Saturday, June 21, 2008

Home history

As explained briefly in my recent article entitled Fulfilling day in Grenoble [display], I'm trying to acquire information about the folk who lived here at Gamone in the past, long before I discovered this charming place.

For many years, I've carried out ordinary genealogical research both on paternal Skyvington themes [display] and on maternal Walker ancestors [display], and I've also been concerned by the background of Grafton, in Australia, where I grew up [display]. At times, activities of this genealogical kind can be frustrating, since I have few concrete associations with these research domains, particularly since I live in a land, France, that was never a part of my personal genealogical territory. Maybe my genealogical operations would acquire greater meaning if I were able to spend time in my native Australia, in the UK or in Ireland. Meanwhile, the genealogical challenge is, for me, a largely theoretical affair. Maybe genealogy is a bit like that for most researchers, in that few people remain "in touch" with their ancestral context.

In the case of the history of the place where I'm now living, my contacts with the subject matter of my research are far more concrete, because the house and property are still here to "back up", as it were, my research activities. For example, there was a former owner named Antoine Uzel-Maret. Here's his birth record, stating that he was born in Choranche on 6 September 1815.

He died here at Gamone in 1884. At 8 o'clock on the morning of 26 March of that year, a notary public from Pont-en-Royans came up here to the house and, with the help of Antoine's widow, named Sophie Belle, he drew up a precise list of all the objects and animals in the building. And today, I can read this fascinating list. Here's the start of the list of objects in "the second bedroom, to the west", which is where I'm sitting in front of my computer at the present moment:

I learn, for example, that there was a "bad" wood stove in this room, and a big clock. Curiously, there was equipment here for making bread, whereas the actual bread oven [which is no longer there] used to be located down beneath my big southern window. I haven't had time to analyze all this information yet, but I see that there was a lot of wine-making equipment, described precisely in the list, down in the ancient cellar of the house.

Through this list of the exact contents of my house in 1884, I feel myself associated with this Uzel-Maret couple. It's a little as if I've moved into their house to take care of it while they've left for a long journey.

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