As part of a REZO group project at the AIHP-GEODE EA 929 research laboratory, I am interested in reconstructing the career paths of some families working in Trinité at the beginning of the 20th century from a list of employees. The registers of military recruitment are in this case a good way to quickly find a date and place of birth for men born in Martinique between 1869 and 1901*.
Indeed, from 1889 onwards, the principle of conscription and compulsory military service was extended to the Antilles (not its actual application) and an individual form was filled in for each class of men aged 20 years, excluding foreigners. For each of them, you will find the following information: name, parentage, date and place of birth, place of residence, occupation or activity, a physical description and of course the service records (assignments, holidays, distinctions, etc.).
This information is obviously not always completely filled out, far from it, so you can imagine my surprise and enthusiasm when I came across a card with a photograph! Today, we discover Germain Hilaire CAPITAINE, matricule 0565, classe 1919, and all that we can learn from a military file when we make our genealogy.
Elements of identity on Germain Hilaire Capitaine
Germain Hilaire Capitaine was born and died in Le Robert (4 July 1899 – 9 August 1951). Son of Marie Damien Capitaine, he was a cooper of profession. It is described as having black hair, brown eyes, rounded forehead, round face, round mouth, thick lips, black complexion. It measures 1m64 and has a hollow point on the right cheek, as shown by the photographic portrait.
The information in the form provides details that can help to reconstruct a genealogy. Here, from the date and place of birth, it is theoretically possible to reconstruct the tree on the maternal side of Germain by searching for the birth certificate of the young man.
In the usual absence of photography, the physical description allows us to imagine the general physical appearance of the individual described. For the modernist that I am, an 18th century specialist, the possibilities of knowing how people look are very rare, especially for the most modest populations; I do not have any old portraits of my Caribbean family either. So I always have a lively pleasure, when I meet them in the springs of the 19th and 20th centuries, at times when these portraits were not easily accessible to everyone.
State of services of Germain Hilaire Capitaine
But the card offers more than just identity information. It is also interesting to learn more about those like Germain who were mobilized during the war. Some are reformed because of physical insufficiency; others are reported as deserters. Finally, there are those who join the ranks. Details of Germain’s services indicate:
« Incorporated into the colonial infantry battalion of Martinique as of 22 June 1918, arrived at the corps and 2nd class on that day, passed to the Compagnie de la Guyane on 6 February 1919, arrived at the corps on 12 February 1819. Embarked to France on the liner « Haiti » on May 18,1920, passed the said day to the 157th Regiment of artillery on foot and arrived at the corps on June 14,1920. Placed the said day in availability (?). Repatriated by Liner « Haiti » on 3 February 1921 while waiting for his passage in the A. A. R. Retires to Robert, spent in the A. A. R. April 15,1921. Assigned to the reserve of the Martinique Infantry Company. »
(French : « Incorporé au bataillon d’infanterie colonial de la Martinique à compter du 22 juin 1918, arrivé au corps et 2e classe le dit jour, passé à la Compagnie de la Guyane le 6 février 1919 arrivé au corps le 12 février 1919. Embarqué à destination de France sur le paquebot « Haïti » le 18 mai 1920, passé le dit jour au 157e Régiment d’artillerie à pied et arrivé au corps le 14 juin 1920. Placé le dit jour dans la disponibilité (?). Rapatrié par Paquebot « Haïti » le 3 février 1921 en attendant son passage dans la R.A.A. Se retire au Robert, passé dans la R.A.A. le 15 avril 1921. Affecté dans la réserve de la Cie d’Infanterie de la Martinique. »)
I will not go into the details of Germain’s military career, because I am not ruling out the possibility of making a ticket specifically for the First World War. But we can see that, at just 19 years of age, Germain is incorporated when the fighting is still raging and the situation in France is uncertain.
Have you ever met any photos in the registers of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Reunion Island…? If so, I invite you to share a link to the card and its photo as a comment so that we can enjoy it too.
(*) the access arrangements allow free consultation of files prior to 1922.
Source – French Military Records 1R1
As the Territorial Archives of Martinique, the Departmental Archives of Guadeloupe have put their registers on line, unfortunately no database supports the digitization, it is therefore not possible to obtain results to a request concerning the names of Guadeloupeans. It is more tedious, but it is possible to use alphabetical tables. With more than 5000 and 44,000 entries respectively, the registers of French Guiana and Reunion Island are easily accessible on the ANOM website.
All you need to know about registres-matricules à la Martinique.
All you need to know about registres-matricules kept at ANOM..
See the complete file of Germain Hilaire CAPITAINE, matricule 0565, classe 1919, kept in Archives territoriales de la Martinique.