Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Isabelle.

Isabelle became a WikiTreer in June of 2016. She is active as a Connector and in our Notables and European Aristocrats projects as well as a participant in the Saturday Sourcing Sprints and Data Doctor Challenges.   Isabelle has also been instrumental in starting up the new French Roots project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’m not researching any surnames in particular, at least not connected to my family. I’ve never found a Rassinot who was not a descendant of my great-grandfather, so a Rassinot name study would probably be one of the smallest in the world!

What are some of the locations you are researching:

Most of my research for WikiTree is done to make connections, especially in France and Belgium. I’m interested in all locations in France, but more familiar with my native Vexin (covering part of the present Oise and Val d’Oise départements) and the area around Poitiers where my children’s father is from. I actually love looking for places on maps and hunting for historic location names.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

After my grandfather died, my parents were given his family papers and photos, and that included his parents’ “family booklet” (livret de famille). That is an official little book given to couples at their civil wedding ceremony. This booklet contains the marriage details and later children’s births are also inscribed there (family booklets still exist, and when my children were born, we had to take the family book to the hospital to be filled in by the civil servant when the children were registered).

I was so excited over the booklet (first time I saw the names of my great-great-grandparents!) that my parents agreed to take me to the mairie (town house) to do some more research on the family. I was already interested in family stories before – my grandfather’s family especially – but this booklet was the starting point of my research. At the town house the secretary showed us the registers, how to use the 10-year indexes, everything I needed. I took the habit of going there every week and stayed quite late. The secretary used to go upstairs to his living quarters and leave me free range in the archive room. Of course this was only possible because I was raised in the village where my father had been raised, and his father, his grandparents and most of his ancestors had lived all their life there. So there was a double bonus – I could do all my research just by walking down to the town house, and because it’s a small place it was much less informal than in a city. After a few months my mother and I traveled to Lille to look for her ancestors and it was much less fun.

After the tutorial given by the municipal secretary at Liancourt-Saint-Pierre I got my second lesson in a letter from a cousin. I was worried about the father of my great-grandmother, as her birth record showed he was 70 when she was born. He told me not to worry about that but rather cross-check everything I could find about him, because registers could contain errors and it was always better to have a source for the birth and the marriage and death. So that took care of the importance of sources, and I was lucky to learn very soon that trying to go as far back in time as possible, as quickly as possible, was not the way to go and that consolidating every fact was more important.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My great-great-grandmother Euphrasie Constance Chappart, the daughter of a shoe-maker in Liancourt-Saint-Pierre, because nearly all her ancestors were also from Liancourt and I was able to build her a nice tree all by myself as a teen. For the others I had to travel, or wait until the archives were online.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

I have lots of brick walls, and the one I reasonably hope to break through is in Switzerland. This will need either a change – archives being made available online – or travelling to Switzerland myself. I have just a little information from cousins in Switzerland who made some research on the Crausaz family.

My great-great-grandfather Jean-Baptiste Rassinot was a foundling – born in Paris in 1823. I tried to research him but hardly got anything. The Paris archives were destroyed in 1870 and his file was lost, so all we know is that he was taken in charge at Saint-Vincent de Paul Foundling Hospital as a newborn, christened and given to nurse to a woman named Victoire Sagnier in Franvillers, near Amiens. He must have been a tough little guy, travelling from Paris to Amiens at the end of December on a horse-cart ! We suppose he went somewhere else as soon as he no longer needed a wet nurse, because he’s not in the Franvillers census. He was recorded as son of Marie Rassinot but there is nothing left of her, she probably died in Paris long before 1860 and we have no clue where she came from. I’d love to find out more of where Jean-Baptiste was between 1823, when he was sent to Victoire Lagnier, and 1846, when he arrived in Liancourt-Saint-Pierre.

A brick wall I did break though was the Dronkers-Martens family. They are ancestors of my maternal grandmother, who was part Belgian through her father. I had very little about them when someone – Daan Dronkers – wrote about an ancestor of mine, Emile Bernard Dronkers-Martens – saying he was curious about him because he had studied the Dronkers family and thought he had all the Dronkers descendants covered, but that was the first time he heard about Emile Bernard Dronkers-Martens and did I know more about him? And added: the Dronkers family is from Lillo, near Antwerp. It was very motivating to work with someone else and inch by inch we found Emile Bernard’s father, and his grandparents, and finally the Lillo connection and proof that “my” Dronkers-Martens were a branch of “his” Dronkers. It’s hard to describe how exciting the breakthrough was!

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

It is an intriguing question because my ancestors are really very, very “ordinary”. There is a saying – a special French genealogist thing, maybe – that “everybody is descended from a beggar and a prince”, well, many of my ancestors were very poor but I’ve yet to find a prince among them ! There is a possible connection with nobility in my mother’s ancestry. We go back to a woman named Marguerite Duranel, who lived in the 17th century and may be the grand-daughter of a Catherine Cotteel, who definitely has noble ancestry, the van Pradelles family, themselves descendants of the Saint-Omers. I say maybe because though I’ve seen the connection in umpteen trees I’ve never seen a real source to confirm it. If it is true there must be a good source, somewhere, probably in the notarial archives, a testament or marriage contract. Anyway, some genealogies –  obviously mis-interpreting recent research by Thomas Delvaux – make them descendants of a daughter of Louis de Dampierre and Marguerite de France who was King Philippe V’s daughter. Which is impossible – Louis de Dampierre and Marguerite de France had only one child, a son – but I would have loved the link to the last direct Capets, “les Rois Maudits”!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I am raising three teen-age daughters and have a full-time job, which doesn’t leave so much time for other hobbies. I’m giving far too much time to genealogy as it is!

How long have you been on WikiTree and how active are you?  Are there any projects/challenges are you involved in? What do you enjoy doing?

I found WikiTree a little more than one year ago while researching the in-laws of a cousin, Robert Crausaz, who emigrated from Switzerland to Canada and the U.S.A. in 1913. He had a profile on WikiTree and I decided to contact the profile manager, David Wilson, saying I had more information on his origin. I got the kindest and most encouraging welcome – and stayed. I’m fairly active and check in everyday. I got even more hooked after the source-a-thon – it happened about three or four months after I joined – when I discovered I could actually stay logged in and contribute for most of the week-end without it being the end of the world! The first project I got involved in was Connectors, from there I started connecting Belgian and later French branches, and then Notables, which led to the Notables and Euro Aristo projects. I also participate in the Saturday Sourcing Sprints and Data Doctors Challenges now and then.

There are three WikiTree-ers – Emma McBeth, who started it all, Greg Lavoie and myself with a huge challenge: to launch the French Roots project, which already has about twenty members and we hope to become a top-level project soon. The project means to complement the existing France-related projects like Quebecois, Huguenot Migration and others (of course I forget some, sorry) and cover the ancestors who stayed in France and are not in the scope of those projects. As well as the people with French Roots but who do not match any of the existing projects. And of course those who are still in France – there are not many of us yet on WikiTree but we hope to attract more with the project. One of our tasks will be to develop French-language help pages. We have already set up a few pages, more for descendants who are not familiar with how to research in France: lists of resources, help pages on how to research French archives. We also created a list of French (or French Roots) Notables profiles who need help and right now we are busy organizing France sub-categories, both re-organizing existing categories in English and setting up the French language category structure.

What are some of the features/aspects of WikiTree that you love/don’t love as much?

The biggest strength of WikiTree and what makes it so attractive, is the one-person-one-profile rule. All the other sites have up to dozens of duplicates representing the same person and you’ve got to browse them all to find out which have quality research. Having just one profile as a reference is really incredible and that’s why I never looked back (I used to be a Geneanet adept, actually still have a huge tree there, with only a tiny fraction of it on WikiTree). So collaboration is the best thing on WikiTree, but it can be quite difficult sometimes. While exploring existing French genealogies on WikiTree I found that many of them are virtually unsourced. This is always a problem, but when a genealogy connects remote descendants to very famous noble or royal family sources are especially crucial, and most of all for the couple of generations that make the connection between the nobles and the emigrants. I’m afraid several  lines of ancestry look fairly fishy – actually I’m confident some of them can’t be correct – and what to do with them is a real problem. Most of the time the data has been innocently copied to WikiTree, maybe through a tree collected on another site, turned into a gedcom and uploaded to WikiTree. I’ve had contact with many descendants who try to come back and source them but it can be pretty difficult, especially if you don’t read French! When you’re working alone on your genealogy it’s so easy to remove a mythical character or connection. On a collaborative site it’s a much more complex exercise!

Another complex issue is internationalization. I’m still annoyed that Aliénor d’Aquitaine has “Eleanor” as First Name at Birth, which for a francophone is a bit jarring.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Nothing original: take your time, start with the most recent generations and source them properly (it’s not easy!) before moving on to earlier ancestors.


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  7 Responses to “Meet our Members: Isabelle Rassinot”

  1. Isabelle is an awesome WikiTreer–she does so much! And I look forward to the day we figure out a cousin connection between the two of us 🙂

  2. Thank-you Isabelle for extending that Crausaz branch and all of the other great things you do!

  3. Hi Isabella:

    I am a descendant of a French, ,name Martin Benoit and born 1643 in France and his wife’s Marie Chaussegros, born about 1656 in Rochefort, a city, near La Rochelle, France. They came to Port Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada. I am working on my French ancestors since a number of years.


  4. Isabelle,

    Thank you so much for all your work in WikiTree!

  5. Congratulations with your french roots project. I am trying to find out more about my ancestor Louis Ballot who was a judge in Charleville- Mezieres around 1600. His son Jacque or Jacob Ballot went to Germany and the rest of his offspring is known to us. But we would like to learn more about Louis Ballot and his spouse amd parents.

  6. Can’t wait for the French Roots Project to begin. Wonderful interview!

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