Monday 9 January 2012

Another Catudal Mystery

Update - the updated information is in red within this blog post:

Recently a cousin of mine wrote to me to ask me if I knew anything about some stories that had been told to him by his father who had, in turn, been told the stories to by his father. The line of Catudals that the story comes from is the line starting at Magloire Catudal (1831-1891), my direct line in fact. Before commenting let me tell you what was passed on to me:

My cousin said that his grandfather had told his father that some of our ancestors had fled from France to Ireland to escape the Revolution. Marie Antoinette’s name had some sort of significance to the story as well but what, is not known.

He said that the Catudal family was loyal to France’s nobility and when the French Revolution was gaining power the Catudal family fled to Ireland where they stayed hidden. Some made their passage to the New World along with some Irish immigrants.

The story goes on: Apparently one of our great uncles went to France to fight for a heritage claim.

We were the closest family line that should have received the heritage. The story is that financial resources were collected inside my family to send one of our family members to represent us in court in Europe (France?) for a court dispute. The dispute in court went for so long that our ancestor ran out of money and had no choice but to abandon and to come back in North America.

The amount laid claim to was worth 100,000,000.00 (One hundred million!) – Dollars or Francs, the denomination was not known.

That is one heck of a story! Is it true? Have any of you heard anything about a Catudal connection to Ireland? to a legacy that had such a huge value?? A couple of days ago I was watching an episode of Genealogy Roadshow and someone had a story quite similar to the one above. The professional Genealogist told her about a fairly common practice in the late 1800's and early 1900's and that was how some Genealogists would scam unsuspecting families by telling them that they were related to an influential person and that they had a claim against that said person's estate. The amount, the lady on the show was told, apparently owed to her family was in excess of 70,000,000.

What the Genealogist would do is make-up a story about the family line, leading to a person of some importance, where none existed. They would ask the family for money to send a lawyer overseas to fight to have the fortune transferred to the family. The family would invariably pay. The amount would only go so far and the family would be asked to send more money and more and more until there was no more money to send. Of course, there never was a court hearing the case, nor a bank holding the money.

It's sort of the same concept that we now have with the e-mails we get saying that we are entitled to millions because a family in some remote part of the world all died in a plane crash. We're asked to help 'launder' the money as such and for our trouble we'll receive some millions in return.

That is why I could find no records of any connection to a Catudal family in Ireland, nor could I find any ship's list entry for a Catudal from this particular branch travelling to Ireland nor to Europe for that matter.

I think we can safely say, case closed.

An addendum:
The most famous scammer of them all was Gustav Anjour who wrote some 150 family history books which he then presented to various families 'proving' their connection to someone of worth. He then swindled those families out of as much money as he could get. I checked the list of families he did this to and Catudal/St-Jean/St. John were not among the names. Like I said, there were quite a few charlatans operating this scam at the time.

Here are a few links for further reading - this isn't the only scam that some so called Genealogist have pulled and are still pulling!!

There are a ton of sites on the subject. And to think, I didn't know about any of this until a couple days ago. Thankfully, I've never relied on other people's genealogies when I've done my research - always looking for proof about what someone claims.

This story has a number of parallels to the story created by Jacques Catudal (1794-1873) to distance himself from his Catudal relatives; the story that said that he came from the Georges Cadoudal line and when Georges was beheaded for having tried to assassinate Napoleon this line of Catudals was given the option to either leave France or face the same fate as Georges. They left and came to the safety of Canada. This story is a total fabrication; however, here are the parallels between my cousins story and the Catudal/Cadoudal legend:

  • The setting for both stories is the French Revolution
  • Georges Cadoudal was a rebel in that he was devoutly loyal to the French nobility. Napoleon on the other hand was a radical Republican. In fact in 1791 he was the president of the local Jacobin club whose mission was to wipe out aristocrats and bishops. The parallel - the story from my cousin states that our Catudal line in France was loyal to the monarchy.
  • The year 1793 was significant to Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte and Georges Cadoudal. Marie Antoinette was tried and executed in October 1793. Napoleon’s first noteworthy military action was when he managed to take back Toulon from the rebel forces in November 1793.  It was in 1793 that Georges Cadoudal, a Chouannerie (royalist uprising), started the western rebellion of France in Vendee, Bretagne against the Revolution. The parallel - the story from my cousin mentions the French Revolution.
  • Georges Cadoudal did flee to England a number of times to escape when the French forces got too close to capturing him. The parallel - the story from my cousins mentions the apparent need of our Catudal family members having had to flee to Ireland because of the French Revolution.

Inconsistencies between the legend of a Catudal/Cadoudal connection and the story from my cousin:
  • The biggest discrepancy is that the name of Georges Cadoudal is not a part of the story from my cousin but does play a major role in the legend of a Catudal/Cadoudal connection.
  • There is an inheritance in my cousin’s story and no mention of one in the Georges Cadoudal legend. In fact Georges wasn’t particularly well off at all nor did he come from an affluent family.
  • Georges went to England to avoid capture while the story from my cousin has Ireland as the country.
  • Although not terribly significant, one of the differences between the two stories is that I have never heard of this new story before. I have spent more than 8 years intensely researching all things Catudal and have written 2 very large volumes on the topic and till now have never heard a mention of anything like this. What is also strange is that this story comes from my direct line: Magloire was my great great grandfather.
  • Something else rather strange is that the story or legend of the Catudal/Cadoudal connection was told to me by several people, all of whom come from the line starting at Jacques Catudal (1794-1873). It was Jacques who made up the story to distance himself and his children from the rest of the Canadian Catudals. My line of Catudals, the line with this new story, does not cross paths with Jacques' line. In fact you have to go all the way back to the first Catudal in New France before there is a connection between the two.

My cousin does not know which person went to Europe, presumably France, to fight for this huge inheritance but his understanding is that it was one of Magloire Catudal’s sons.

So my question is have you heard of this new Catudal mystery? If you have could you please e-mail me at It would be great to be able to find out if this new story is in fact a true story or if somehow it is a variation on the Catudal/Cadoudal legend.

Just as an aside, I have checked ship’s passenger lists showing passengers coming from Europe to Canada and the States and have not found anyone with the name Catudal, or one of its variants /adulterations /dit forms /misspellings, on any list that cannot be accounted for. I mean that every Catudal on every ship that I have been able to find were Canadian or American Catudals travelling to and fro either for work or pleasure. There were no stray Catudals on those lists. Please keep in mind, that isn't conclusive proof at all; it just means that all sources I am aware of holding such data have no record of Catudals from Ireland or France as having immigrated to Canada or the States.