Religious Records: Episode 206 <<

Greg's Story: The French Connection

New to genealogical research, but armed with the research his sister had already done, Greg Spacher began by searching through Catholic church records for Rochester, New York. His objective was to find children born in the mid-1800s to his great-great-grandfather, Jean Spacher. In the baptismal records for St. Joseph's Church, he found the records he was seeking. They clearly noted the children's dates of birth and baptism, parents' names and, best yet, the place of origin for both parents!

Greg's family had always believed that the family came from Germany, but the village that Greg found in the records was in the Moselle region of France. Using church records for Farebersviller, he found still more records for his family. Ultimately, the church register in Rochester led him back through ten generations of Spachers -- five in France and five in the U.S.

Excited with his finds, Greg initiated contact with his French cousins. Last year, he went there for the first time to meet them. When he walked through the village of Haute Vigneulles, where his 6th great-grandfather settled in 1690 and his 5th great-grandfather was born, it became evident that he was expected. Doors of the homes opened and people came out to meet Greg as he walked. He repeatedly used his basic French to protest that he wasn't that important. This was always met with an insistence that he was, indeed, very important, because he was the first American to return.

Even Greg is surprised at how close he has become to his French cousins, and it moves him to see how much he has affected them. When he boarded the train to return home, his compartment companion turned to him and said, "I think this might be for you." Greg looked out the window and saw about 20 people congregated there, all shouting his name and jumping up and down! His cousins had traveled the 30 kilometers from Haute Vigneulles to see him off! And then he saw one of his youngest cousins, little Camille. She was waving, and tears were streaming down her cheeks. Greg confesses that he broke down and cried like a baby. He never expected the warmth and love that they shared with him, and it was then that he realized they were truly family.