Monday, August 17, 2009

Marguerite Tony Lilly Chevallier Meine Pearson


There are at least two sides to every story; the other side of the the story of James Madison Pearson is his wife, our grandmother, Marguerite Tony Lilly Chevallier Meine Pearson. What a name - but more on that later. She was born in Hannover, Germany, on the 26th of April, 1890, which would have made her six years junior to James. She was raised in the village of Graffigny-Chemin, France, in what was formerly part of the historic region of Lorraine. Her mother Julie Laura Chevallier of Graffigny-Chemin, married Charles Guillame (William) Meine of the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

Marguerite had one sister, Marie Leunn Paula Meine. Whether Paula was the younger or older of the two siblings is still a bit of a mystery. The report of the Ancestors of Marguerite (Legacy 4 Aug 2009) lists Paula as the first child and Marguerite second. Moreover, the physical resemblance in the photograph of the two sisters along with their mother favors Marguerite as the younger sister. And yet, the confusion still exists. In a letter dated 1959 from a French notary, Paul Morel to Paula, he refers to Marguerite and Paula as major and minor at the time of their father's death in 1913. Marguerite then at the age of 23 would clearly have been at the age of majority - but what of Paula? Perhaps two or three years separated the two sisters, perhaps as many as four years. Paula as the younger of the two, would then have been a minor under the guardianship of her mother as the letter suggests.

There is a second possibility - that sometime before the First World War, Paula married a German citizen and, as a result, forfeited her rights to French property at the end of the war. To maintain her rights, the family would hold to the position that Paula was the younger of the two children.

This conclusion is speculation on my part, fueled by the stories we heard as grandchildren of Granny (Marguerite) feuding with her sister Paula over language and inheritance. Granny clearly favored the French side of the family, even to the point of reverting to the name of Chevallier instead of Meine after the war. In correspondence with her sister, she used French and adamantly refused to read her sister's letters in German. Finally, the family money had been put into German War Bonds during the war and were worthless at the end of the war. If Paula had indeed married a German citizen before the war, she would have influenced her mother to invest the family's savings on the losing side.

As I say, this is all speculation. Somewhere a birth record for Paula or other document will lay this mystery to rest.

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