Steve’s Journal

The Goyetche Family Genealogy
Municipal gardens in Bayonne
Fortifications around Bayonne
Narrow street in Bayonne
Basque countryside
Traditional Basque home
Detail of lintel above door, date 1686  
Basque farm
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Bayonne Photo Album

Travels to Basque country

In 1998, Steve Goyeche of Toronto traveled to the Basque region of southern France in search of traces of our ancestor Jean Goyetche. His journals and photographs follow. Thursday, July 23, 1998 Bayonne, France I wrote this in the train station in Bayonne upon my arrival. The sun came up and though a bit tired, I was in a good mood, sitting there in the land of my ancestors. I left the train station for a short walk in the town, with the tourist bureau in mind as my destination. It was so beautiful with the early morning sun shining its light on the quaint old buildings. They are all white stone or stucco, 4 or 5 stories high, with shutters on the windows. Next to the tourist bureau was a small municipal garden with beautiful flowers in bloom, and a small goldfish pond. The woman who served me at the tourist bureau was most helpful. The phone number I had for the Genealogical Society of Bayonne was incorrect (it had since changed) and the woman gave me their new number. I asked her about inexpensive lodgings, and she suggested it would be impossible to find anything for less than 150 francs. I told her that would be all right for my budget, and she offered to call a few places for me. This was so nice! She was able to get the first place she called to agree to 150 francs for each of two nights. I later saw the price posted on my hotel room door, which showed the minimum nightly rate of 200 francs! So thanks to the most helpful woman at the tourist bureau, I ended up with a great deal! I found the hotel without problem, again walking through the lovely town. The stores were just opening, which meant that they were bringing their wares out onto the side walks. I took a very well needed shower and proceeded to a wonderful food market - it was so clean and tempting, with magnificent odours - where I purchased a baguette, some cheese and some water. I then walked along the river (which is tidal in Bayonne) to the outer edge of the old city. This was marked by old fortifications. I found a spot under some trees by an ancient fountain and ate my baguette and fromage. Ahhhh... While still at the hotel, I had called the genealogical society and arranged to meet one of their members at 1:30 PM. So I had the rest of the morning to explore. I carried on walking along the battlement - 20 metres high - in a beautiful park-like setting. I wandered back into the old city to take in the ambiance. I worked my way into yet another beautiful old cathedral where I spent the better part of an hour, lost in the beauty of the place, and in my thoughts on my trip thus far and the trip yet to come. I surfaced around 12:30 PM and went to a restaurant where I ordered a small beer and began writing. At 1:30 PM I met the woman from the genealogical society at the archives. She spent the next two and a half hours walking me through the records, but nothing showed up for my ancestor Jean Goyetche, born circa 1763. So we then tried St- Jean-de-Luz, an adjoining parish to Bayonne. After searching through birth and marriage records on microfilm, we still came up blank. She had to leave to baby-sit her granddaughter, so I carried on alone. Finally I came across something interesting. There was a wedding record with a reference to the bride whose last name was Matet, from another adjoining parish named St-Pée. My ancestor Jean Goyetche was married to a woman named Marguerite Mathis, of whom I have absolutely no information on her origin. Until I came across this record, no Basque surname had even come close to Mathis in spelling or pronunciation, so I became excited, just a little. I finished with the St- Jean-de-Luz records just as the archives closed for the day. I was looking forward to the following morning where I could begin to explore the St-Pée records, hoping to find the seat of the Goyetche and Matet clans.     I was exhausted - I obviously had not had enough sleep on the train from Paris. I went home to my hotel, and set the alarm for a hour later, with the intent of a quick pick-me-up snooze so that I could enjoy the Thursday evening night life. I lay down on the bed fully clothed. I did not stir when the alarm went off. When I did eventually open my eyes, it was 2:30 AM!!! So much for spending my evening exploring Bayonne’s night life! So I got up, brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. After 3 nights in a row sleeping on the train, this bed was obviously compelling! I slept well until 8:30 AM, when I showered and barely had time to make it to the archives for the 9:30 AM opening. Friday, July 24, 1998 Bayonne, France I started with the new parish of St-Pée. It was not long before I began to get excited, as Goyetche after Goyetche turned up, as did Matet after Matet. Finally at 11:30 AM, just before lunch, I found a very interesting marriage record. The marriage was between Jean Goyetche and Maria Matet on October 17, 1791. This corresponded perfectly with my Jean Goyetche’s arrival in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1792, when he and his wife Marguerite Mathis proceeded to give birth to the first of their nine children. Despite the variation in her name, and therefore tenuous connection, one can only imagine how excited I was!!!! Unfortunately they did not state their ages on the marriage certificate, just that he was a "fils majeur" (over 25 year old) and that Marie was a "fille mineure" (under 25). Nonetheless, this was consistent with the fact my Jean Goyetche was 28 years old in 1791 and Marguerite Mathis was 19 years old at that time. The marriage record had all kinds of information on each of their parents and grandparents, so all I would have to do is find their baptismal certificates to verify their ages to see if they in fact corresponded to the ages of my forebears. Exciting, exciting, exciting!!! Now came my horror. All the baptismal, marriage and death records no longer existed. Was it true? The index to the microfilm said they were indeed on the microfilm, but I could find nothing between the years of 1753 and 1775. So I went back to the beginning of the microfilm and went through it slowly, thoroughly. I confirmed my horror! The index was incorrect and another genealogist, Jean Luc Memeot verified that for these years the St-Pée records no longer existed. How disheartening. So I went to the records for the next parish, Anglet, but there were no Goyetche references at all. It was now 6:00 PM on Friday evening with the archives closing for the weekend. So I will have to come back on another trip and continue to search neighbouring parishes, hoping to find my Jean Goyetche definitively, and thus rule out the Jean Goyetche/Maria Matet combination that I had chanced upon in St-Pée. I will also have to check for baptisms and death records for Jean Goyetche and Maria Matet in St-Pée, for if they raised a family or died there in France, that would exclude them from being my forebears. Ah, next time… Two days and I had only scratched the surface!       Jean-Luc Memeot had had a successful day. He had identified a hitherto unidentified ancestor through non-parish records. He was in a jolly mood! He invited me on a small tour of the region surrounding Bayonne by car. I graciously accepted. He showed me three small towns which were authentically Basque. He took me into one church that was so interesting. The dead were buried under the floor and in the yard around the church. Traditional Basque headstones have nothing resembling them anywhere else in the world. They are close to the ground, shaped like a coin standing on its edge, about 16 inches in diameter and 4 inches thick. They are inscribed with the date of death in the center, and the person’s name and house to which he belongs in a circle as are inscriptions on our coins. By the house to which he belongs, I mean a secondary family or clan name. The Basque houses are also interesting, because above the door is a lintel made of stone which is carved and inscribed with the year the house was built, the name of the owner, and the house to which he belonged. He also showed me the public Jaï Alaï court that each town had. We then stopped at a farm of a friend of his to pick up some unpasteurized milk right out of the refrigerated vat in the barn. He introduced me to the family who owned and operated the farm, and we stayed and chatted for an hour over drinks. I toasted with "Proust"! We then went to his house where I met his wife and a son, one of four of his children. He showed me his computer files that contained all his genealogical data. It was impressive! He also told me about his house, which was centuries old and was built and occupied by his ancestors. He and his family occupied the large second floor and attic. One of his brothers occupied the ground floor with his respective family. His mother and his mother’s sister also lived there. It was like a Basque family of long ago! His other brother lived in the next house down, and his immediate family owned the many surrounding acres of fallow farmland. A balcony encircled the second floor, which afforded a magnificent view of the wonderful garden and, of course, the surrounding countryside! He, his wife and I then went to a restaurant for dinner. Just as we turned into the restaurant parking lot, he honked at a passing car which it turns out was driven by his daughter; she stopped and was easily persuaded to join us for dinner. What a splendid Basque dinner it was! We had fish and potatoes, and later a second course of duck. For dessert I had a custard-like cake which is a local Basque speciality. They knew the owner well, and they kept the restaurant open late just to accommodate us! We fought over who would pay for dinner, until Jean-Luc and I finally agreed to split the check fifty-fifty. It was finally midnight when we shook hands with the owner and his family and left. From the restaurant he took me back to his place briefly to drop off his wife, and came back to the car with a bottle of 9 year old red wine as a gift to me - how incredibly nice of him!!! Rather than take me straight back home, he took be to nearby Biarritz for a further half hour tour of the town. What a delightful place! It was once a place where the European aristocracy vacationed. Therefore there are many magnificent and stately buildings in town, and churches of all European denominations!