A Rose by Any Other Name is Not Nec­es­sar­ily a Rose

Af­ter read­ing “Roots” by Alex Ha­ley, in the early 1970s I be­came more deter­mined to re­search my own fam­ily tree. But I bumped into sev­eral road blocks. I think my re­search had struck some peo­ple as sus­pi­cious, es­pe­cially when I re­fused to ex­plain my purpo

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

The frus­tra­tion re­sult­ing from hav­ing dif­fer­ent names on a birth cer­tifi­cate and on a bap­tismal cer­tifi­cate has been ex­pe­ri­enced by count­less Saint Lu­cians. It of­ten re­quires a No­tary Royal to re­solve the prob­lem. Last Christ­mas I was re­minded that names mat­ter more to some folks, and that I am one of many who has had to re­sort to a No­tary Royal - one Ju­lian Charles (de­ceased) who worked in the law firm of Gor­don and Com­pany.

A No­tary Royal was con­sid­ered par for the course at the time for those with in­cor­rect spellings of their name or who merely wanted their name changed. I had al­ways known that my fa­ther was born out of wed­lock and that, ac­cord­ing to cus­tom and the tra­di­tion of the Ro­man Catholic Church, he should have car­ried his mother’s sur­name. That sur­name was Beau­soliel! The is­sue of which fam­ily sur­name I should carry was set­tled when my fa­ther mar­ried my mother. I was to be Peter Beau­soliel and not Peter Alphonse, my mom’s fam­ily name. In­stead, my fa­ther gave me Josie which, for some un­ex­plained rea­son (adop­tion, maybe), he car­ried from Joseph Josie, his fa­ther.

At no time was I made aware of any fam­ily name other than Josie. How­ever, when the time came to pro­cure my first pass­port (early ‘60s) I was in­formed that Beau­soliel should have been my sur­name. Of course I was most sur­prised. It didn’t take much think­ing be­fore I de­cided that I should keep the fam­ily name by which my fa­ther and I were known. So I re­sorted to a No­tary Royal and re­nounced the newly dis­cov­ered Beau­soliel, which I had never used, and legally and for­mally adopted the sur­name Josie by which I was known to fam­ily, friends and school­mates.

Last Christ­mas I re­called all of the above to Ray­mond ‘Clib’ Charles, a younger brother of former Chief Min­is­ter of Saint Lu­cia, Ge­orge F. L. Charles. Clib lives in New York, USA. I have known him a very long time. My ad­mi­ra­tion grew when he joined the West Indies reg­i­ment in Ja­maica at the for­ma­tion of the West Indies Fed­er­a­tion of the English-speak­ing Caribbean, in the mid-60s. Some of this is­land’s bright­est and best young men, in­clud­ing a close fam­ily friend and fel­low Vieux For­tian, Peter Leonce, aka Juse­may Ge­orge (re­cently de­ceased), also left to join the West Indies reg­i­ment in Ja­maica.

My con­ver­sa­tion with Clib took an un­pre­dictable twist when he mildly up­braided me for not shar­ing what he de­scribed as my long-held se­cret of a close fam­ily con­nec­tion to the Beau­soliels. I was sur­prised by the turn of the dis­cus­sion and the re­proach. I was even more sur­prised that Clib him­self was con­nected to the Beau­soliels.

He ex­plained that his con­nec­tion was through his fa­ther, James Charles, whose mother was a Beau­soliel, orig­i­nally from Soufriere. Of course, we con­cluded that the older gen­er­a­tions of Beau­soliels must have been re­lated. That was a log­i­cal out­come given the small geographic area of ori­gin and the is­land’s small pop­u­la­tion.

I had been in­formed by fam­ily that my ma­ter­nal re­la­tions were from La­borie and my fa­ther’s were from Grace, Vieux Fort. My fa­ther’s fa­ther was from a place known as Fond Josie - an area be­tween Des­ruis­seaux and Belle Vue. His ma­ter­nal grand­mother was a Beau­soliel from Soufriere. Un­for­tu­nately, at the time, I was too busy to de­vote the hours in re­search­ing my fam­ily roots, per­chance to iden­tify more clearly the spread of my ge­netic make-up.

Af­ter read­ing ‘Roots’ by Alex Haiey in the early 1970s I be­came more deter­mined to re­search my own fam­ily tree but I bumped into sev­eral road­blocks. I think my re­search had struck some peo­ple as sus­pi­cious, es­pe­cially when I re­fused to ex­plain my pur­pose. It

was at the height of the Black Power move­ment in Saint Lu­cia so I put the sus­pi­cion down to crass ig­no­rance. It was, at the time, the prac­tice for any­one wish­ing to re­search fam­ily names and re­lated mat­ters to pay a small fee (less than three dol­lars) and pro­ceed to pe­ruse those large ledgers in the Reg­istry that housed fam­ily records.

In that con­ver­sa­tion with Ray­mond ‘Clib’ Charles last Christ­mas I also dis­cov­ered that his fa­ther had brought 21 chil­dren into the world. Ge­orge F. L. Charles was the first and Ray­mond ‘Clib’ Charles the 18th. James Charles also had many sis­ters and broth­ers from the Charles side; from the Beau­soliel side, a sis­ter gave birth to two boys, Juan and Stephen. She left for Panama with her sons in the 1940s. As far as Clib could tell one of the boys vis­ited Saint Lu­cia in the 1970s but by then Clib had him­self mi­grated to the USA and never got to meet his cousins.

Of course it was a shock­ing dis­cov­ery for me to learn that Clib’s pa­ter­nal grand­mother had the same sur­name as my great grand­mother. What a small world, I thought. That con­ver­sa­tion has re­sus­ci­tated my cu­rios­ity about the an­ces­tors whose ge­netic ma­te­rial I carry. I of­ten won­der in what ways my an­ces­tral spirit may have con­trib­uted to who I am. There’s no need to re­mind you, dear reader, that we are the sum to­tal of those who have lived be­fore us and whose deep roots and fer­tile branches ac­count for our pres­ence, with all its weak­nesses, strengths and idio­syn­cra­sies.

It was nice to open 2017 with the re­minder that we are all greater than the sum of our in­di­vid­ual parts and that we may be the strong­est sur­vivors of the orig­i­nal peo­ples of the Caribbean. We are stronger be­cause we are the prod­ucts of the sur­vivors of the Mid­dle Pas­sage min­gled with the Euro­peans who sur­vived malaria and harsh con­di­tions, and the fierce Caribs. Based on the idea of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion, we are en­ti­tled to con­sider our­selves a spe­cial peo­ple. We there­fore need to trust our­selves to shape a bet­ter fu­ture, re­gard­less of which fam­ily names sur­vived.

Per­haps names mat­ter, af­ter all, be­cause they help trace a more pre­cise fam­ily his­tory. I re­main con­vinced that the cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion and sur­vival of the early pop­u­la­tions of Saint Lu­cia and the Caribbean tells an even more epic story.

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