After dessert and, yes, more wine, Yolande showed us some most interesting photos of Château Blandin, as well as numerous letters and postcards from Fortuné Mollot and his aunt Francoise Collet, née Mollot, and other relatives. Yolande had preserved these artifacts after inheriting them from her parents Gabriel and Suzanne Gombault of Lhuitre. These letters, photos and postcards now indicated a possible connection between our families! The intriguing puzzle presented to us was: Where, if any, in our ancestry was the connection? At that time, the genealogy of both our families was not too extended so we could only go back a few generations. However, Yolande also had documents to indicate an ancestor by the name of Marie Angélique Mollot. Our family genealogy only went as far back as Pierre Mollot whom Fortuné Mollot had indicated in his memoirs as his grandfather. The possible connection seemed to centre on Marie Angélique Mollot of Yolande’s family tree and on Pierre Mollot in ours.
The next day, Michel and Arlette Auclerc left but we stayed with the Rosez in Lhuitre for a few more days to tour various historical sites in the surrounding area. With the intent of resolving our family connection, we visited M. Jacques Caillot, the mayor of the neighboring village of Trouans, the cradle of the Mollot family. He recalled that there had been some Mollot families living in this area in the past but there had been none in recent times. Interestingly, when we were at his office, M. Caillot related an interesting anecdote. He remembered that in his childhood, there lived a man in Trouans by the name of André Mollot. André had lost a hand (the left one?) in WWI. The grandfather of M. Caillot had also lost a hand (the right one?). Each fall, the two gentlemen would laughingly go to the store together to purchase a pair of gloves for the winter.
M. Caillot was keenly interested in the various archival documents of Yolande and the memoires of Fortuné. He indicated that there were numerous archival documents (birth, marriage and death registers) about the residents of Trouans in the Mayor’s office. These went back a number of centuries. He further indicated that the village of Trouans utilized the services of M. Pascal Pierre, architect and genealogist, and that he would request M. Pierre to dig into our family history. What a discovery that was for our family as you will see later in this document!
Another event which also greatly enhanced our knowledge about Léopoldine Mollot, née Benoit, family roots occurred in Sept. 2004. Lucille and I had the opportunity to visit the little Gallo Roman city of Die, France, located in the French Alps. The origin of the Benoit family can be traced to Die. At the Tourism Office, we indicated that my great grandparents, the Benoit family, were the original founders of “le Martouret”, a health spa and healing centre located just on the outskirts of Die. Immediately, the tourist agent suggested that a local historian would be interested in sharing information about “le Martouret” with us. That very afternoon, after touring “le Martouret”, we met with the local historian by the name of Christian Rey. The next day Christian introduced us to the city museum director, Jacques Planchon. We were given the entire history of “le Martouret” which was founded by Léopoldine’s father, Dr. Alexandre Benoit. In the museum, we examined a display of the thermal process that Dr. Benoit utilized in order to treat patients with arthritis and rheumatism. Since that time, we have exchanged information with M. Rey who has also written and published articles in a provincial magazine about the history of Fortuné and Léopoldine, “le Martouret” and the Benoit family.
Our friends from Die, however, told us that if we really wanted to gain more information about the Benoit/Croze family, we would have to go to a small city called Privas, Ardèche, where the Departmental Archives of Ardèche are located. The next day, we headed out to Privas. We were certainly not disappointed with our findings; in fact, we were fascinated. We found documents related to the family of the mother of Léopoldine (Croze and Azémar families). As well, a genealogist working at this archival center gave us the names of history books and other documents outlining the entire Azémar family tree which is the ancestry of Léopoldine Mollot, née Benoit. That was a major find! The Azémars were a very influential family with roots in French aristocracy and nobility. As I grew up, I had been told by various relatives that Léopoldine’s family was from such a background but that they had no hard evidence. The documents that we obtained that day now confirmed the stories that we had been told. We could now easily trace Léopoldine’s ancestry to the Azémar family!
On our return home that year (2004), I started to rummage through all the documents that I had and, surprisingly, did find letters and cards postmarked from Lhuitre and Trouans, as well as antique “glass” photos of a church which we later identified as Eglise Ste Tanche in Lhuitre. This just further aroused our curiosity and interest.
The following September in the year of 2005, we found ourselves back in France in Lhuitre with Yolande and René Rosez and M. Pascal Pierre, our genealogist. The fact that Pascal Pierre had grown up in Trouans, the cradle of the Mollot family, was a bonanza for us because he could access relevant documents in the local archives available in the office of the mayor of Trouans. By this time, Mr. Pascal Pierre had done further research and developed a detailed and extensive Mollot family tree which he presented to us.