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In search of the biological father

The request

The studio was contacted by A.D. in order to research their grandmother’s life, France. Specifically, the family had always suspected that the father listed in France’s birth certificate was not, actually, her biological father.

The research

We started from France’s birth certificate, who was born in April of 1917, in the midst of world war I, in Le Havre, France, and had two older sisters.
The names of her mother, Jeanne, and her father, Emile, were listed in her birth certificate, although a “curious” clarification was present: her father was not present at birth.
Due to the historical circumstances of the date of birth, it was very likely that Emile was away from Le Havre at the time, and was instead fighting in world war I.
Thus we looked into his military history, to learn whether or not he took part in the war and, in that case, during which period he did so. We searched the Seine-Maritime’s draft archives and we found Emile’s military file.
Thanks to the file, we learned that Emile left for the war on the first day, August 4th 1914, and also that he never returned home before February 1919.
This way, we had confirmation that Emile was not France’s biological father.
Searching the archives, we discovered that Jeanne, the mother, died in November 1918, a few days after the end of the war. Her daughters had been staying with their maternal grandparents, waiting for their father to return.
Emile returned on February 16th 1919 and learned that his wife had died and that she had given birth to a third daughter, France. He refused to accept this situation and decided to return to his birthplace, Nantes, with his two daughters, as indicated in his military file and the census documents of Nantes.
When Emile left Le Havre, he did not bring France with him, who was given in custody to her maternal grandparents, who however died soon after, both in 1919.
Little France, now completely alone, was taken in by social services, who then tried to find a family to adopt her.
Hence we looked for France’s adoption dossier, within the Archives of Seine-Maritime.
Among all of the administrative documents, we were fortunate enough to find a letter written by Emile for France, in which he explained the reasons why he decided to abandon her and, icing on the cake, in it he indicated her biological father’s name, surname, nationality and military rank. Our target was now Marcel M., of Belgian nationality, who worked as a driver during world war I.

We immediately had a realisation: Saint Adresse, a city very close to Le Havre, had become the headquarters of the Belgian government during world war I. Therefore, the story told by Emile in his letter for France, could actually be true.
The last step to prove the veracity of Emile’s words was to verify whether Marcel M. was located in Le Havre in July 1916, when France was conceived.
We found Marcel M.’s military dossier, which allowed us to retrace his movements, day by day, during the war. This way we confirmed that from October 1914 to July 1916, Marcel M. had been recovering in Sainte Adresse. Certainly, in that period, he met Jeanne and fell in love with her.
But the research wasn’t over yet.
Once we found France’s real father, all that remained now was to find Marcel M.’s descendants.
We were quite fortunate and, not only did we identify them, but we even found a picture of Marcel M.
Finally, A.D. managed to give a face to her real great-grandfather.

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