Postcards from Paris

Alfonso Pacitti

19 Feb, 2021 14:22 pm

Nearly one hundred years ago in March 1924, my maternal grandparents Silvio Bertolini & Rosa Pieraccini, together with their three children, Gino (10), Maria (7) and Clementina, my mother (3) made the long journey from Glasgow, Scotland to Paris, France.

They had travelled to meet Silvio's elder brother Pietro. Pietro had emigrated from the Bertolini home town of Castelvecchio near Barga in Tuscany to Paris in the early to mid 1880s. He married Léontine Henriette Martin in 1894. They set up home and a small business at Rue Baudin 15, in the district of Saint-Ouen to the north of central Paris. You can read more about Pietro and his family at the end of this article.

In the photo album of my Nonna Rosa, there were three postcard photographs from Pietro to his brother Silvio, dated 1924, 1931 and 1932.

Bertolini Paris

This first photo-postcard shows both families outside Pietro's shop at Rue Baudin 15, Paris.

Silvio and Rosa are on the right with Clementina between them. Pietro and his wife Léontine are next to Silvio.

The two ladies on the left are probably the daughters of Pietro and Leontine: Mathilde and Emma. Bertolini Paris

S Ouen, il 18 Marzo 1924.
"Se ti piace date questa cartolina al giovani - ti mando questi figure che siamo fatte davanti a la bottega - speramo che abiate fatto uno buon viagio tuo fratello - Pietro Bertolini"
"Please give this card to the children - I am sending this picture that we took outside the shop - we hope you had a good journey - your brother - Pietro Bertolini"

Bertolini Paris
This second postcard is dated 1931 and shows a better view of Rue Baudin 15. It looks like the building has had a refresh to the outside.

The building now has a sort of Arte Nouveau feel to it and it looks quite different to the 1924 photo.

The apparently new name of "Cafe Moderne" would also seem to indicate a relaunch of some sort.

Further down in this article, you will find two more recent views of Rue Baudin 15 taken from Google Maps. The building is still readily recognisable.

Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine is home to the Paris' flea market and has one of the highest concentrations of antique dealers and second-hand furniture dealers in the world. This flea market (Marché aux Puces) is held every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Bertolini Paris S Ouen, il 5-10-31
"Caro fratello Silvio - ti scrivo questa per dirti che noi sta tutti bene ed cosi volio che sia divostri tutti - ti mando il ritratto da casa che ho fatto fare - ricevette tutti tanti bagi caricelli - tuo fratello - Bertolini P"
"Dear brother Silvio - I write to you to let you know we are all well and likewise we hope you all are too - I am sending you a photo of the house that I made - sending you all lots of kisses - your brother - Bertolini P"

Bertolini Paris
This third postcard from 1932 depicts a packed scene from within the cafe.

Pietro is right in the middle of the scene sporting a very traditional beret.

It is not quite clear what the gendarmerie is doing with the fellow on the left but everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. Bertolini Paris

"Caro fratello - siamo tutti contenti di avere ricevuto il tuo bello ritratto e sapere che siete tutti in buon saluti - e cosi segue di noi tutti - ho ricevuto una carta della nostra sorella Costanza e dice che sono in buona salute - tanti baci - tuo fratello - Pietro Bertolini"

"Dear brother - we are very happy to have received your lovely photo and to know that you are all in good health - and we are all too - I have recieve a postacrd from our sister Costanza and she says that they are well - lots of kisses - your brother - Pietro Bertolini"

Here is what 15 Rue Baudin looks like today (2020)- from Google Maps
Bertolini Paris

and from earlier in 2008 Bertolini Paris

Pietro Paolo Bertolini

Pietro Paulo Bertolini was born at Castelvecchio, Bargo on January 25th, 1865. He was the second child and eldest son of Massimiliano and Clementina Menconi. Pietro emigrated to Paris about 1885 where he met his future wife, Léontine Henriette Martin.

Their first child Edouard Georges was born at Impasse Ronce in the 20th Arrondissement. Unfortunately Edouard died after a few weeks. Their second child Alice Marie Francoise was born 20th June 1889 - the family were now living at Rue des Amandiers, still in the 20th Arrondissement.

Around 1891, Pierre Paul (as he was now officially recorded) and the family moved to Rue Baudin, 15 in the district of Saint-Ouen located in the northern suburbs of Paris, about 2 km from Sacre Coeur. Pierre and Léontine had Marie Mathilde in 1892 and Emma in 1893. In 1894, Piere and Léontine were officially married! Two more children followed: Georges Albert in 1895 and Emilienne Rose in 1900. Emilienne survived only a few weeks. Léontine died in 1929, whilst Pierre was last recorded in the 1937 census. I have not been able to find any death record for Pierre.

Alice married twice; her first husband was Nicolas Hautem (of Belgian origin) whom she married in 1907. Her second husband was René Wenner, also Belgian. No known children are recorded and Alice died in 1950

Mathilde married Afrodisio Sensio (born at Villavendimio, a small town to the west of Valladolid, Spain) in 1929 and she died in 1959.

Emma and Saturnino Ysquierdo (born in Palencia, a town to the north of Valladolid Spain 1899) had three children. They were married in Saint-Ouen in 1921. Carmen born 1917 and Emilia born 1919 and Pierre (1921-2007). Emilia died in 1920. In 1926, Emma maried Francisco Pastor, another Spanish gentleman (born 1900 at Parades de Nava, a municipality to the north of Palencia).

Georges married Louise Huens from Belgium in 1923. Georges died in 1974.

Based on the family information uncovered above, I think I can now safely identify the other people in the first photograph of 1924. The two ladies to the left of Léontine are indeed Mathilde and Emma. The young boy at the front left is Pierre Pastor. The young girl between Gino and Maria is Carmen Ysquierdo-Bertolini.

Pierre was called up for national service in 1907. His military papers provide an interesting set of information. He had become a naturalised French citizen in 1906. He had two misdemeanors recorded against him: the first in 1892 for counterfeit goods and fined 200 francs, the second in 1893 for possessing stolen goods. Pierre was allocated to the Territorial Army on 1st October 1913 on the grounds that he was responsible for four children. He was recalled to active duty on 3rd August 1914 and sent to Soissons. On 24th August he was stood down on medical grounds - chronic rheumatics. On 26 May 1915 he was discharged.

His son Georges Albert also served in the military. Georges was enlisted in 1915 and fought in the German campaigns during WW1. He received a citation for his bravery which is detailed here:

Cité order du regiment le 27 Septembre 1916 ?? 3. Il s’est fait remarques par son calme et sangue froid assurant sous le feu, l’entretien a la reparation des lignes. Alors qu’un obus venait de d’atteindre un groupe d’hommes étrangers a la Batterie. Il est précipite au secours des blesses, qu’il a transporte a l’abri sans se soucies des raffales de projectiles de gros calibre qui tombaient autour de lui

Order of citation of the regiment on September 27, 1916 ?? 3. He stood out for his calm and cool demeanour  under fire while maintaining and repairing the lines. When a shell had just hit a group of men from outside the battery. He rushed to the aid of the wounded, whom he transported to shelter without caring about the bursts of large calibre projectiles falling around him.

Family Occupations

France has a regular 5-year census regime and the late eighteenth and early nineteenth Paris censuses are available to view online. Together with the electoral registers, they provide additional detail of where the Bertolini families lived and their occupations.
Pietro was described as "mouleur" - moulder in 1904 (could be cement moulder or perhaps plasterer), 'vin merchant" - wine merchant in 1907 and 1912, "peintuer batiment" - painter in 1914 and "epicier: patron" grocer: owner in 1921. Mathilde's occupation in 1921 was "plummassiére' - feather worker. Saturnino was a "charettier" - carter in 1921.

I am very grateful to Patrick Bohain from Paris, a distant cousin, who has been very helpful in providing much detailed research into the various Franch archives - merçi beaucoup Patrick!