have compiled a summary of the Augustin family genealogy, based on what we know at this time, and I have distributed it to my Augustin relatives. In addition to incorporating information compiled by John Winslow, an Augustin descendant in Kerrville, TX, I have relied on material from R. Hugh Simmons of Paoli, PA, whose wife, Yvonne Imbert Simmons, is also an Augustin descendant. A copy of this narrative can be obtained via e-mail by contacting me at email@example.com.
The questions with which I ended my previous account are still unanswered and will likely remain so until I am able to do more research in France. However, after "Searching for our French Ancestors" was posted on Wisconsin's French Connection website, some surprising developments ensued.
In the spring of 2002, I received an e-mail message from a Frenchman who had read the account and informed me that he was originally from Savigny-en-Veron. He said most of his family still lived in the area and his older brother was le maire of the village. This began a lively correspondence between Jean-Louis Rousse and myself. I learned that he was about to retire from a teaching post on La Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, and that he would be returning to France and Savigny for an extended visit in autumn. Quelle coïncidence! My husband, Bill, and I were planning to visit Savigny in September before joining an Elderhostel bike tour in Provence. Our visits to Savigny would overlap for a few days, and we agreed to meet. Jean-Louis offered to help in my genealogical search.
On the morning of September 18, 2002, the beginning of a very long day, we landed at Charles de Gaulle and walked to the train station that is conveniently connected to the airport. There we boarded the TGV for Tours, where we picked up the rental car we had reserved. We drove southeast to Chinon and then to Savigny, located near the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers.
I had made a reservation for several nights at L'Auberge du Bocage, a small inn located in an old building across from the Savigny town square that had been restored since our visit in 1999. The inn is a simple but charming place that includes four rooms to let, a tiny bar where local hommes play cards and darts, and meal service. Gregory, the manager who seemed to do everything, welcomed us and served us a bountiful dinner of five courses, including wine. While enjoying dinner, I took a phone call from Jean-Louis, my Internet pen-pal, who arranged to meet us the next morning for a get-acquainted visit. That night we slept long and well, barely aware of the church bell that sounded once every hour throughout the night.
September 19 began with a typical French breakfast of café au lait, croissants and baguettes. Jean-Louis met us in the town square and drove us to Candes-St. Martin, a village high above the spot where the two rivers meet. We developed instant rapport as we talked together at an outdoor café and sipped glasses of l'épine, an apéritif. Jean-Louis surprised us with information he had uncovered at the town hall: The inn where we were staying on Rue des Capelets had been the home of Dominique Augustin and his family while he served as notaire royale in Savigny. This was exciting news indeed!
Later that afternoon, Bill and I drove our rental car to the nature preserve area near the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers. We stopped to look for birds and walked along the rocky beach, collecting a few smooth stones to bring home. At the point where the rivers meet, I bent down to touch the waters that have been flowing through this valley since my ancestors lived here in the 18th century and for eons before.
That evening we were honored to be invited to a lavish French dinner with Jean-Louis and his entire family, where we met his brother François, the mayor of Savigny, and other relatives. The four-course meal and conversation at the restaurant near Saumur went on for three hours.
The next day was spent with Alice and Serge Léon, the French couple who treated us so kindly when we met them in Savigny in 1999. Since then, we had become friends, corresponding occasionally, and we had met their daughter and son-in-law on their visit to the states. This time, the Léons showed us the family vineyards, took us on a driving tour around Chinon, and treated us to lunch.
September 21, our last day in Savigny, began with breakfast at the Auberge, where Jean-Louis joined us for a farewell meeting. Then we walked down Rue des Capelets to bid au revoir to the Léons. A small open market was underway in the town square. We bought postcards, took more photos and packed our luggage. Through the large window of our bedroom above the front entrance of the Auberge, I took one last look at Savigny's town square, imagining that an Augustin some 250 years ago had surely done the same.
Eva Augustin Rumpf [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Web Site: http://webpages.milwpc.com/evar/index.html
Last updated: April 1, 2004