Going back in time… one Aussie discovers her French history.

Going back in time… one Aussie discovers her French history.

Emily Lawrence Gazal found the road her family lived on in Ribeauvillé and a new connection to the Alsace-Lorraine region.

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles episode 108 - click here to listen

Guest: Emily Lawrence Gazal

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A number of years ago Emily Lawrence Gazal brought her family from Bondi in Sydney Australia to live in Chatou 20 minutes from the centre of Paris.

Emily knew her great grandmother was French but her grandmother would tell her no more. She didn’t really know the family history further down that branch of her family tree. Interestingly the other branches for Emily are all English speaking, which is sometimes the way. As English-speaking Australians, we often know more about the anglophone history than the non-English speaking.

Emily’s grandmother’s name was Lorraine so Emily took a guess that the family was from the Alsace-Lorraine area and may have named her after the region they were originally from. Emily was right and commenced a journey of uncovering the secrets of her family history her grandmother had kept hidden. I was fascinated to chat to Emily about this journey of discovery.

After checking out the situation on Ancestry.com where nothing was evident, she wrote to the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales and received a surname. She also got a naturalisation certificate. Emily then went on a French ancestry website and found a similar name and putting 2 and 2 together, worked out that her great great grandfather when moving from France to Australia changed the family name slightly and also was Jewish. (She discovered later in this process that her great grandmother’s birth certificate had the original spelling of the family name rather than the non-Jewish anglicised spelling).

Emily ended up visiting the village in Alsace that her family came from, Ribeauvillé. She met with an archivist there who did more research on her family and found out some details that were immense discoveries for Emily. It turned out that she had family, the siblings of her great great grandfather Vernon, who had been highly regarded in the community and others who were taken away to Auschwitz and killed.

I love the importance Emily places on her French family history. Strengthening our ties with the past actually helps us learn more about ourselves.

Emily still has questions, such as why did her grandmother hide her Jewishness? Emily now feels connected to the area they were from as well as feeling connected to the French Jews she encounters.

For me, I have discovered a French 6 x great-grandmother born in Bayonne in the Basque region in 1664 on Ancestry.com and now I want to know more! I’m sure many other people have similar stories they’d like to uncover. To find the graves of my own ancestors in France like Emily has would be a wonderful revelation. Emily had the added detail of knowing which street her family lived on and could imagine them walking down the road to buy their wares or go about their daily life. A gorgeous connection.

Emily’s links

Emily on Instagram @frenchobsessed

To search for a French connection, Emily went onto www.geneanet.org


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